In February of 2019 my brother joined me in Canyonlands National Park with the goal of driving the White Rim Road, a 100 mile, off road track in Utah. I’d also heard that White Crack Campground was one of the most beautiful campsites anywhere and only one night was available in the whole month of February. We wanted it!
Our first challenge was paying for the campsite because when we reserved it “those who know best” in Washington were having a bit of a disagreement and decided to shut down the government, including our National Parks. I submitted the request anyway, with a little comic relief for the NPS staff, and hoped that the politicians would figure it all out in time so that Canyonlands could reopen and we could have an adventure.
By the time we arrived in Moab, the powers that be in D.C. had reopened the government, and Canyonlands. Our next challenge was Mother Nature, and she seemed determined to make driving the White Rim Road a bit more interesting. When we checked in at the Ranger Station for our permit we learned that the western half of the trail was still so snowy and muddy that 4×4 groups were using tire chains on all 4 wheels to get up and down the precarious roads. Having just completed the renovation of my truck camper I wasn’t really interested in risking it. The ranger also let us know that someone had canceled and there were 2 nights available at White Crack Campground, so we changed plans, stocked up on groceries and beer, and headed into the park.
Driving The White Rim Road Film
If you’re not really into reading, check out this 15 minute video I made about driving the White Rim Road.
We spent most of the afternoon driving the 40+ miles of bumpy, muddy, gorgeous trail through red rocks, towering cliffs, and meandering canyons. We wanted to make it to camp before dark, so we didn’t linger too long, but took notes of things we wanted to do and see on the way back out.
We made it to camp before dark, explored the area, and set up in a spot with a great view to watch the sunset change the desert landscape colors around us.
That night the forecast was well below freezing, and since my camper has a heater, and Tyler’s truck bed does not, he decided to sleep on my couch. Unfortunately, during the 3 month rebuild I never once tested my heater, so as the thermometer dropped and we retreated to bed I couldn’t get the propane heater to start. Luckily Tyler had purchased a Little Buddy heater in Moab just in case and we ran that on full blast all night, but in the morning it was 18 frozen degrees outside, and a chilly mid 30’s inside the camper!
With nothing to do for the day we set off exploring the plateau, rock hopping, finding and losing zigzagging animal trails, looking over cliffs, and making it back to camp for a second incredible sunset.
With a little extra time during the day I figured out how to run my propane heater, unfortunately the thermostat didn’t work on auto cycle, so that night we both crashed in the camper again and ran the heater at 90 degrees, full blast. The overnight lows were not nearly as cold though, so we ended up opening most of the windows and still woke up in the morning to a balmy 75 degrees, but it was better than the mid 30’s!
After a good cup of coffee and taking in our final views we packed up camp and left White Crack Campground to drive the White Rim Road back to Moab. We had all day, so we took our time, stopped to explore, drove the trucks up to some cliffs for photo opportunities, and tried not to slide off the roads!
The drive out was easier than the drive in. Over the previous 2 days a lot of the snow had melted, and the mud had dried. But, in one of our last descents we were on the north side of a hill where the snow and mud made the track so slick that Tyler’s truck slid into the ditch, which was better than off the cliff! It took a little work to get him unstuck, and I inched my overweight Tacoma down the slippery road to safety. Watch the video HERE to see it happen!
The next day Tyler made his way back to Denver and I drove straight to the car wash and dumped $10-$15 into it, but for the next 2 months I continued to wash red mud off the underside of the Tacoma.
Overall the maiden voyage of my 2002 Toyota Tacoma with a slide in pop up truck camper was a success! I was worried that the axle would break, or the wheels would just fall off, but even being overweight on the rugged terrain I made it into, and back out of, Canyonlands. I realized later that the Firestone Ride-Rite airbags I’d installed on the rear suspension took most of the beating, actually bending both top brackets, which I fixed at my next stop in Phoenix by having custom leaf packs arched and installed to better carry the weight.
Although we didn’t drive the entire loop of the White Rim Road, we had a blast, were very happy to have 2 nights at White Crack Campground, and can’t wait to get back to Moab and Canyonlands National Park for more adventures!
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/LVHRXvcfsvk