Shafer Canyon Road: a well-known road in Utah.

Shafer Canyon
Shafer Canyon

Shafer Canyon Road (which starts on the end of the Potash Road) is a well-known road in east-central Utah, in the United States of America.

The Shafer Trail, located in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky region, is a famous route that falls 455 meters (500 feet) into a large, colorful sandstone cliff. Its purpose has evolved over time, from a track for sheepherders transferring their flocks to better food sources in the winter to a route for trucks transporting uranium from the mountains to market. The Shafer Trail is now a rocky, unpaved backcountry route for anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Where is Shafer Canyon Road located?

In southeastern Utah, this route runs along the boundary of Grand and San Juan counties.

Another road in Utah that worth the drive is the Moki Dugway.

You can locate the Shafer Canyon Road on the map below:


Enlarge the map

Facts about the Shafer Trail:

The majority of the road is unpaved. From Island in the Sky Road to UT-279, it’s 31 kilometers (20 miles) long. It should take you around an hour to finish. Also, the route is quite steep, with some of the ramps reaching a maximum gradient of 16 percent.


You can travel this path in any direction. In the mid-twentieth century, uranium miners created the path to carry ore obtained from the Triassic Chinle Formation. The mining road followed the path of a major natural rockfall that buried a section of the Wingate Sandstone, which is commonly used to construct cliffs. The road is carved out of the famed Navajo sandstone of southern Utah in some spots.
The speed limit is set at 15 mph (25 km/h).

A video of the journey on the Shafer Trail:

You can have a preview of that drive. For example, you just have to watch this YouTube video as it shows a part of the road:

History of the Shafer Trail

The Shafer Trail is named after the Mormon pioneer family Shafer. John Shafer began using the trail in 1916 to transport cattle from summer pastures on the top of the mesa to the winter range on the White Rim Sandstone, many rock levels down in the canyon. The trail was improved and access to the canyon was made simpler by John Shafer.

The Atomic Energy Commission built on Sog Shafer’s efforts by widening the Shafer Trail and extending it to the White Rim Road, allowing trucks to transport masses of uranium-bearing rock from the wilderness to Moab for processing.

The Shafer Trail was converted from a ranching and mining route to a recreation trail after Canyonlands National Park was established in 1964. Hundreds of visitors enjoy the rush of descending the curving sandstone cliff to the basin below each year.

How to get to the road?

On Island in the Sky Road, one mile north of the Canyonlands Visitor Center, Shafer Canyon Road begins. Then, make a right into the dirt road.

You can also start accessing this trail at the end of the Potash Road.

You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:

Shafer Canyon Road road conditions.

When wet or ice, the Shafer Trail is slick and impassable. If it’s raining or you’re carrying a trailer, avoid this road. The trail is frequently closed owing to inclement weather, particularly during the winter. It necessitates tremendous vigilance for vehicles and mountain bikes at all times, but especially in inclement weather and at night. During the winter, it is recommended that all vehicles be equipped with chains.

Vehicles and Bikes must be driven with utmost caution at all times, but especially in adverse weather and at night. It can be so narrow that just one car can travel through at any given moment.

Although driving on this gravel route is still difficult, the Shafer Trail may be successfully traversed with the correct equipment and technology. Keep in mind that, unlike in the past, huge, slow-moving 4WD vehicles (4LO) are strongly advised for this journey.

This iconic route, which runs through Canyonlands National Park, is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The Shafer Canyon Road is a magnificent climb (or descent) with breathtaking views of the canyons surrounding it. As a result, it is of the most photographed panoramas in the world is this one. Many commercials, as well as music videos, have been shot here in recent years. So, if you’re in Utah, don’t miss out on driving this route!

Picture credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yenchao/9068663389


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