Murphy-Wilhite Loop

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The White Rim was in great shape:  the Mineral Bottom road, which has been closed due to a huge flood back in August, wouldn’t open again for two more days, which means we ran this entire 25 mile loop with not only zero jeeps passing us, but not seeing a single other person.

The Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park is best known for sightseeing the huge vistas – you can see both the Colorado and Green Rivers  from on top – and for the epic 100 mile White Rim jeep road, one of the best mountain bike rides in the world.

However, I-Sky also has some of the best running in the Park.  One drops off the plateau by one of of four official trails (plus two jeep roads), runs along the White Rim, then pops back up via one of the other trails, arriving within a few miles of one’s car.  The scenery is insane.  Getting thru the Wingate is always amazing.  Bring your own water.

We took Murphy’s Trail down, with it’s usual super steep passage thru the Wingate, and trotted out a bench toward the jeep road.  Ekker Butte, Elaterite Butte, even Chimney Rock in the Maze District, were all clearly visible, seemingly right in front of us.  In reality, it would take either a 7 hour drive or a serious swim and hike to get there, but that topographic complexity and severity is one beauty of Canyonlands.

The White Rim is names after the buff-colored Cedar Mesa Formation, which forms a strong 150′ foot thick cliff, and is continuous and not folded or faulted in this area; the result is a consistent and fairly flat bench that encircles most of I-Sky.  Great biking, darn good running.  Don’t forget the water.

After three hours we reached the Wilhite Trail, and started up a series of sandy, gravelly washes, until it popped out on an intermediate bench.  One has to look for cairns to find these trails.  As always, one looks up, and cannot see where or how a trail could possibly make it thru those cliffs. The Wingate in Canyonlands is very consistent; only a very few places offer passage, and I cannot imagine who the heck had the determination and nerve to push a route thru.
A steep crank popped us out on top after maybe 4 1/2 hours.  Then it’s just a mile trot back to the paved road on top.

These are great routes.

Full photo galley HERE.

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One Response to “Murphy-Wilhite Loop”

  1. ollintrails Says:

    I-Sky one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I choose to live here the first time I saw the sunrise from Dead Horse Point 15 years ago. Since then I’ve became a trail runner I found that running is a rewarding way to get into the backcountry around here. I’ve logged many miles just on the local trails surrounding Moab. With this experience I’ve created 360Moab TrailRunning Adventures. I’ve taken my 15 years of guide experience and my love of trail running and combined them into 360Moab. I now have permits on BLM to take other trail runners on guided Moab trail running adventures, http://360moabadventures.com. Buzz, Thanks for your spirit in running!

    Chris Martinez

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