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blue Jug Handle Loop

  4.2 ( 9 )

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37.5 mile 60.4 kilometer loop


Ascent: 3,247' 990 m
Descent: -3,249' -990 m
High: 6,192' 1,887 m
Low: 3,947' 1,203 m


Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)


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Trail shared by F. Felix

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A huge, gorgeous desert expedition that is a good warm up for White-Rim-In-A-Day.

F. Felix

E-Bikes Allowed

Features -none-

Shafer Trail can get thoroughly wrecked by thunderstorms. Check with Canyonlands National Park for current road conditions. This is not a good hill to climb when it's soggy.


This is a big, old-school ride that includes a great downhill.

There are plenty of places in the world to go ride nice trails, but Jug Handle Loop demonstrates the sense of epic awe that draws riders to Moab: huge scale, a monster climb, a long downhill and heart-breakingly beautiful scenery.

This expansive ride will help you to outdo your expectations of yourself!

Need to Know

Part of this ride lies within Canyonlands National Park, so these stricter use regulations apply.


Drive out the Potash Road along the Colorado River until you reach Long Canyon / Jug Handle Arch. Park here and begin riding.

Follow the Potash road along the river, past the pavement end, past the Potash plant and past the Cataract Canyon boat launch. The road then begins to climb away from the river on the bulging Canyonlands anticline. You'll pass beside the Potash evaporation ponds as you head toward Shafer Canyon. There are many private roads in the area for the mining operation's heavy equipment traffic. Avoid these and stay on the public Shafer Canyon road.

The road approaches the rim above the river and you pass Thelma and Louise Point, an abrupt drop to the river over which film makers like to chuck things. Check out the great views of the Gooseneck in this road segment. How many photos of this river bend have you seen in your life?

Continue on the gradually rising road until you reach the junction with the White Rim Trail. There is a pit toilet here. You can turn left and ride out and back to Musselman Arch on the White Rim Trail if you'd like to extend your day. But you still have a lot of miles left, so don't go overboard.

If you choose to skip the out and back extension, go straight/right and continue to follow the road as it begins to claw its way up the Shafer Trail: a series of steep switchbacks that climb up the face of the Wingate sandstone to reach the mesa top.

100 years later, you'll reach the Islands In The Sky. Join the paved highway. You can divert left to visit the I-Sky visitor's center if you like. If not, then continue right on the highway back toward town. It's hard to believe how inconspicuous the massive surrounding canyons are from up here.

You now pass through the Canyonlands National Park exit gate and may be required to show or purchase a park pass. So, bring your Golden Eagle pass, just in case.

Turn right toward Dead Horse Point after about 6-miles on the highway. The paved road soon bends right to enter the state park, but you won't (unless you want to add some Intrepid Trails singletrack to your day). Continue straight on a dirt road that is as un-curving as a bow string. When you approach the edge of the world, the road will finally begin to bend around left to find its way down into Long Canyon.

Yeehaw! Downhill 5-miles, all the way back to the car on a road that can be very rough, or surprisingly smooth depending on the recent rains and county grading schedule. There's a cool spot where the road goes under a humongous, scary boulder leaning against the cliff wall.

If you still have energy to spare, have your buddy drive the car and you can ride the Potash road back to town.

History & Background

Scenes from "Thelma and Louise", "City Slickers II", "Mission Impossible II", movies you haven't heard of, and too many car commercials to count were filmed on the road between Potash and Shafer.


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Jul 26, 2018
Frank Schulz
Started from the Gold Bar Campground and rode our Haibike FatSix pedal assisted ebikes (Bosch, class 1). One battery is enough when using Eco and T… 42.2mi
May 25, 2018
stefan landwehr
May 22, 2018
Adam McKittrick
3:50 moving time 37mi — 4h 21m
Feb 11, 2018
Patrick Hendry
Nov 11, 2017
Sean Donohue
36.7mi — 7h 07m
Nov 4, 2017
Chris Whelchel
May 7, 2016
Jeff Gauvin
36.5mi — 4h 57m
Apr 24, 2016
Jeff Gauvin
brutal day

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 9 votes


in Moab


  4.2 from 9 votes
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in Moab


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379 Views Last Month
13,167 Since Dec 24, 2013
Intermediate Intermediate

Great views, but not "exciting" riding. I rode a 27.5+ hardtail, and while it was perfect on the climbs, the descents had many small bumps that got very jarring over time. A short travel FS could be nice for comfort but it wasn't bad on the hardtail. The final descent through Long Canyon alternated between extremely bumpy or loose sand. I'd much prefer to turn around at the top of the Schafer switchbacks and ride the loop back (only would add about 6 miles round trip). That would also avoid the nearly 8 miles on pavement, which was not a fun part of the ride. May 22, 2018
This ride is not a joke. As described, this is a big day ride. I did it on a rigid 29er with deep gears, and this was a ride to remember. We started at Dead Horse state park, descending Long Canyon early. High winds, and stunning views as we carried lots of speed in between frequent photo stops in the almost slot-like canyons into the Colorado River valley. More wind carried us past the Potash plant and ponds, a wild sight to say the least. Now starts the climb that will wear the average wanderer. Eventually back on a plateau over the Colorado, look for bighorn sheep in the rocks. Eventually you'll come into the Canyonlands park and funnel up a canyon to Shafer Road. Hope you've saved yourself and a few snacks because the climb out just keeps getting steeper. Gasping for breath around the switchbacks gave me time to admire the sheer stone cliff sides and appreciate the relative good quality of the road on this epic ascent. Make friends with the jeepers, they often have spare snacks. Eventually you're back on the rim below the Island in the Sky visitor center. Fill up your water at the station, it's located outside. now a rolling road spin will feel longer than it is on the scrubby plateau. Polish off the box of Cheez Its and mosey on back to camp. 4 hours ago

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