written by: Tony Gill
Do you remember your first taste of freedom? The inaugural whiff of independence with the wind in your hair? For me it was when my training wheels came off and my life changed. My first two-wheeled death machine was a red Schwinn with a coaster brake I rode off every curb I could find. It had a bald rear tire from a thousand too many skids. You better believe I had a baseball card in the spokes at some point. In many ways, it was a piece of garbage. But it was my garbage, and it opened a whole new world to me. I’m a bit older now, but put me on a bicycle and I’m surely not any wiser—I’ve got the scars to prove it.
I’m not alone in my two-wheeled obsession. Utah is at the center of the country’s bicycling resurgence. Sure, it’s great exercise that pairs well with your fad diet, and it’s been pejoratively coined the new golf, but at its heart cycling is a virtuous undertaking. H.G. Wells famously said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” We could all use less despair these days. Fortunately the Beehive is filled with the roads, trails, paths and scenery to get back to your roots and get the whole family rolling on two wheels.
The Path to Enlightenment
The adage “Just like riding a bike” implies a degree of simplicity, but getting a family into cycling can be tough sledding. Want to master the roads like your favorite doped-up Lycra-clad superhero? Bring along some nerves of steel for rubbing side view mirrors with aggressive motorists. Endeavor to take to the hills like the daredevils of Red Bull Rampage? Hope you’ve got some decent health insurance. The best way to get the whole family out for a ride that doesn’t end in tears is on one of Utah’s scenic, paved bike paths.
Paved bike paths suit just about any bicycle, so you should be all set no matter what rusted-out two-wheeled contraption you pull out of the storage shed—or you can rent the latest and greatest from a place like Hyland Cyclery. It’s up to you. The Salt Lake City area boasts a plenitude of paths to take you through some of the finest backdrops the West can offer.
Since City Creek Canyon in Salt Lake is closed to automobiles on odd-numbered dates during the summer, your family is free to enjoy the scenery without anyone pulling a Mad Max: Fury Road and running you into the creek. The path does trend uphill, but there are plenty of shady, grassy spots to pull over for a pit stop or a bite to eat. Of course that means it’s all downhill on the way back. bikeslc.com
The Provo River Parkway is a 15-mile trail running along US 189 in Provo Canyon from Utah Lake State Park to Vivian Park. It’s a great trail for all levels of bikers, and the more experienced in the group will be able to take detours on some of the adjacent dirt trails. The Parkway gets bonus points for passing the famous Bridal Veil Falls and a refreshing swimming hole less than four miles from the canyon mouth. utahmountainbiking.com
If the heat has you down, escape up Parley’s Canyon to Park City and hop on the McLeod Creek Trail. You can access the trail from the parking area on 224 right across from the famous white barn at McPolin Farm and ride the trail north, following the mixed paved and crushed gravel trail along McLeod Creek and around Willow Creek Park before stopping for some refreshment at Kimball Junction. basinrecreation.org
Hyland Cyclery: 3040 S Highland Dr, SLC, 801-467-0914, hylandcyclery.com
Off the Beaten Path in a red-rock wonderland
Have a significant other who’s looking for a little more adventure or a kid who’s bored with tame bike paths? There’s no better place to introduce the whole family to off-road riding than the true mountain-bike Mecca, Moab. Moab has some of the most challenging and technical trails in the country, but it’s also home to some of the best beginner-bike terrain anywhere. Note: You’ll need some knobby-tires. If you don’t own an appropriate mountain bike, you can rent at one of Moab’s numerous bike shops, including Chile Pepper Bike Shop. discovermoab.com
The Intrepid Trail System is located in Dead Horse State Park, about 30 miles west of Moab. There are multiple loops you can do, which range from just over a mile to nine miles in length. The introductory terrain and varied ride distances make Intrepid the perfect place to get the whole family out on two wheels. The loops provide a little taste of Moab’s variety of terrain, and they all offer incredible views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. stateparks.utah.gov/parks/dead-horse/
The Bar-M loop is another great spot for beginner mountain biking, with a trailhead on U.S. 191 about eight miles from town. From the parking area, ride south toward Moab on a family-friendly dirt road peppered with bits of the slickrock and sand Moab is famous for. If the Bar-M Loop isn’t enough, you can link up with Circle O, Rockin’ A and Bar B to add mileage and conveniently spell out “MOAB” on your ride. This trail is frequently ridden with trail-a-bikes, making it a perfect option for families with little ones in tow.
Chile Pepper Bike Shop: 702 S Main St, Moab, 435-259-4688