Canyonlands National Park: Wilhite Trail

Date hiked: 01/22/17

Mileage:  10.4 miles

Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 0 groups


Typical of Island in the Sky, the Wilhite trail first travels across the arid mesa top before reaching the canyon rim. A local favorite of the desert bighorn, keep your eyes open through the scattered blackbrush for a sighting.


Just before the trail embarks on its long decent in to the canyon’s depths, about six-tenths of a mile in, I mistook a cairn and branched off to the north on a social trail. Well-cairned and highly blazed, this trail felt more like where I was supposed to be than the actual trail, but it soon became apparent something was wrong when the dirt ended abruptly at an overlook with no safe passage inside.

Backtracking to where it all went wrong, the actual route branches off downhill and wraps west, garnering your first glimpse at Candlestick Tower. Slowly losing ground, the trail finally comes to the rim a mere mile from the trailhead.


From here, a remarkable series of switchbacks unfold. Where headway seemed impossible at every turn, the route somehow threaded through the terrain with seamless ease. Leveling briefly on a high platform, one last descent brings you to a wash on the canyon floor.



Candlestick Tower on the left.


A quick breather before the final push.


Buttes of the Cross. When seen from the right perspective (northeast looking southwest, or right to left in this picture), the moniker manifests when together these two landmarks form a cross.

The trail then winds with the wash to its convergence with Holeman Spring Creek in the heart of Holeman Spring Basin. Following the dry bed of Holeman Spring Creek, the route ends at White Rim Road after a total of 5.2 miles.


From left to right: Ekker Butte, Elaterite Butte in the distance, and Buttes of the Cross to the right.


A look back at Island in the Sky.

Formed by seasonal streams eating away at the White Rim Sandstone, Holeman Slot at the end of Holeman Spring Creek is an anomaly in Canyonlands National Park. The softer Navajo Sandstone most conducive to forming slot canyons can only be seen in higher altitudes of the park.


Holeman Slot may be easy to slip into, but it grows deeper with each step, and climbing out can be a challenge, especially when the rock is wet. A forty foot pour-off shortly before the water bars entry to the Green River.

Exploring the White Rim for better views of the Green River:


Ekker Butte and Elaterite Butte.

The grassy flat on the opposite bank is known as Valentine Bottom, one of the first spots in Canyonlands to be inhabited by white men. After staying just a year in the late eighteen-hundreds, the Valentine Family left for better horizons in Green River.


Trail Map

0. Map


(From Moab): From Center Street, drive North on U.S. 191 (Main Street) for 11 miles, then turn left onto Utah 313. After 14.6 miles, continue straight onto the Grand View Point/Island in the Sky Road. After 5.7 miles, pay at the fee station, then follow the road another 7.4 miles, where you’ll turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. 2.1 miles from this intersection, watch for the pullout on the left side of the road.

40.8 miles; 51 min

Fees: $25/car to enter Canyonlands National Park

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