This eight-day tour through the glorious red-rock country of southern Utah offers an irresistible mix for the traveler who enjoys riding self-supported but prefers to sleep indoors.
The Utah Parks loop features unrivaled scenery, including the otherworldly shapes and shades of Zion National Park, the ghostly hoodoos carved out of the colorful Paunsaugunt Plateau in Bryce Canyon National Park, and the technicolor climbs and descents in Cedar Breaks National Monument. We’ll leave plenty of time to explore each of these geologic gems, both on and off the bike. As part of a small group of around a dozen participants, you’ll enjoy first-class leadership, restaurant meals, and a hot shower and warm bed at the end of each day. So come along for this Southwest adventure that blends the independence of self-supported touring with light loads and the comfort of indoor accommodations.
"This was a great trip and I really enjoyed it!"
Day 1. St. George, Utah, 0 miles
We’ll meet up in the evening and get ready for our canyon-country bicycle adventure in St. George, a growing city in an incredible setting of red rocks and distant green mountains. After the leader conducts an orientation and map meeting, we’ll get the chance to socialize and get to know one another. If time permits earlier in the day, you might want to visit the St. George Temple Visitor Center or venture over to the outstanding Interagency Visitor Center on East Riverside Drive. Operated in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, this facility has — for free and for sale — a wealth of maps and materials on the region’s colorful history, geology, and flora and fauna.
Day 2. St. George to Springdale, 49 miles
Today’s route will bring us from St. George to Hurricane, pronounced locally as HER-uh-kun, using bike trails along the Virgin River and backroads. The town’s name reportedly derives from an event of the 1860s when a powerful blast of wind blew the top off a buggy carrying Mormon leader Erastus Snow. (We cyclists will take a gentle tailwind, thank you!) From there, we’ll work our way to Virgin and follow the Virgin River to Rockville, originally named Adventure in the 1860s. If your own spirit of adventure and your tires are up to it, you might ride the 3.5-mile spur on pavement and good gravel to Grafton Ghost Town, the filming location of a memorable scene from 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Our day ends with the indoor comforts and outdoor splendor of Springdale, nestled at the doorstep of Zion National Park. One evening option is catching a larger-than-life film at the Zion Canyon Giant Screen Theatre. Also available: a free shuttle into Zion National Park and along the Virgin River where you’ll marvel at the canyon walls looming a thousand feet above.
Day 3. Sprindale, 0 miles
Layover day. Today we’ll take the day off to explore the kaleidoscopic wonderland known as Zion National Park, where sandstone formations showcase some 150 million years of sedimentation. The day is yours to ride, hike, and explore this wonderful national park. Consider cycling up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, or take the shuttle into the park and explore some of the famous trails, including Angels Landing.
Day 4. Springdale to Hatch, 55 miles
We’ll be shuttled through the no-bikes-allowed, 1.1-mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, completed in 1930 to create a direct link from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks. Today’s ride allows us to explore the eastern side of Zion and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway — hopefully catching a glimpse of a bighorn sheep scaling the sandstone cliffs. We’ll turn north at Mt. Carmel Junction to begin an upstream ride along the East Fork of the Virgin River as we climb to the small town of Hatch.
Day 5. Hatch to Ruby’s Inn, 23 miles
A special treat is in store today as we spin our pedals through aptly named Red Canyon, a shallow valley carved into the side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau that reveals a magnificent stretch of exposed orange-reddish sandstone. Some of the spires in the canyon appear to be dark castles rising from a foundation of red sand. Butch Cassidy reputedly once hid in Red Canyon after brawling with a man over a girl in nearby Panguitch. Today you can gallop your own two-wheeled steed through parts of the canyon on the no-traffic Red Canyon Bike Trail, which runs from the Thunder Mountain Trailhead to Coyote Hollow Road. We’ll get to our overnight at bustling Ruby’s Inn early to have plenty of time to explore this great area. Established in 1916, Ruby’s Inn is at the threshold of what seven years later would become Bryce Canyon National Monument (soon upgraded to a National Park).
Day 6. Ruby’s Inn to Panguitch, 23 miles
If you enjoyed zipping through Red Canyon yesterday, you’ll love this news: you get to do it again today! We’ll retrace our tracks over the 7,777-foot summit and through Red Canyon to the junction with U.S. 89 where we’ll turn north to explore some new country. At the higher elevations, you’ll see bursts of ponderosa pine, with their green needles and furrowed brown trunks, standing in lovely contrast to pinkish-red rock and brilliant blue sky. They say you can’t eat the scenery, yet the views in and around our overnight destination of Panguitch are about as delectable as anything could be. Today’s ride is short and nearly all downhill, meaning you’ll have ample time to explore more of Bryce Canyon. How about taking in the sunrise over the canyon, followed by a hike down into the canyon itself?
Day 7. Panguitch to Cedar City, 59 miles
Today will test your legs in terms of vertical feet gained, but don’t worry, the scenery will make it all worthwhile! From Panguitch, at 6,624 feet above sea level, we’ll climb to an elevation of over 10,000 feet as we make our way up the Markagunt Plateau, past Panguitch Lake. When we reach the top, we’ll cruise through Cedar Breaks National Monument where thousands of centuries of successive sedimentation, uplift, and erosion have created a natural, multihued amphitheatre more than three miles long and 2,000 feet deep. You can enjoy bristlecone pines, some of the oldest trees on earth, while passing through. You’ll earn tremendous views of the rugged walls and tall pinnacles filling the amphitheater below. We’ll descend from the high country to spend the night in Cedar City, elevation 5,840 feet.
Day 8. Cedar City to St. George, 65 miles
On this, our final day of riding, we’ll follow the I-15 corridor on mostly frontage roads. About 22 miles out of Cedar City, we’ll stop in at the visitor center for the Kolob Canyons. Located within the northwest corner of Zion National Park, these canyons are higher in elevation than those in parts of the park farther south, offering viewpoints that will allow us to glimpse down into spectacularly steep chasms. We’ll end in the now-familiar city of St. George, amazed at the miles we covered and all that we saw.
Know before you go
Information for eBike riders:
Because every rider, eBike, road condition, and elevation profile is different, it is ultimately up to the participant to judge best whether their battery will last through each tour day. We recommend using pedal assist in its lowest setting or off when not needed to maximize battery range. Bringing a second battery is also recommended. Remember, there is no vehicle support on our inn-to-inn trips, and you would need to carry the extra battery along with all of your other things.