Mountain Biking Adventures

Northern Utah

Bordering the urban corridor, the Wasatch Mountains invite mountain bikers to a myriad of backcountry trails, with city comforts just minutes away.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail 1. Few metropolises can boast of true mountain biking adventures within their city limits. But Utah's Wasatch Front cities do just that. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail, located on the foothills at the base of the Wasatch Range, offers opportunities for mountain bikers, runners, and pedestrians alike with urban amenities minutes away. Although incomplete in its entirety, many segments of the 95-mile-long trail are established with new sections coming on line yearly. Each segment provides powerful views of city-filled valleys, majestic mountains, and of Utah Lake or the Great Salt Lake--the modern-day offspring of ice-aged Lake Bonneville. Popular trailheads are in Ogden at 22nd South and 1800 East; in Salt Lake City at City Creek Canyon, behind the University of Utah, and east of This is the Place Heritage Park; and in Provo at Rock Canyon (2300 North and 1450 East). And remember, other enticing mountain bike routes in the Wasatch Range are a short distance away.

2. Salt Lake City's Mill Creek Canyon is a popular recreational destination, where many trails are accessible to mountain bikes every other day. A canyon user fee is charged for vehicles. The Albion Basin Summer Road at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon rises gently to a Forest Service campground nestled beneath rugged peaks that once harbored a glacier. A guide to other Little Cottonwood Canyon trails is available in the town of Alta. The Squaw Peak Road from Provo Canyon to Hobble Creek is geared for strong mountain bikers and provides dramatic views of two wilderness areas and of Utah Valley below. The resort town of Park City features inviting trails that lead straight from town into the surrounding Wasatch Mountains. Vestiges of the area's colorful mining heritage are frequently passed.

American Fork Canyon3. Trails developed specifically with mountain bikes in mind can be found in the Stansbury Mountains, on Stansbury Island, and at Antelope Island State Park.

4. The Great Western Trail (GWT) is a 3,000-mile-long national trail complex running from Canada to Mexico; in northern Utah the GWT traces the spine of the Wasatch Mountains and provides many fat-tire adventures. The Logan section wavers through rolling basins from Bear Lake Summit in Logan Canyon to the Left-Hand Fork of Blacksmith Fork Canyon. Near Ogden, the Great Western Trail incorporates Northern and Southern Skyline Trails, where bikers are captivated by the staggering scenery of the metropolitan valley to the west and of sprawling farmlands to the east. Outside of Salt Lake City, a premier ridgetop single-track between upper Mill Creek and Big Cottonwood Canyons offers powerful vistas of glacially sculpted terrain. East of Provo, the Great Western Trail continues from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon, while curving around the Mount Timpanogos Wilderness.

5. The Uinta Mountains are ideal for mountain biking adventures, although mountain bikes are not allowed in the High Uinta Wilderness. East of Kamas, the Soapstone Basin loop encircles vast wildflower meadows and darts through shady woods. A spur trail leads to a vantage point overlooking the Duchesne River gorge. Adventuresome single-track trails can be found east of Heber off state highway 35 near Mill Hollow Reservoir. Strawberry Ridge, accessed near the Strawberry Reservoir visitor center south of Heber, shows off the "back side" of the Wasatch Mountains.

6. Not to be overlooked, the Uinta Mountains' eastern slope hosts superb trails through varying terrain. Those centered at the Red Canyon Visitor Center slip through pine forests to cliff-edge panoramas of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. North of Vernal, backcountry dirt roads penetrate alpine forests and lush meadows backdropped by redrock landscapes surrounding distant Dinosaur National Monument.

Lift-served Mountain Biking7. Several of Utah's ski areas remain open for summer recreation. Solitude, Snowbird, Sundance, The Canyons, and Deer Valley Resorts offer chair lift access to designated mountain bike trails. Brighton, Alta, Powder Mountain, and Snowbasin also have cycling trails on resort property.

8. Those who freewheel on fat tires will be amazed at the unlimited opportunities for exploration throughout the Great Basin area. Each of the Basin's isolated mountain ranges harbor dirt roads leading to mining towns abandoned long ago or to remote destinations that rarely see human visitors. The west desert and Bonneville Salt Flats offer unique riding experiences.

9. Between Salt Lake City and Tooele, the Butterfield Canyon-Middle Canyon road crosses the Oquirrh Mountains. These canyon-bound dirt roads rise to a commanding overview of Kennecott's Bingham Copper Mine--the world's largest manmade excavation.

10. Spend a weekend tracing the hoof prints of the "young, skinny, wiry fellows" who once galloped their trusty steeds over 1800 miles to deliver mail along the Pony Express Trail. The Utah section runs from Stagecoach Inn State Park west of Utah Lake to the Utah-Nevada border. Although you no longer need fret about ambush, be aware that services and water sources are few and far between.

11. West of Nephi, the BLM-administered Little Sahara Sand Dunes provide leisurely or challenging explorations. The Tushar Mountains east of Beaver reward the intrepid mountain biker with sweeping panoramas of skyscraping mountains and of alpine basins where elk roam freely.

Southern Utah

Moab Area Slickrock1. Southeastern Utah is a "mecca" for mountain bikers who view the wealth of backcountry roads and slickrock terrain as an irresistible opportunity for scenic year-round exploration. On Moab's famed Slickrock Bike Trail, you pedal over rolling domes of barren Navajo sandstone to staggering cliff-edge vistas of the Colorado River and of shadow-filled canyons. Poison Spider Mesa Trail and Amasa Back Trail are highly technical adventures providing unique views of sandstone fins, the La Sal Mountains' peaks, and the Colorado River corridor. Kokopelli's Trail connects Moab with Grand Junction, Colorado for a 130-mile adventure. But the White Rim Trail is the granddaddy of multi-day, canyon-country tours. You'll spend many days pedaling through sun burnt strata with amazing sights of canyons, buttes, and pinnacle-filled basins.

2. Mountain biking is popular in and out of Bryce Canyon. Unique trails include paved roads, old pioneer trails, and single or double track trails on forest roads. Many options are available for all ability levels.

3. Many other trails in the area offer equally rewarding riding experiences. Mark your calendar in late October for the annual Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival. This week-long event, which attracts mountain bikers from around the world, features guided tours, competitive but light-hearted events, nightly entertainment, and a costume party.

4. Although largely eclipsed by Moab and neighboring National Parks, the San Rafael Swell boasts redrock scenery that is every bit national-park caliber. Many trailheads are accessed via dirt roads, which means visitors are few but adventures are many. In Buckhorn Wash, a good dirt road curves beneath sandstone palisades and passes Indian rock art panels. A nearby route leaves you "rim-rocked" on the edge of Utah's "Little Grand Canyon." The Black Dragon Canyon ride begins up high desert chaparrals then descends through a slot canyon cutting the dramatically inclined San Rafael Reef. At Temple Mountain, you can mountain bike around this spire-topped peak, hike nearby slot canyons, or explore abandoned mining camps.

5. Nine Mile Canyon north of Price is fun to explore on a mountain bike. This 40-mile dirt road features thousands of rock paintings and etchings made by the ancient Fremont Indians.

6. Mountain bikers will find the most remote regions of southern Utah full of adventures. Around Kanab and the Four Corners area, dirt roads cross terrain that served as backdrops for countless western movies. A side trip from the Burr Trail, outside of Boulder, curves alongside calico-striped hills to the trailhead for the Wolverine Petrified Forest. A short hike takes you past heaps of tree limbs now turned to rock.

7. When the mercury rises during midsummer, seek the cool moist forests in Southern Utah's high plateaus. The humble resort town of Brian Head is a dream-come-true for single-track riders. Many trails, such as the Bunker Creek Trail, drop from 11,300-foot Brian Head Peak through alpine forests and pass vermilion escarpments lined with oddly shaped rock formations called hoodoos. Brian Head Ski Resort's longest chairlift accesses several mountain trails, and shuttle service takes bikers to outlying trailheads.

8. The newly dedicated Virgin River Rim Trail traces the top of the Pink Cliffs with views extending beyond Zion National Park into northern Arizona and to the earth's curvature.

These, plus a wealth of other mountain biking routes throughout Utah, are described in books by author Gregg Bromka, Off-Road Publications.

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