Fall Southwestern Utah National Parks Tour

Bob Smith

During our seven day adventure we rode six days covering 270 miles and ascending more than 14,375 feet. Our shortest ride day was 22 miles from Springdale (Zion) to Glendale. This normally would have been about a 35 mile day with between 1500-2000 feet of additional ascent. Zion Highway between the south and east entrances was being completely reconstructed with new road base, drainage and retaining walls. The road was closed to bicycle traffic so our tour leaders had to arrange a shuttle from Springdale to outside the east entrance. Our 5th riding day from Panguitch to Cedar City was the longest and most difficult with 4800 feet of vertical gain in 59 miles. Most of the vertical gain was in the first 36 miles from Panguitch to Cedar Breaks National Monument Visitor Center. The final 23 miles was nearly all downhill into Cedar City. We managed to increase our 7.5 MPH average to 10.3 by the time we reached the Abbey in Cedar City. The final day was 56 miles back to St George and the fastest day on the bike averaging 18.3 MPH ascending 1332 feet and descending 4334 feet. The final day was the least interesting riding day. There was an option to enter the north entrance of Zion National Park and the 11 mile out and back via Kolob Canyon Road. This would have involved quite a bit of climbing so we opted to drive Kolob Canyon Road on our drive back from St. George. This tour including lodging, support van, 3 dinners, most breakfasts, daily afternoon social hours with drinks, snacks and route reviews, maps and cue sheets.
Past CSCC Vice President John Ellis now lives in St. George. We met him and his son Alex for lunch on Saturday, September 18th. John suggested we park our car at his house rather than it at the hotel during the trip. We enjoyed visiting with John at the beginning and end of our trip.
Normally, BAC rides of a week or more have a layover day. That layover day usually falls towards the middle of trip. Our layover day fell on day two in Zion. It worked well affording us plenty of time to hike several short trials. We arrived in Springdale around noon on Sunday and were not able check into the Pioneer Lodge until 3PM. Springdale has a town shuttle that runs from the south end of town to the entrance to Zion. The park has a shuttle that runs every 8 minutes up and down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The up canyon shuttle plays an audio guide describing the many rock monuments, trails, geology and history of the park. Stop one is for Zion Museum which has a 22 minute video about the park. It is well worth viewing prior to going further up canyon. The canyon shuttle is essentially a free hop on hop off bus tour of the west canyon. We did a couple hours of shuttle touring planning out our next day’s hiking.
Our first day was quite hot reaching nearly 100 degrees in Springdale. The second day was a bit cooler and somewhat overcast in the morning which made for good day of hiking. We aren’t big hikers so we opted for the shorter trials of Emerald Lakes, Weeping Wall and River Trail to the Narrows. I walked up the Virgin River Narrows about 500-600 yards. There wasn’t enough time to go much further. I would have needed to rent wet socks and water shoes to go much further. In total we hiked a little more than 5 miles. This provided us a good prospective of the diversity and varying habitats in the area of the park. The Pa’rus Trail is a paved bikeway from Springdale/Park Entrance to Canyon Junction. Bikes are permitted only on paved public surfaces in the park and nowhere else.

Photo Credit: Bob Smith 

Bent Fork Chronicles - Vol 3 Issue 5 October 2010

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