Stage 3: Richfield to Payson
Today the Tour of Utah riders will spend much of the stage navigating up the fertile Sevier Valley in the “Heart of Utah.” The valley is known as the “Mormon Corridor” as the pioneering families, directed by Brigham Young struck out from the young cities of Salt Lake and Provo to build settlements across south central Utah. The productive agricultural lands are testament to the faith, ingenuity and hard work of the early settlers who captured the spring snowmelt and intermittent water sources and diverted this scarce resource to cropland. Several small towns, reservoirs and family farms highlight the lasting routes and rituals today’s residents can trace their lineage directly to these early settlers.
The Sevier Valley is ringed on the east and west by the mountainous Fish Lake National Forest. Broad meadows dotted with summer wildflowers punctuate stands of pine trees and aspen glades. The area is home to what may be the world’s largest organism, the Pando aspen clone, a network of 40,000 trees covering an area of 106 acres and weighing an estimated 13 million pounds. In the fall, Pando, and other aspens in the area, dot the hillsides with pockets of gold, orange and red.
The turn from Highway 89 to State Road 132 takes riders through the idyllic Fountain Green. To the southwest lies Maple Canyon, which boasts an epic wall of conglomerate cobblestone rock featuring over 550 mostly sport climbing routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.14 in difficulty.
After roughly 85 miles the gradual incline the course changes character abruptly, trading the gradual incline and rolling hills of the Sevier Valley for a steep, sharp incline on the Mount Nebo loop road in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The southernmost peak in the Wasatch range, Mt. Nebo is also the highest with a summit cresting 11,928 feet in elevation. Despite these designations, the trails of Mt. Nebo are far less visited than Mt. Timpanogos to the north (also home to the fabulous Timpanogos Cave National Monument). The solitude and strenuous trails makes it a great destination for experienced hikers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the Wasatch Valley.
For those less vertically inclined, the Mount Nebo loop road is a spectacular scenic drive or challenging tour for road cyclists as the route twists and turns along the side of the mountain gaining, then descending, 4000 vertical feet into the town of Payson. The route accesses multiple getaway spots ranging from the short, family-friendly hike to the red-rock hoodoos of Devils Kitchen like a miniature Bryce Canyon to multiple lakes and creeks for fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking and the forest’s celebrated wildflowers .