Gooseberry Trail

Round Trip Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4713 - 6274 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: White Rim Overlook
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: Spectacular views, thrilling experience

The Gooseberry Trail is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. The trail begins at the White Rim Overlook trailhead, not too far from Grand View Point, and descends from the Island in the Sky down to the White Rim Road. The descent is made through a rubble filled chute that has a very steep slope. The trail is well established and easy to follow but those with acrophobia may want to find a different trail to hike.

To get to the trailhead follow the Grand View Point Road from the Visitor Center. The trailhead and picnic area is on the left before you get to Grand View Point. The sign at the trailhead indicates that it is 3 miles to the White Rim Road with an elevation change of 1400 feet. According to our GPS the distance was only 2 1/4 miles but the elevation change was over 1550 feet.

The trail begins crossing the flat mesa toward the White Rim Overlook. After a short distance the Gooseberry trail splits off on the left.

Follow the cairned route to a gap in the edge of the rim.

Here the trail begins its steep descent down a multitude of switchbacks. Notice that the trail is comfortably wide by itself but the dropoffs are somewhat steep.

Here is a look down the chute. From here it looks like a long, long ways down to the wash that leads out to the White Rim Road but it is only a mile. The slideshow at the end of this post has enough pictures to give a person a good idea of what the trail is like. Some of the pictures going down are a little blurry due to the low light conditions. The pictures that were taken while making the climb up from the bottom might be a little better.

The views from the top are totally amazing but these picture window vistas as you make the descent, with the sheer cliffs of wingate sandstone rising above you, are absolutely stunning.

This is a picture of the only spot that seemed to have any real exposure. It is along a section with about a 20 foot drop on the righthand side. The trail is still plenty wide but the footing is awkward in a couple of places. There is another picture from the trip back up that gives a look at it from the other direction.

The steepness of the trail levels off around the 3/4 mile point and at the 1 mile point the trail enters the wash that it follows to the White Rim Road. The upper section of the wash is somewhat secluded and fun to hike through.

Once at the White Rim Road it is only a short distance to the edge of the rim. The whole area is one big expanse of white rim sandstone slickrock.

On the trip back be sure to stay to the left where the wash forks. The right fork looks much nicer but it will take you the wrong direction.

Here is a look at the route from the bottom. Pretty gnarly don't you think?

We never would have considered this being a family hike. This is a picture of the spot that has a little bit of exposure. If you click on the picture you will see that the lady coming down the trail is carrying a toddler on her back in a frame pack and a little girl is following her. When we took our kids on hikes like this we always had them tethered to us with a rope but maybe that was more for our comfort.

There are quite a few steps that the Park Service has placed in a few key spots that make the footing a lot easier. Knowing that there were hikers below us at this point we had to be careful not to dislodge any rocks.

As far as the scenery goes it is obvious why this is a National Park. It can't be seen from this vantage point but the Colorado River is snaking its way through the canyons below. We have rafted the river from Moab to Lake Powell going through the infamous Cataract Canyon that has rapids bigger than a two story house. In various places there are ancient cliff dwellings and granaries that are fun to explore.

The Gooseberry trail is going to be more than what the casual hiker who typically visits the Island in the Sky District will want to tackle but for those that thrive on this type of experience they won't be at all disappointed with the trail. While the trail is very steep we don't take a lot of chances anymore and we didn't have any trouble with the hike. We would have turned around had it gotten too hairy. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.