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“What's the big..? Hoooly shnikies.” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Shafer Trail

Shafer Trail
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Moab Combo: Colorado River Rafting and Canyonlands National Park
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Cattle trail which can be used by sport vehicles.
Denver, Colorado
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“What's the big..? Hoooly shnikies.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 25, 2010

This was the sentence that came out of my mouth as my husband, an experienced 4-wheeler, made the tight, narrow hairpin turn that caused me to see the sheer drop now on my side of the truck. The one he had been experiencing for the past however many miles on our way down the canyon on Shafer Trail. I could've sworn to you that the drop-off was about a trillion feet down, so I said, "Okaaaaaaayyyyy, you might want to maybe hurry this up a little." He informed me that if he did, we'd probably end up in the canyon, so I shut up and let him drive. Thus was my very first experience with 4-wheeling.

We had started from the top of the trail that begins right before the visitor's center in Canyonlands, and took it all the way down to Potash, then to Moab. I've read other reviews that say starting from the bottom and working your way up is the way to go. I heartily disagree, because at least when you're going down the canyon, you can see what lies on the road ahead. It took us about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to do the whole thing with my husband's stock 2002 Ford Ranger, "Bessie II" (or "Elizabeth the Second" as I call her), who did a very good job when put into low 4X4. We also did it a few days before Memorial Day, so we didn't have any contentious weather, and we also came across many other people on the trail as well.

It started off as a very nice ride. A little bumpy, but nothing to freak out over. Then all of a sudden, my husband (who is very very afraid of heights), clenched the steering wheel and gritted his teeth. I looked over and saw that the driver's side of the road had given way to a very steep drop-off, and also noticed that the road was narrowing. Since I was oblivious to the true nature of the drop-off, I thought it was cool, and made him stop so I could take some pictures. After a few miles or so, suddenly, the very narrow hairpin turn that dropped into what I was sure was at least a 15% grade, caused me to see exactly what I had been missing. For the rest of the ride down. It was a little scary, I'm not going to lie. Your choices are basically to run smack into the rock face or go over the edge with little room for error. Just take it slow.

Once down, you still need to be in 4 wheel drive as the road can get quite bumpy and there are still a lot of places that require it for navigation. The view makes the whole ride worth it, both from the bottom and the top. There are a lot of places to pull off at the bottom to take some really good pictures of the Colorado River and rock formations as well. We also happened to be lucky enough to drive by a film crew from Paramount Pictures wrapping up for the day on the highway back to Moab (we speculated they were there to film Mission Impossible IV, but only time will tell I guess).

All in all, a really great drive, great views, and a little bit of an adrenaline rush at times. I'd recommend it for at least the semi-experienced 4 wheeler and probably between the months of April-October if you don't want to deal with winter weather/slick conditions. It's a little on the scary side at times, but highly worth it for both the 4 wheeler (hubby) and shutterbug (me) alike.

4 Thank Wanderervin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Elgin County
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Pass the Xanax”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 25, 2010

Death grip doesn't come close. Pass the Xanax and close your eyes. I've stood over Niagara Falls, right on the edge, done the Gondolla up and down Jasper Mountain, heights hadn't been a problem before this "ride". Standing on Dead Horse Point and looking down into the valley next to the Colorado River, we asked ourselves "I wonder how you get on that road down there?" Stupid question. Little did I imagine we'd end up on this trail in a Dodge Ram!!! It's a trail, not a road and has no guardrails. Seems to me it is more condusive to mountainbiking than driving. What was actually a 1/2 day ride might as well have been an eternity because that is what it felt like. I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. The "trail" is not wide, actually you shouldn't take a big truck on there. All I could imagine was going box over hood all the way to the bottom when our truck slid on the icy surface of these "switchbacks" over the edge. I've never been so glad to get to the bottom of something in my life.

Followed that up the next day with a hike to Delicate Arch, where the last 200 feet is on the edge of a cliff!

Truth be told, I"d do both again knowing now what I didnt' know then when we started out.

4 Thank Born2run1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
“Shafer Trail, wow!! "Take the ride"”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 23, 2010

The Shafer Trail, WOW!!! What an awesome ride. We checked in at the visitors center, and the gentlemen told us it was a 9hour drive one way. Said we needed 4wheel drive and high clearance. this was at 2:30pm. So my girlfriend and I decided to get going and check this drive out. Now we started at the top. As we went thru the gate and headed doen the dirt road I told my girlfriend that this was'nt bad at all. She was already getting a death grip on what ever she could grab. Myself, growing up 4wheeling and driving the back woods, and wherever else I could go, I consider myself a good 4wheeling driver. I do have to admit the trail going down was steep, and the switchbacks were tight, getting down over the mountain into the bottom. there is plenty of room in those switchbacks to pass another fellow 4wheel.
We got into the bottom and the road was like a hi-way, wide, gravel road. The view from the bottom is deffiently different than from the top. I think just as beautiful though. We drove on thru, and up by the potash lakes, and then the road was paved on itno Moab.
It only took us 41/2 hours, and I never got out of two wheel drive. My truck is a 2001 Dodge 2500 4whell drive. All stock.
Shafer Trail is an awesome drive.
We took this adventure on Thanksgiving week of 2009

Thank 82fxrharley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kingsport, Tennessee
Level Contributor
1 review
“Not for the weak of heart!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 7, 2009

My wife and I stopped at main gate and I was informed that shafer trail was a 23 hour one way only 4-wheel drive road. I went to visitor center and they said oh no it is not one way you can turn around at any time but it is 4-wheel drive only. So we decided to drive in a short distance and check it out. Well we did, decided it was not so bad and went back to town to gas up and get supplies for overnight trip. we entered shafer trail around 2:30 PM Eastern time. I tried 2-wheel drive for about an hour but the road was so rough even though it did not look so I kept killing the engine as i could not go slow enough to not jar our teeth out. The road/path even when it looked smooth was on solid rock so it had no give!

Now my vehicle is a 1988 Toyota 4-Runner with 621,000 miles and I no longer carry spare tire as I have rumatoid arthritis real bad and could not change a flat anyway. So my suspension is somewhat lacking so I'm sure a newer vehicle would have fared much better. So I stopped locked in my hubs put the ole girl in low range 4-wheel drive and off we went! Wow what a relief in many places I could just take foot off the throttle and let her idle across rough places.

What they don't tell you is that a wide vehicle like a hummer probably could not get thru a couple places as the cliff face was inches away on one side and a sheer drop off on the other. Even with my small size SUV my wife was afraid to grab mirror and fold it in I was so close and my left front wheel was going over cracks from where the water drained! No 4-wheel drive vehicles without high ground clearance like subarus I high centered in one place as high as my vehicle is.

We thoght we would drive a little after dark to get a little distance and better place to spend the night. DON'T TRY THAT!!! LOL We lost road/path got caught in extreme four wheel drivehills!

The hardest part is going up an extremly high climb and reach the top and have road drop suddenly over and not be able to see where the road goes, specificly right left or straight. This is how we got high centered! went around an extremly steep switch back that was also extremly sharp turn and just before I hit it saw a ridge of rock about 3 feet high and 7 feet long right in middle of road! TOO LATE high centered and when vehicle slid back off (due to it being extremly steep) I killed the engine! YES I was just plain scared! With my arthritis a 5 speed transmission and a 1,000 foot drop behind me I had to crank up back up lay over and try again! How rough is road? I have a CD holder over sun visor drivers side. The elastic is a little worn, I hit bumps so hard and fast to make sure I could get over I slung the CD holder clear across the vehicle!

Now this is what you need to consider if you want to take this trip. If you break down It would be at least one to two day before anyone came by. several peopledrive in a little way but not all the way thru. If you break down I see absolutly no way a wrecker could pull you out! On top of that by the time You were found help sent for a mechanic reached you found the problem went back for tools and or parts you might think about spending a week or two camped out LOL Not to mention the cost!

I will leave you with one thing I worried about but luckly never happened ... meeting someone going the other way in one of those blind steep switch back places. and remember this! Once you get in you cant change your mind! So if the road you came in on was scary you either have to go back over it our out the other side!

It took us 27 hours which included 5 hours sleep to get from one hard top road to the other which was right at 139 miles.


Thank TheWindandI
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
29 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
“Very hairy - but a highlight .”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 21, 2009

On May 30 2008 ,late afternoon (1630) we decided to go to Canyonlands from Moab .Thanks to some keen-eyed mapreading by a son on navigation duty we took the back route - the 279, then the Schafer trail . Since we had a 4WD ( Toyota highlander - not raised or anything exotic) I thought no problem ...
paved 279 was beautiful along Colorado, then the trail past potash lakes or something and some great colorado views from normal level . By then the road was a dirt track, with ever more rock in inconvenient places , so we slalomed our way up . Coming down were a flock of mountain motor bikers , waving & shouting . Later we started asking ourselves if they'd actually been telling us to turn back ...
Anyway the road got worse & worse ,until by 1800 we reached a spot with a danger
flag by the side of the road , and the hapless navigator volunteered to see if there actually was any road left going up . As it happened , only a few feet of road had crumbled into the valley below ( did I mention no guard rails or anything sophisticated : well there weren't ) We decided the road couldn't get much worse, and anyway, shadows were lengthening , and I really didn't see the possibility of turning . Good thing we didn't meet any cars coming down either . We carried on , my wife in close communication with all available deities , and despite the road being narrow, eroded, rocky and steep , we made it to the top by 1830 , and more or less fell on our knees with relief .
Then we were able to enjoy the views and canyonlands .
Verdict : Need 4WD, daylight , and a change of underwear .
I would never do this road going down !
Recommended for people who can't quite face bungee diving ,or hang gliding ...

5 Thank Medrey
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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