Top Ten U.S. Road Biking Routes
|Zion National Park|
Utah and Arizona may not have the Rockies reaching down their spines but they are no less blessed with glorious and unique bits of earth. Southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona in particular are awash in stunning protected natural wonder. With Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Parks, Kaibab National Forest, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, everywhere you look there are sites unlike anything you have ever seen before. What better place can you imagine a pedal through? There's nothing like the scenery to take your mind off the road.
Kanab and Kaibab are two of the five large plateaus that comprise the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab (a Paiute Indian word meaning "mountain lying down") is the more famous of the two and is a leafy green oasis in the midst of dull sage and dry grassland. Chock full of pine, fir, spruce, aspen, oak, and juniper, it is a forest above the plain and, when autumn arrives, vibrant with color. In general, the terrain is gently rolling, with periodic character-building climbs. Once you have reached the end (at the very edge of the Grand Canyon), the panorama is otherworldly. Don't forget to look behind you too. On a clear day, you can see back as far as Zion from ridge summits.
You could start your ride in any number of outstanding places, depending on your gusto and ability. If you go as far back as Hurricane, Utah, you can enjoy the full 48-mile pedal along Highway 9 right through Zion National Park. This is an amazing ride but not without its challenges: A long tough climb out of Zion Canyon is no trifle, nor is the long narrow tunnel at the top through which you are not allowed to bike (stick out your thumb and hope for a sympathetic motorist).
Another cool beginning is at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Head north to the junction with 89 and then turn forever south. From Mount Carmel Junction through Kanab and to Jacob Lake is quite dry. Be prepared. Once you hit North Rim and the Grand Canyon, the only way back is the way you came. You won't complain. If you didn't do the ride through Zion at the start, think of tacking it on at the end. You will still have to face the tunnel, but the spin to Zion Canyon is steeply and thrillingly downhill in this direction. If you have lots more time, consider heading further up Highway 89 north to Panguitch and then following scenic byway Highway 12 into Bryce Canyon National Park and beyond.
Described as "the most beautiful 44 miles in Arizona," Highway 67 (also called the Kaibab Plateau Scenic Byway), doesn't offer much in the way of services. There's a lodge at North Rim and good camping at Jacob lake and the North Rim, but not much else. Plan accordingly. Read more about biking north of the Grand Canyon and scenic byways in the area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication