6 Bike Overnights from Salt Lake City
I have done several overnight bike trips out of Salt Lake City during the past six years. One is relatively short; the other five range from 43 to 53 miles in length. There is quite a bit of climbing to do on the longer rides, a challenge that inhibits many from doing overnight bike tours from Salt Lake. Even the short tour, at 11 miles, requires a modest amount of climbing.
Each of the tours I describe starts from the base of Emigration Canyon at the northeast corner of Hogle Zoo.
My favorite quick overnight destination, which I’ve been to on a few occasions, is Affleck Park (11 miles). To get there, ride over Emigration Canyon to Hwy. 65 (East Canyon). At about one-quarter of a mile past the 5-mile marker you will see the park on the left side of the road. The park is owned by the Salt Lake City water company, but ironically you will need to bring your water or filter it from the stream, as the park doesn’t have potable water available. You do need to make reservations 48 hours ahead of time. (Perhaps as a result of this policy, the park was empty the last time I was there on a Saturday night.)
For a longer tour, you can cross the Wasatch Range to Summit County or Wasatch County. When I have adequate time, I enjoy traveling to the state parks over there; Rockport, Wasatch Mountain, and Rock Cliff are the three that I have ridden to.
Glen Lewis and Adventure Cycling member Cheryl Soshnik visit, while the author relaxes in the background. Rock Cliff Recreation Area.
My favorite state park was Rock Cliff (about 53 miles). It was closed due to state funding cutbacks until recently; now the park has been reopened, though with very limited number of campsites. A nice aspect of Rock Cliff is that it is a walk-in campground -- no big RVs, generators, or ATVs riding around the camp. Rock Cliff is south of Kamas, near the small town of Francis on Route 32. It sits on the southeast corner of Jordanelle State Park, and is technically part of the Jordanelle State Park complex.
Rock Cliff Recreation Area, with the Provo River in the background.
Rockport State Park (40 miles) has become my favorite destination for a longer bike overnight. The walk-in campsite, Cedar Point, is the site farthest from the entrance (3 miles in). However, Jupiter campsite is just one-quarter mile in, and is the only site with a shower. Cedar Point has a $10 fee (plus $2 if you use the shower at Jupiter), with Jupiter at $20. Rockport is located on Route 35 a few miles west of Browns’ Canyon Road.
Author Louis Melini serves on the board of directors of Warm Showers, a hospitality community for touring cyclists.
Wasatch Mountain State Park is another park well worth visiting. It's a ride of about 43 miles, plus an additional 2-mile steep ascent to the camping areas once you reach the entrance. This is the ride we did last June (see my bio page for more info). You'll need to decide whether or not you want to chance it and ride there without a reservation; in our case, the tenting area was not nearly as full as I expected for a June weekend. (Reservations cost an additional $8 at any of the state parks.) The basic camping fee at Wasatch is $20. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-322-3770, or 801-322-3770 from Salt Lake City area, or by going online to the state parks website. To get to Wasatch State Park, it is best to avoid Route 40 -- you can miss much of it by riding through Park City and Deer Valley with this route from Map My Ride.
An alternative way to get to Wasatch Mountain State Park is to “simply” ride over the Wasatch Range. From the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon you ride nearly to Brighton Ski Resort, taking the turnoff below Brighton to climb over Guardsman Pass. From the top, you travel 7 miles down to the park. There is a mile of a dirt road, with a grade as steep as 20 percent in places. (My wife said she would not do this again even though it shortened our ride through Deer Valley by nearly an hour!)
The group enjoys dinner at Wasatch Mountain State Park.
The town of Morgan, north of Salt Lake City, is 40 miles away. To get there you must ascend East Canyon Summit, a steep, 5.5-mile-long climb. About 4 miles from “downtown” Morgan is the golf course with a campground. We were charged $5/person for a piece of ground on which to erect our tents. Be aware that the shower closes with the golf course shop at 7 p.m. If Morgan is farther than you wish to ride, you can stop at either East Canyon State Park or East Canyon Resort (private) after the descent from East Canyon Summit (20 and 24 miles, respectively).
For the fifth long overnighter, travel to the small town of Coalville (43 miles), where you can stay at the Holiday Hills RV Park for $17. A nice aspect of this choice is that you can reach the campground by riding the Union Pacific rail-trail from Park City to Coalville.
Favorite local bike shop: Millcreek Bicycles in Salt Lake City.
Photos by Julie Melini.