We didn’t really plan ahead that much for our trip to Canyonlands National Park, but luckily we were encouraged to get a day use permit at the visitor center to explore the Shafer Trail. They call it Shafer Trail, but it is really just a dirt road. A dirt road which snakes down to the canyon floor and provides stunning views of the area. I believe they stated that the full path around was around 100 miles, but that is really only recommended if you are camping. That might be a fun trip another time, but we thoroughly enjoyed our drive only going out as far as Musselman Arch.
Technically, the road is for 4WD vehicles only, but it was very well-maintained for the most part. You need a 4WD vehicle to get a permit. It was a bumpy, but never too difficult; especially in my 4Runner. On the way back, we decided to head out on Potash Road where the quality of the road deteriorated quickly. It generally did not have exposure, so it wasn’t scary or anything though.
Before we drop down into the canyon; here is a look from one of the viewpoints above:
Here is a video of the initial descent into the canyon:
Views on the drive down the Shafer Trail
We decided to take the visitor center’s recommendation and turn around at Musselman Arch. It was tempting to drive further, but we still had a fairly long drive back and plans for the rest of the day. On a future trip, it might be fun to camp along White Rim Road, but the section we did drive was awesome!