5 Stunning Road Cycling Rides Through the Red Rock Desert of Southwestern Utah

Southwest Utah, and indeed the entire state, is known as a cycling haven. While the Beehive State’s mountain bike trails tend to get all the press, road cycling aficionados can find a pedaling paradise with incredible views, friendly people, and few cars. Here are five rides that showcase the gorgeousness that is this red rock country.

1. Snow Canyon Loop

Distance: 23 miles Elevation Gain: 1,441 feet Starting Point: St. George

Snow Canyon State Park has scenery and wildlife that easily rivals nearby Zion National Park. This route is set against a breathtaking backdrop of unique geological features like red and white-striped sandstone cliffs, vermillion sand dunes, ancient volcanic cones, and black lava rock—it’s almost hard to focus on the riding. Even Hollywood has taken notice, as this area was the setting for movies like The Electric Horseman and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The popular Snow Canyon Trail is a part of St. George’s bike path network, so it’s easy to reach from anywhere in town. Enjoy a casual, 8-mile climb on a protected path through the park and be on the lookout for coyotes, foxes, peregrine falcons, quail, and roadrunners. A lucky few might see desert tortoises or Gila monsters. There is a fee of $5 for a group of up to eight cyclists or $10 for cars.

2. Gunlock/Veyo Loop

The Gunlock/Veyo Loop features both spectacular views and a good bit of climbing.

Anna Papuga

Distance: 61 miles Elevation: 2,445 feet Starting Point: St. George

This one is for the climbers. The Gunlock/Veyo Loop is popular with locals training for the St. George Ironman. Going clockwise, start off with a 24-mile, near-consistent climb with an average grade of about three percent. Then you’ll hit “The Wall,” a mile-long, five percent section that puts the granny gear to work. After that, enjoy a nice, long rollercoaster descent back to town.

This loop was the county’s first official bike route. There are signs marking the way and riders can lengthen the ride with signed detours through the Kayenta development in Ivins or Snow Canyon State Park. Make sure to stop and refuel at Veyo Pies with a piece of their legendary dessert.

3. Sand Hollow Loop

Distance: 36 miles Elevation: 2,806 feet Starting Point: Hurricane

The riding on this lollipop loop is challenging and scenic, but the real highlight is the visit to Sand Hollow State Park, where red rock meets blue water. Utah can get hot, so it’s nice to have a respite from the heat. And in Utah, how often can you say that you did a road ride and went to the beach? With its incredibly clean, warm water and striking orange sand, the park is one of Utah’s most popular, and it offers a truly unique experience in the desert: scuba diving. That’s right, the park is a popular place for divers, and there’s even a sunken plane to explore.

The ride starts in Hurricane, about 15 miles east of St. George. To increase the length, the ride could begin in St. George by taking East Riverside or Red Cliffs Drive to the start. The route has dedicated bike lanes or good shoulders the entire way.

4. Utah Hill

Distance: 30 miles Elevation: 2,768 feet Starting Point: Santa Clara

This ride is an out-and-back departing from the Dharma Wheels Cyclery, about six miles west of St. George. Start off loosely following along the Santa Clara river next to the Shivwits Indian Reservation with a nice, gradual uphill warm up. Around mile eight, it gets real, with a 7-mile climb that averages a five percent grade with a few steeper sections to keep things spicy. After hitting the summit at Utah Hill, turn around and enjoy a fun descent back to the car. If looking to rest before the steep section, stop to check out the Shivwits Paiute Indian Cemetery. It’s an authentic Old West cemetery that is still used by modern Paiutes.

Extra credit: Linking the four above rides and adding in a detour north to Toquerville will end up being a full century. It’s similar to the Tour of St. George spring or fall courses.

5. Zion National Park Scenic Drive

The car-free road through Zion National Park is one of the highlights of cycling in southwest Utah.

Ken Lund

Distance: 17 miles Elevation: 2,600 feet Start town: Springdale

No list of rides in southwestern Utah would be complete without mentioning Zion National Park. Words simply can’t describe the grandeur or beauty of this place. Riding through the canyon is the best way to see this magical place as it snakes along the Virgin River and rides in the shadow of Zion’s towering spires, multi-colored sandstone walls, and majestic mesas. With few exceptions, no private cars are allowed in the park, visitors must take shuttle buses to all the sites. Therefore, the only traffic is the occasional bus, giving riders peaceful solitude. Note that the busses are not allowed to pass cyclists, riders must pull over to allow them to pass.

This rolling out-and-back ride trends upward to end at the park’s crown jewel: the Temple of Sinawava. Park the bike and walk a mile on a paved path to a natural amphitheater that looms 3,000 feet above the canyon floor framed by waterfalls and colorful hanging gardens. If looking for a shorter ride but still want to see all of Zion, the buses are equipped with three bike racks each. Load the bike at the visitor’s center, take the bus to Sinawava and enjoy a mostly downhill, 8-mile ride back.

Cyclists avoid the $25 vehicle fee to get into the park, though they still have to pay a $12 entry fee. More importantly, during busy weekends, riding in avoids the long line of cars waiting to get into the visitor center.

Extra credit: Riding from Springdale on Highway 9 and making a loop up to Toquerville and down through Leeds and Quail Creek State Park to Sand Hollow and back through Hurricane is about 80 miles with 3,300 feet of climbing.

Written by Shaine Smith for RootsRated in partnership with St. George Tourism and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Dan

2019 IRONMAN St. George 70.3 North American Pro Championship

Footage from the 2019 IRONMAN St. George 70.3 North American Pro Championship

IRONMAN and St. George to Bring New Race Opportunities to Athletes with Five-Year Host Venue Agreement

St. George, Utah Selected as Host of 2021 IRONMAN 70 .3 World Championship; IRONMAN 70.3 St. George to Rotate to a Full-Distance IRONMAN Event in 2020 & 2023

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to make first return to Southwest US since 2013; St. George to become first location in new annual IRONMAN event rotation beginning in 2020

Click here to view IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2021 website

TAMPA, Fla. / ST. GEORGE, Utah (May 2, 2019) – IRONMAN, a Wanda Sports Holdings company, announced today that the city of St. George, Utah has been selected to host the 2021 IRONMAN® 70.3® World Championship triathlon. The announcement marks the return of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to North America and is the first time since 2013 that the event has been hosted in the Southwestern United States.

In addition, IRONMAN also announced today a new five-year host venue agreement that includes the introduction of a new full-distance IRONMAN triathlon that will rotate between a series of cities across North America, beginning with St. George in 2020. The rotation will bring host cities a full-distance IRONMAN triathlon every three years with St. George again hosting the IRONMAN event in 2023. The 2020 and 2023 IRONMAN St. George triathlons will also be designated as the North American Championship. The other host communities in the rotation for 2021 and 2022 – which will be announced at a later date – as well as St. George, will continue to put on IRONMAN 70.3 events in the other years, giving athletes the chance to prepare on the same courses and increasing the appeal of the destinations within the triathlon community.

“Utah continues to enhance its reputation as the State of Sport by attracting world class sports events and executing on its sport and Olympic Legacy strategies,” said Jeff Robbins, President and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission. “St. George is the perfect setting to host six events over the five-year term of this agreement with IRONMAN. This includes the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, which will bring thousands of competitors and guests from over 100 countries to Utah. The Utah Sports Commission is excited to support these world class events as the presenting sponsor,” said Robbins.

“Sports continue to be an important part of our strong state economy and these six events under the IRONMAN umbrella are anticipated to generate a total of $70 million in economic impact and generate millions of dollars of national and international exposure for our state,” said Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “These events will showcase one of the most iconic and scenic sports backdrops and landscapes that exists anywhere in the world. Congratulations to the Utah Sports Commission, St. George and Washington County on the partnership agreement they have entered into with IRONMAN.”

St. George enters an elite group of destinations around the world bestowed with the honor of hosting the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. The event originated in Clearwater, Florida in 2006 and moved to Henderson, Nevada (2011-13) prior to embarking on a global annual rotation that began with Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada (2014). Each year since, it has reached new locations all over the world, including Zell am See-Kaprun, SalzburgerLand, Austria (2015); Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia (2016); Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States (2017); and Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa (2018). This year, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will move to Nice, France before shifting back to the Oceania region in 2020 with Taupõ, New Zealand playing host.

“By moving the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to premier destinations around the globe each year, IRONMAN has created an inspirational event unlike any other, and we are thrilled to be part of the elite community of world championship host cities,” said Kevin Lewis, Director of Washington County Tourism. “Our course showcases some of the most dramatic landscapes on the IRONMAN 70.3 circuit. The powerful combination of scenery and terrain is backed up by an energetic community that is exhilarated to host such an iconic event. Athletes who have raced here rave about the experience. Those who haven’t are about to find out why.”

The striking Southwestern community of St. George has been a host venue for IRONMAN since 2010. St. George’s breathtaking scenery and views of the surrounding red rock canyons have made the community an ideal destination for athletes for years. The city’s walkable downtown area features great local fare and boutique shopping. It is also only a two-hour drive from the nightlife of Las Vegas, with its never-ending entertainment options. The course has historically begun in the beautiful Sand Hollow Reservoir before embarking on a bike course through picturesque Snow Canyon State Park prior to a run through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The IRONMAN 70.3 North American Pro Championship St. George also earned accolades in the 2018 IRONMAN Athlete Choice awards, ranking in the Top 10 for two categories – fifth in Best Overall Bike and ninth in Overall Host City Experience.

“It gives us great satisfaction to bring our athletes additional opportunities to compete in and enjoy our great partner city of St. George, and the surrounding communities in Southern Utah,” said Andrew Messick, President & Chief Executive Officer for IRONMAN. “This stunningly beautiful Southwestern community has hosted both IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events for many years and has become a fantastic destination for athletes and spectators alike. Beyond the unmistakable red sandstone backdrop, St. George also provides athletes a challenging course perfect to bring about the best competition for the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. We look forward to seeing the world’s most elite triathletes compete on this stage during what will be a special few years in this longstanding host community.”

Qualification for the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship presented by the Utah Sports Commission will begin in July of 2020 with an estimated 200,000 registered athletes from around the world expected to compete for a coveted slot at the more than 110 events in the global IRONMAN 70.3 Series. In addition, each age-group winner at the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupõ, New Zealand will automatically qualify for the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

General registration for the 2020 IRONMAN St. George triathlon will open on Tuesday, May 21. As it will be designated the IRONMAN North American Championship, the event will have an elevated professional prize purse and offer 75 age-group qualification slots to the 2020 IRONMAN World Championship.

For more information about the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, please visit www.ironman.com/worldchampionship70.3. Additional details on the IRONMAN St. George triathlon can be found at www.ironman.com/stgeorge. For more information on the IRONMAN brand and global event series, visit www.ironman.com. Media may contact press@ironman.com.

Click here to view IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2021 website


About St. George

St. George is a community energized by nature and inspired by achievement. Red rock desert and alpine landscapes come together to form a striking blend of color and contrast providing an endless assortment of outdoor recreation. Visitor information is available at: www.visitstgeorge.com.

About the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship

In 2006 the inaugural IRONMAN® 70.3® World Championship was held in Clearwater, Florida becoming another test for the world’s elite triathletes. Since that auspicious beginning, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship has grown in stature and popularity moving first to Henderson, Nevada in 2011, where athletes encountered a more challenging terrain and then to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec—its first stop on the new “global rotation” for the championship. The event reached European soil for the first time ever in 2015, with Zell am See, Austria, hosting an epic and memorable event. In 2016, the race moved from the mountains to the beaches of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Last year, the event returned to the United States, taking place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, becoming a two-day race for the first time. In 2018, the event reached the African continent for the first time and was hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa. More than 185,000 athletes participated in a season of qualifying races for the championship, a series which consists of over 100 events in locations such as Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, North America, South Africa and Switzerland. Approximately 4,500 athletes from around the world were registered to compete in this prestigious race. Participants in the Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship ranged in age from 18 to 78-plus, and represented over 100 countries, territories and regions. The race will move to Nice, France for 2019 with qualification events already underway. In 2020, the event will move to Taupõ, New Zealand where there is a long and storied IRONMAN history that spans 20 years.


As part of Wanda Sports Holdings, the IRONMAN Group operates a global portfolio of events that includes the IRONMAN® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Triathlon Series, 5150™ Triathlon Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series®, Iron Girl®, IRONKIDS®, International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series races, road cycling events including the UCI Velothon® Series, mountain bike races including the Absa Cape Epic®, premier marathons including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, trail running like Ultra-Trail Australia™, and other multisport races. IRONMAN’s events, together with all other Wanda Sports Holdings events, provide more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings. The iconic IRONMAN® Series of events is the largest participation sports platform in the world. Since the inception of the IRONMAN® brand in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines at the world’s most challenging endurance races. Beginning as a single race, IRONMAN has grown to become a global sensation with more than 230 events across 53 countries. For more information, visit www.ironman.com.

About Wanda Sports Holdings

Wanda Sports Holdings is the world’s leading sports business entity, founded to capture the opportunities in the global sports industry and to contribute to the prosperous international sports landscape – in three key areas: 1) Spectator Sports (media and marketing business), 2) Participation Sports (active lifestyle business), 3) Services (digital, production and service business). Wanda Sports Holding incorporates the international sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media, the iconic endurance brand IRONMAN, and Wanda Sports China. The headquarters are in Guangzhou, China.