Magazine article Sunset

Zion's Splendors by Bike

Magazine article Sunset

Zion's Splendors by Bike

Article excerpt

Routes are easy to challenging. You can rent bikes near the park

Nature's ability to sculpt stone into fantastic forms reveals itself in full splendor in Utah's Zion National Park. Most visitors see the park while driving along the several roads that wind through Zion's canyons to its upper reaches. But views restricted by car windows don't compare to the unobstructed, open-air vistas you get when touring the park by bicycle.

Starting from the south visitor center, take an easy day-long ride into Zion Canyon. Or choose a more challenging route up to plateaus of eroded sandstone.

Bicyclists exploring Zion Canyon often rest by the Virgin River or in shaded picnic areas. Short hikes reach enchanting spots such as Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and the springs and gardens along the Gateway to the Narrows Trail; this route leads to where the canyon's walls close to hallway width. Signed trailheads point you in the right direction. Most trailheads and picnic areas have bike racks. Locks, helmets, and extra water bottles are recommended.

A free biking brochure and a park map (25 cents) are available at the three entrance stations and two visitor centers.

The map details the four park roads that can be biked: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Kolob Canyons Road, Kolob Terrace Road, and Zion Mount Carmel Highway (State 9). It also shows the route to Grafton, a nearby ghost town. All park trails are closed to bicyclists.

The brochure offers valuable tips on hotweather cycling and on how to arrange a mandatory escort (provided free by the park or self-arranged with your own vehicle) through two unlit tunnels on the Zion Mount Carmel road.

Spring temperatures in Zion range from the 60s to 80s during the day, 30s to 50s at night; rainfall averages about an inch a month. In summer the thermometer can climb into the high 90s. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive climbs only about 500 feet over 6 miles from the south visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava, a massive rock formation.

Following tbe Virgin River, you ride past thick stands of cottonwood, box elder, willow, and ash, with a full view of the canyon's sheer walls and multicolored monoliths.You'll see springtime bloom of sand buttercups, Indian paintbrushes, violets, orchids, and lilies.

Feeling energetic? Three challenges

On three higher routes, you'll see juniper, pinon, live oak, manzanita, ponderosa pine, white and Douglas firs, quaking aspen. …

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