Road Biking in Utah's National Parks and Monuments

For those who would rather see some of Utah’s most spectacular national parks and monuments from the seat of a bicycle rather than out the window of a vehicle, road biking is a wonderful option. Admittance to parks is usually cheaper for cyclists, and being able to feel the wind on your face as you pedal through a park is a great way to ensure an intimate experience with the outdoors.

In Zion National Park, for example, private vehicles are not allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Byway most of the year, but bicycles are — a perfect opportunity to tour a national park without the normal car traffic to deal with. Bikes are also permitted on the Pa'rus Trail in Zion, a paved path located between the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the Canyon Junction. Click here for more tips on cycling in Zion National Park.

Bike routes described here include Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, as well as Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, and Dinosaur National Monument. General rules to follow when cycling in national parks and monuments include riding single file with the flow of traffic. Most of the time there are no designated bike lanes and road shoulders are often narrow, so please be alert for passing vehicles. It is strongly recommend that cyclists wear appropriate safety gear, including helmets and high visibility clothing.

So bring your bike to Utah and get ready to enjoy some of the most scenic road biking in America!

The Rides

1. Arches National Park: Arches Cruise

The Arches Cruise is a 46.4-mile out-and-back ride over rolling hills in Arches National Park, including a couple of out-and-back spurs. The stunning scenery — exotic enough for an Indiana Jones film (opening sequences in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) — makes this a must-do ride. The route opens with a dramatic climb — and closes with a similarly dramatic descent—on switchbacks. The route is entirely on National Park Service roads; hence, the pavement is generally smooth. The elevation ranges from 4,097 feet at the Arches National Park Visitor Center to 5,173 feet approaching Devils Garden.

2. Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky Cruise

The Island in the Sky Cruise is a 51-mile out-and-back ride over undulating terrain between and through Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. The elevation ranges from 5,639 feet at Upheaval Dome, in Canyonlands National Park, to 6,184 feet on Big Flat, on SR 313 between the Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point Parks. The route is entirely on state highways and national park roads, so the pavement is generally smooth. This is one of the few rides in this book that does not begin anywhere near a city or town. That said, be prepared for this route by bringing any provisions needed — there are only limited facilities along the way. Bring cash, too, to pay park entrance fees.

3. Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument: Johnson Canyon Cruise

The Johnson Canyon Cruise is a 50.8-mile out-and-back course. The elevations range from 4,985 feet in Kanab to 5,950 feet at the turnaround. The ride begins at the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (GSENM) Visitor Center on the eastern edge of Kanab. The route spends very little time in Kanab, immediately heading toward the expansive sagebrush flats east of town and the wonderful landscape of the GSENM.

4. Dinosaur National Monument: Dinosaur Country Cruise

The Dinosaur Country Cruise is a 48.1-mile out-and-back ride over gently rolling hills and false flats. The ride journeys from Vernal, into the Dinosaur National Monument as far as the pavement stretches, and returns. The pavement surface is good along the outer ends of the route (i.e., in Vernal and approaching and in Dinosaur National Monument) but is fair to rough along Brush Creek Road, in the middle section of the course. There are ten cattle guard crossings. The elevation ranges from 5,359 feet in Vernal to 4,757 feet along SR 149 near Dinosaur National Monument.

5. Capitol Reef National Park: Torrey to the Golden Throne

The relatively gentle ride is 16–20 miles one way, depending on where you start, and 32–40 miles for a round-trip ride from nearby Torrey, Utah. This is a high-altitude moderate course with rolling hills. The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive hovers around 5,300 feet above sea level, with the greatest elevation gain on the return trip to Torrey, which sits at 6,800 feet. Along the way: lots of stunning red rock scenery luring you to pull off the road and just enjoy the view.

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