Driving on Shafer Trail in Canyonlands National Park (VIDEO)

Have you ever driven down to the bottom of a canyon? Shafer Trail in Canyonlands lets you do exactly that! It is a relatively short dirt road drive that descends down the canyon and is a steep drop into the canyon on a road that is at times so narrow that only one car can pass at a time.

The question is if you need a 4WD or will 2WD work? Well, it is strongly recommended to do it in a 4WD, which is definitely a must if you go all the way to Moab (the road gets really rough there). But the first 5 miles going downhill could probably done in a 2WD at your own risk. Either way, 5 miles or 40 miles, this drive is not to be missed!

This is a drive worth doing to get to the bottom of the canyon in a truly unique experience! At about 5 miles, the trail forks into Potash Road, which is also a rough dirt road goes all the way to Moab, about 30 miles and White Rim Trail, which allows you to drive around the rim and requires a permit to drive on. The timelapse video was shot on Shafer Trail and Potash Road all the way up to Moab. It is running at 30x normal speed, so the entire 3 hour drive plays under 4 minutes. We highly recommend doing this trail to have a true Canyonlands experience.

Potassium Mines on Potash Road

Potash Road is called so because there is a Potasium mining field on this road about 10 miles from Moab. In the video, you will see crystal blue ponds that get their color from the potassium mined from under the soil. In order to mine potassium, water dissolved with certain chemicals is pumped deep into the ground, where it dissolves potassium deposits and rises up to the pools, where it is left to evaporate in the sun. After about 300 days, the water completely evaporates, leaving potassium deposits in the surface. During those 300 days, the color of the water changes from crystal blue to purple as the concentration of potassium increases due to evaporation of water!

Shafer Trail in Pictures

View of canyonlands from shafer trail
View of canyonlands from shafer trail
Potash road on shafer trail panorama, canyonlands
Potash road panorama, canyonlands
Potash Road
Blue ponds mining potassium in Potash road
Potash Road
Water flowing from the potassium mines in Potash Road
Bottom of Shafer Trail, Canyonlands
Bottom of Shafer Trail, Canyonlands
Colorado river at the bottom
Another view from the bottom with the Colorado river that isn’t even visible from the top of the canyon!
Canyon from bottom of shafer trail
Canyon from bottom of Shafer Trail
Red rock canyon, bottom of shafer trail, canyonlands
Enjoying a peaceful photo session at the bottom of canyon
Red rock canyon, bottom of shafer trail, canyonlands national park
Red rock canyon, bottom of shafer trail, canyonlands national park
Shafer trail dirt road
Dirt road on Shafer Trail is often quite narrow and has blind curves!
Shafer trail road to Moab
View of canyon along the Shafer Trail
Our picture at bottom of shafer trail
Our picture at bottom of shafer trail

If you have done the Shafer Trail drive, let us know in comments what was your experience like. We would love to hear from you! If you haven’t been to Canyonlands but are planning to, check out our other posts on Canyonlands.

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Shirish & Olya

Originally from different parts of the world, Shirish & Olya are a married couple based in San Francisco who share a passion for travel, outdoors and landscape photography. In summer of 2019, they hit the road in an RV visiting 19 national parks in US and Canada covering over 10K miles. This trip inspired them to create Outdoorsome, that they built on the road, as a way to help others discover new places around the world.

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