Shafer Trail, or the Shafer Switchbacks, is a 4X4 Jeep trail that begins at the top of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park and winds down to the canyon floor below. This incredible experience gives an up close perspective of the magnitude of the cliffs and canyons as you descend hundreds of feet to the canyon floor. Anyone who has appreciated this awe-inspiring drive can also appreciate the effort of the miners who cut this trail in search of uranium in the 1950s.
Upon reaching the base of the switchbacks the trail straightens out as it continues to Musselman Arch. In appearance Musselman Arch is more of a bridge than an arch as it is relatively flat and spans the canyon below. It is a remnant of the sandstone layer that forms the white rim seen throughout Canyonlands. Recently the National Park service has restricted walking across arches, but prior to this restriction it wasn’t unusual to see brave adventurers walk across the arch, which at its narrowest is approximately three feet wide!
Before beginning this experience consider your tolerance for heights. The shafer trail at some points is wide enough for just one vehicle as it forces drivers close to the cliffs edge. This experience can be done in a rental Jeep or your own high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle. For a similar experience that can be included with your Desert Solitude Tour check out Long Canyon.