Updated: Mar 3
Zion National Park is one of the country's iconic National Parks that attracts millions of visitors from all around the world. Many view its steep sandstone walls and beautiful mesas from an automobile or from the park's shuttles. To really take in all of Zion's beauty, consider viewing the park by bike. Riding through Zion is a beautiful ride that most bike enthusiasts can manage, but will not soon forget. Experiencing the beauty of the park from a bike is hard to beat!
Two Rides, Two Beautiful Landscapes
The one place you can't ride a bike in Zion National Park is through The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Completed in 1930 it is one of the longest tunnels in the country at 1.1 miles. For this reason I usually describe Zion as having two separate bike rides, one that starts at the east end of the tunnel and gives you view of the "high country of Zion" eventually ending at the park's east entrance and the other that begins at the park's visitor center and follows the Virgin River along the canyon floor to the Temple of Sinawava and the Zion Narrows trail.
Just beyond the tunnel there are a few parking lots and turnoffs where you can drop your car and hop on your bike. This ride is slightly up hill, but isn't difficult and makes for a leisurely descent back down to your car. There are some great views of the desert landscapes that make up the "top" of Zion that you won't experience on the lower ride.
Checkerboard Mesa is a sure stop as you ride along and its viewing area, complete with a pull out provides some great photo opportunities. From the tunnel to the park boundary is only about 7 miles, but you can keep riding out of the park toward highway 89 for as far as you feel like going. The great views don't stop at the park boundary. Once you've gone as far as you'd like, you can turn around and ride the slight downhill back to the car and enjoy the views from the other direction.
From the park visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava there are no cars allowed on the road from about April until October, simply because there are too many visitors to accommodate cars and parking. The only traffic to contend with is the occasional shuttle that comes about every 10-15 minutes depending on time of day.
You can board the shuttle with 50 of your closest friends and enjoy the views through your standard shuttle window, or you can take in 360 degree views on your bike. I definitely prefer the latter.
You should know the shuttles will never pass a cyclist on the road, so the courteous thing to do is pull to the side of the road and stop to allow the shuttle to pass you. The shuttles don't move very fast, so if you are a pretty quick road biker you probably won't need to worry about being passed by too many shuttles. I am what I would describe as an occasional cyclist and was only passed twice by shuttles on the 8 mile ride from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava.
This ride is also slightly up hill, so it makes the trip from the Temple of Sinawava back to the visitor center an easy one. Various pull outs exist along this section of road and its worth getting off your bike to take in the views. Stopping at Big Bend to see The Great White Throne is a must!
The lower ride takes you between the big walls that begin to converge until eventually they become the Zion Narrows. Big wall climbers can often be spotted as they scale these walls, making the ride that much more exciting.
Each ride can be done in 1-2 hours, depending on your riding speed. They are some of the most scenic road rides you will find in southern Utah and the very limited traffic makes this a really enjoyable ride. If you have any questions about riding Zion National Park or any other questions about Utah for that matter, leave them in the comments down below.
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