Perched above the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the aptly named Island in the Sky is a huge, level, triangular mesa that looms over the blond sandstone benches of the White Rim country. This 14-mile trek begins on the Gooseberry Trail (also known as the Government Trail) as it dives, almost literally, from the Island to the White Rim 4WD Trail, a 100-mile uranium exploration road that circles the mesa. While jeeps and mountain bikes dominate this established track, our route quickly crosses it, wanders out across secluded sections of the rim, then winds down into twisting canyons filled with hoodoo pinnacles and isolated ledges. Once you descend to the Gooseberry 4WD campsite on the White Rim Trail, cross the two-track road and continue east-southeast along the White Rim’s dramatic slabs, with expansive views north into Gooseberry Canyon and east to the distant La Sal Mountains.
Locate the lone break in the White Rim cliffs, and pick your way down into Gooseberry Canyon, meandering back westward and down, over, and around ledges and rockslides. Gooseberry offers plenty of nooks and forks to explore, and several small seep springs in the streambed hold out the possibility—but no guarantee—of easy water. Most trekkers will want to camp near the Colorado River, a reliable (if silty) source. Adventurous hikers can fashion an interesting loop by exiting Gooseberry’s lower end, bushwhacking south along the Colorado for a half-mile to Dogleg Canyon, and returning via a climb out of its upper end. From there, it’s a 2.6-mile hike along the White Rim jeep road, then a precipitous staircase climb back to the trailhead.
USGS quad: Monument Basin
-mapped by Steve Howe