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
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.
5. Zion National Park Scenic Drive
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Dan