by Julie Trevelyan

The White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park is a pretty sweet mountain bike ride by most people’s definition. Outstanding scenery, technical sections to test your mettle, long flat sections in which to enjoy the views, canyon rims to peer over, stellar overlooks, side hiking trails to take, and a mountain bike-friendly climate all make this one of the best rides in the country. However, it can be quite the teacher, too. Here are some things you might learn, planned for or not, from your time on the trail.

1. How to be silent.

It’s not easy to find silence in our busy modern world. Sometimes, we don’t know how to find the quiet spaces, or what to do with them once found. A long bike ride in the gorgeous Utah landscape can press silence and thoughtfulness upon you. Even if you’re biking in a group, you can hang back, forge ahead, or simply maintain a zen-like silence while you and your thoughts flow along at the speed of your pedaling. This is a fantastic place for some quiet inner contemplation.

2. The exact parameters of your limits.

Maybe you’re a mountain biking stud. Even so, long days on the trail, unexpected moments such as a deluge of rain or excessive heat or that section on the downhill that wiped you out, can show you exactly what your limits are—and what you might need in order to either accept them or push past them.

3. What you do when faced with challenges.

If biking the White Rim Trail is a first for you, there will be plenty of inherent challenges along its length, ranging from a sore butt to that very impressive-looking climb that keeps going up…and up…and up. Or challenges may arise from a clash in group dynamics, the realization you forgot to tell the cooks how serious your dairy allergy is, or the prickly pear spines that punched holes in your sleeping pad and left you as one with the lumpy, hard ground all night long. How you deal with those kinds of situations says a heck of a lot about who you are, and who you can choose to be.

4. Who you are in relation to the enormity of the natural world.

Being human can seem like a pretty insignificant thing when you’re walking on top of Musselman Arch and the empty air it spans, or gazing across seemingly endless miles of twisting canyons, Colorado River bends, and far-off mountains from the White Crack vantage point. The world truly is an enormous place, and the amount of room we take up in it is suddenly put into sharp focus when you understand what a small little speck you are in the midst of it.

5. Who you are in relation to yourself.

An accomplishment such as biking the entire length of the White Rim Trail will bring you smack up against yourself, or your perception of yourself. Who that person is, what s/he wants to accomplish in other areas of life, and how real and honest you are with yourself will be projected in stark relief in your head and heart as you make your way along the trail. No matter what you discover, celebrate the fact that what you thought was just a mountain bike ride is also a wonderful way to get deeper into who you are. And that’s not a bad thing at all.





Julie TrevelyanWritten by Julie Trevelyan.

Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate. See more of her work here