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Shafer Trail

An iconic road is a must do while visiting the Canyonlands, but not for the faint-hearted


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Shafer Trail or Shafer Canyon Road is a stunning drive and a premier hiking destination nestled in Canyonlands National Park, near Moab, Grand County, Utah. A 31-km (19.2-mi) dirt road boasts amazing wildflowers in the summer and is often covered with snow in the winter.

The Shafer Trail Road was laid by miners to transport ore extracted from the Triassic Chinle Formation. Even though Canyonlands is open year-round, Shafer Trail is often closed due to bad weather. When it's open, it requires a 4WD vehicle equipped with snow chains. Avalanches, blizzards, heavy snowfalls, and landslides can occur anytime. Since weather conditions change rapidly, it's advised to consult with the Canyonlands website before you go

In the summer, Shafer Trail can also get muddy and slippery. After rainfall, it becomes incredibly challenging even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. When dry, the road is in good condition, but then its famous Shafer Switchbacks and sharp rocks can damage the tires. Some sections are so narrow that vehicles can't even pass each other. In this case, it would be necessary to reverse. Some travelers said that driving down the Shafer Trail Road was the most thrilling drive in their life.

Shafer Trail is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Visitors can see well-marked Indian petroglyphs and some unique landscapes like natural stone arches. When on top, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Canyonlands from the Shafer Canyon Overlook. The view from Shafer Trail is one of the most photographed ones in the world. From an altitude of about 600 m (2,000 ft) above the Colorado River, the viewpoint is a perfect spot for observing Canyonlands' pinnacles and buttes.

For ascending, you have to start at Potash Road that at some point turns into muddy Shafer Trail Road that later on connects to White Rim Road and runs up to the in Island in the Sky Road at the top.