“Canyonlands may be known more for its sweeping vistas, but the trails to the river come with the most reward.
— Caroline Cordsen
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
With the Candlestick Campground 2.3 miles south on White Rim Road
, this is another backpacking option. A permit is required for all overnight travel into Canyonlands, and may need to be reserved up to three months before your trip. Also, no water is available within Canyonlands, so you'll have to tote it all in with you.
Typical of Island in the Sky, the Wilhite Trail first travels across the arid mesa top before the route branches off downhill and wraps west, garnering your first glimpse at Candlestick Tower. Slowly losing ground, the trail finally comes to the crux of the route at the canyon rim a mere mile from the trailhead.
From here, a remarkable series of switchbacks unfold to navigate an ancient rockslide. Where headway seemed impossible at every turn, the route somehow threaded through the terrain with seamless ease. Leveling briefly on an exposed ledge perched alongside the mesa, the Buttes of the Cross slip into view. When seen from the northeast, the moniker manifests when together these two landmarks form a cross. One final descent brings you the final three-hundred feet to a wash on the canyon floor.
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.
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, but here, seasonal streams eat away at the White Rim Sandstone, causing the slot to form. Be careful—Holeman Slot may be easy to slip into, but it grows deeper with each step. 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.
Flora & Fauna
A local favorite of the desert bighorn, keep your eyes open through the scattered blackbrush on the mesa tip for a sighting. Here, you'll also find a thriving mix of desert grasses, cacti, and shrubs.
As always, snakes and lizards call Canyonlands home, as well as rabbits. Though very rare, you may spot a mountain lion, or in the fall near waterways, a black bear snacking on prickly pear cacti or hackberry trees.