Baptism of BOB: Utah’s Cathedral Valley Loop

The Cathedral Valley Loop in central Utah packs plenty of desert beauty into this bike overnight.

Bicycle Adventurers: Ed and Fran Adams

When: May 2014

Accommodations: Cathedral Valley Campground

Distance: 70 miles over two days

Bonus tip for this adventure: The Cathedral Campground at the top of the loop is isolated, beautiful, and very quiet — welcome relief after a long ride.

Disclaimer: This trip is in a remote area with little or no cell phone coverage. You must be prepared. Do NOT attempt this trip if there is any chance of precipitation in the forecast.

A few years ago, we spent our REI dividend on a luxury item: A BOB trailer that we hoped would fuel our desire to try some overnight bike trips. Poor BOB was neglected for three years, collecting dust as he hung upside down from our garage ceiling. Our attempts to use BOB had been thwarted due to schedules, weather, or not being in shape. So, we were determined to try a bike overnight that wasn’t credit card camping at least once this spring.

Day One

All of the pieces were in place ... some free time, gorgeous weather, and the desire to try taking BOB fully loaded on a loop in the Utah backcountry. Our goal was the Cathedral Valley Loop in central Utah: 70 total miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain on dirt roads through BLM lands, ultimately entering Capitol Reef National Park. There we would camp at Cathedral Valley Campground. Thirty uphill miles the first day and then riding the rest of the loop, back to the truck, another 40 miles on day two.

We got an early start as the temperatures rose into the high 80s with less than 6 percent humidity. Our first obstacle was a ford of the Fremont River. Then we would ride uphill for many miles. We took it slowly at first, getting used to BOB on the back of Ed’s bike. Fran was way ahead most of the time, as she was not pulling a trailer, but carrying a pack with all of our cooking equipment and food. BOB was a real champ, but had a tendency to get bogged down in the sandy spots. The route included hard-packed clay road, sandy sections, and bumpy, rocky climbs.

We stopped every hour or so for snacks and made it to our camp in a little over six hours. We were never so happy to see an outhouse as seeing the one at Cathedral Valley Campground! We were pretty beat, but we cooked up dinner and enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Day Two

We got an early start and enjoyed a downhill run for the first 15 miles or so. The light on the red rock formations was gorgeous, and we enjoyed several side trips to view them. We made it to the highway and finished our loop with 6.5 miles to go on the lightly traveled Highway 24. All in all, it was a great bike overnight in a really remote part of Utah’s red rock country.

Lessons learned:

  • Water is really heavy, but absolutely necessary in the hot, late-spring desert.
  • The BOB trailer might work better on pavement with less weight.
  • Don’t be discouraged if the trip takes longer than you think. Remember, it’s about the journey!

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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