They call this tranquil and scenic stretch of the state “Utah’s Trail Country.” Surrounded by rugged peaks and national forests, the area is haven for ATVs and UTVs. But road cycling? Many times I had driven I-70 and spotted what seemed to be a paved bike route along the freeway near Sevier Junction, just outside of Richfield, Utah.
Whether I was pressed for time to get where I was going or didn’t have my bike and riding gear with me, the mental sticky note to stop and go for an exploratory ride always dropped from the message board in my head, and like a falling leaf, curled up and came to rest in a dark forgotten corner. That is, until a recent trip to check out the Crusher in the Tushar route found me driving north in a Sprinter van loaded with bikes on old Highway 89 from the town of Junction through Marysvale.
Just north of Marysvale, we stopped for fuel at Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort and I wondered if the many visible signs for “Bike Route” would somehow hook up with the bike lanes I remembered seeing up ahead along I-70. A quick look on the map confirmed that indeed the Candy Mountain Express bike path hooked right into Sevier Junction and several interesting ride options would unfold.
The paved path is an old rail-to-trail route from Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort to the trailhead and parking area at Sevier Junction, with several points of interest along the way. For example, there is a late 1800’s railroad tunnel, about 200 feet long that is carved through the rock. It’s worth a stop to read up on railroad history.
As your imagination ponders what a missed opportunity it was to not route the bike path through the old tunnel, you will likely get to the part about how they already thought that, but chose to preserve this bit of history by fencing off both ends and routing the path around.
About 6.5 miles from the start of the path (or the end, depending on how you look at things) you will end up at the Sevier Junction Trailhead and parking area. This is really the hub of some interesting rides. It also happens to be Exit 23 off of I-70, so all those times I was passing by, this would have been a great place to start. There are plenty of parking spots and a maintained pit potty.
Our intention was to ride to Richfield via the Sevier Highway, but after following the paved path adjacent to the road through the towns of Joseph and Elsinore, we decided to veer off and do some small town exploring.
Through Elsinore, the path turned into more of a well-marked bike lane and we started feeling like we were going somewhere instead of exploring. At an intersection, we took the Monroe Road, or state Route 118 south through the town of Austin and to Monroe, where we found a classic little stretch of small-town Main Street. Here there were plenty of places to fill up bottles with cold water.
From Monroe, we followed Route 118 west out of town, up and over a 1.5-mile climb and dropped back down to Joseph, where we were able to jump on the paved bike path and return to our starting point. Round-trip mileage was 38 miles with about 1,200 vertical feet of climbing for the whole ride.
Start in Richfield and beeline it for the bike route through Elsinore, Joseph, and Sevier, then at Sevier Junction, continue on Clear Creek Canyon Road about 4 miles to the Fremont Indian State Park Museum. This is a good place to turn around on 45-mile mile out-and-back route, but save time to stop and stretch your legs exploring the area’s ancient peoples. For a small entrance fee, the museum will orient you to the mysteries carved and painted on the rocks, then you can take your knowledge out into the field on the park's trails.
Stitch together your own route with any of these options. And explore small towns along the way. If you ride up to Candy Mountain Resort, you can get food and fill up your bottles at Big Rock Cafe.
Early April through November is the best time to ride this route. The fall foliage colors along the Sevier River on the bike path to Big Rock Candy Mountain can be spectacular if you hit it right when the aspen are turning.