Cycling Hub: Heber Valley
This picturesque mountain town just outside of Park City is a gateway to some great road biking. The boundless views of Mt. Timpanogos and the Uintas make this a cyclists dreamscape. While there are some family-friendly routes, intermediate and advanced riders will find the most fun here.
The Heber Valley is often overlooked by cyclists visiting (or living) in Utah due to its close proximity to the world renowned town of Park City. However, Heber City boasts unique views of Mt. Timpanogos to its south and is flanked by the Uintas — the highest east-west running mountains in North America — to its north. This picturesque mountain town is a gateway to some great road biking and while there are some family-friendly routes, most rides would be enjoyed more by intermediate and advanced riders.
Here are some of the best, not-to-be-missed routes in the area.
Heber Valley Loop
Heber Valley Loop is a 33-mile route with 1500 feet of elevation gain and serves as a great first ride for intermediate cyclists if you’re new to the thin dry air of Utah. The route follows the rolling hills of the country roads along the outskirts of town, passes through the Swiss town of Midway, skims past Deer Creek Reservoir, and offers endlessly exceptional views of Mt. Timpanogos.
Because this ride is a loop, you can start from anywhere along the route. If you’re staying in town, enjoy the simplicity of starting this ride right from your door. The loop can be completed in either direction, but counter-clockwise is probably most common.
There are areas of road with narrow shoulders, mainly along country roads (SR 189) through Midway, so be mindful of cars. Also, heavy traffic can be expected along Main Street in Heber; you can avoid the Main Street traffic by following the back roads through neighborhoods all the way to 500 N. Fortunately, there is an ample shoulder on U.S. 40 for the three miles that you will be on it.
Heber — Brown’s Canyon — Kamas Lollipop
Road biking in mountain towns is usually full of unrelenting climbs, but the geography in the Heber Valley also offers rolling hills and flat country road cruising, which is greatly appreciated in this mountain-desert climate. This particular ride is a 47.6-mile lollipop with about 3200’ of elevation gain and is very popular with locals.
If you’re staying in Heber, drive or ride to the intersection of U.S Route 40 and State Route 32 to start. Begin the ride by heading north on SR 32 toward Jordanelle Reservoir. The first mile of this ride contains the steepest portion of climb, but quickly rolls to a gentle grade once the reservoir comes into view. SR 32 is a frequently trafficked road without much room on the shoulder – take note of your surroundings to stay safe.
Jordanelle Reservoir will reappear during some of the more significant climbing on SR 248 in the middle of the ride. A descent through Brown’s Canyon is a welcome reprieve after climbing up 248, but use caution at high speeds on this road. Cars tend to drive well above the 55 mph speed limit and wildlife (deer, elk, rabbits) often make an appearance, especially if you’re riding at dusk.
The route provides a taste of everything there is to love about riding in Utah from punchy uphill climbs, to flowing descents, and gentle-grade country-roads. Though more experienced riders will likely enjoy this ride more than beginners, the climbing is gradual and spaced out enough, that anyone with moderate fitness will be able to complete it.
You will be in direct sun for almost the entirety of this ride, so though you may not be getting crushed by steep climbs, the mid-summer heat will be a factor. Be sure to load up on sunscreen and bring more water than you think you may need. There will be some opportunities to stop and refill in Kamas, if need be, but who wants to interrupt the flow of a ride like this?
Oh, and when you finish, drive your car back up SR 32 into the small town of Woodland and treat yourself to some delicious biscuits and gravy at the Woodland Biscuit Company — an old general store turned breakfast nook, open from 8am-2pm daily.
Just a short 20-minute drive south from Heber Valley will take you over to Sundance Resort. Dubbed the Sundance Sufferfest, this route is nine miles with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. It’s often ascended by athletes across disciplines from alpine ski racers, to Nordic skiers, to freeskiers. (I’ll leave it to you to figure out who usually wins…) The road-climb up the access road is a great workout! The U.S. Ski Team hosts an annual race here, and choose to hold it on Sundays so that they can enjoy a buffet-brunch at The Foundry Grill after.
To get to this ride from Heber, just follow SR 189 to Alpine Loop and turn right. There is limited parking at the base of the climb, so it is typically best to park at the Sundance Resort base area, just a mile uphill on your left. Then, descend back to the bottom to start the full-climb, or just start riding from the parking lot. This road is narrow and can see quite a bit of traffic, though cars seem to be well aware of bikers’ presence.
Get ready for your legs to burst and your lungs to bleed! To cool down after the ride, be sure to check out Bridal Veil Falls, just on the other side of US 189.
Where to Stay
Downtown Heber is the perfect basecamp to access all these rides. You can stay at the Homestead Resort, which offers a nice selection of traditional hotel rooms, suites, and even condos if you’re traveling with the whole family. This gorgeous resort will provide plenty of post-cycling entertainment as well, with an 18-hole golf course, pools, and the Homestead Crater – the only warm scuba diving destination in the continental United States.