Schafer Trail and Potash Road

A superlative high-clearance (preferably 4WD) road that descends from Island-in-the-Sky and continues back to Moab.

★★★★

Wow factor

★★★★

Overall rating

Difficulty

★★

Access road

★★

Crowds

There are many great attractions in this area of Canyonlands but if you’re feeling lazy and still want to get that adrenaline pumping then drive the Schafer Trail. It’s the only road in the park that descends off the island to the start of the famous White Rim Trail and an exciting way to return to Moab. Head for the nearby visitor center first to check out the road conditions. If it’s good then a high-clearance 2WD vehicle can make it. If it’s bad then even 4WD would be challenging and potentially dangerous. I’d recommend you drive to the Schafer Trail Overlook first – that’s a pullout on the Grandview Point Road. You’ll get a vertigo-inducing view of where you’ll be driving. It’s simply stunning and looks more scary than it actually is. You can drive this route in either direction but it’s easier going down than up.

 

Turn on to the Trail near the visitor center (well-signed). It starts nice and easy but soon gets steep and bumpy with very tight curves. Luckily it’s also quite wide so passing vehicles is rarely a problem. Don’t forget to give way to any vehicle driving up. The views are constantly changing as you twist and turn on the trail. Eventually the trail begins to bottom out and you’ll come to a junction. You can turn right for the White Rim Trail (4WD essential) but we’ll turn left towards Potash and Moab. The trail keeps descending only to climb again to an area below Dead Horse Point at a spectacular horseshoe meander in the Colorado River. This is know locally as Thelma & Louise Point, where final shot of the car driving over the cliff was filmed in the 1991 movie. Park near the rim and walk over for an unforgettable vista. From here the road undulates but gradually descends towards Potash, eventually passing the huge blue potash evaporation ponds. Not far past this you reach a paved road that will take you back to Highway191 and Moab. Along this section of road is the trailhead for Corona and Bowtie Arches – worth a stop if you have a few hours.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.