SCORCHING DESERTS TO ALPINE LAKES
RAID owner, Brad Sauber has been designing and leading trips through Southern Utah for 15 years and he is kicking off the season with the intention of exploring the many unique roads in the desert Southwest. RAID Cycling has designed an offering set to explore the distinct, prehistoric landscape of Southwest Utah. In the home state of America’s Greatest Stage Race, the famous Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks host some the most uncharted roads ever seen by RAID cyclists.
The striated walls of the desert cliffs, the colorful, angular geologic formations tell a story of a time, millennia ago, when water was the defining feature of the region. Now, we’ll take shelter from the hot sun as we ride through desert canyons, steadily chipping away at formidable elevations. At the apexes of these climbs, our work will be rewarded with desert oasis in the form of stunning lakes and watersheds.
From a logistical standpoint, riding in the remote deserts is not easy. Few cyclists have made journeys like this one; so riding with the support of the RAID staff is a special privilege. When riding in the land of red rock and purple sunsets, utterly new and life-changing experiences await.
BICYCLES are not provided on US departures. Please make arrangements to have your bike shipped to our start offices in San Francisco or to be carried with you on your flight into Las Vegas.
RAID CYCLING will provide spare tubes, tires and other misc basic parts and tools. Riders’ bikes will be unpacked and assembled by our mechanic.
Day 1: ST GEORGE - ZION NATIONAL PARK
78 miles / 5,100 ft
One of the few RAID offerings that forms a complete loop, the Southern Utah RAID begins and ends in St. George, less than a two-hour drive from Las Vegas–the perfect opportunity for riders to unwind or recharge before or after a hard week in the saddle. Prior to the first European settlers in 1776, this area was inhabited by the Virgin River Anasazi and later the Paiute tribe. Our first 20 miles sees us climbing out of St George to get to Snow Canyon State Park.
Once out of town, we descend into Snow Canyon State Park. Snow Canyon State Park is a 7,400-acre scenic park quietly tucked amid lava flows and soaring sandstone cliffs in a strikingly colorful and fragile desert environment. Majestic views and the subtle interplay of light, shadow, and color dancing across canyon walls evoke strong emotional responses from visitors. There are some great picnic areas inside the park and a visitor center as well.
Once we exit the park, we cycle back into St George and pass through town on our way into the desert landscape and ranch land once we pass the Sand Hallow lake. You will be able to see the stepped terraces & mesas that make up this unique geological transition zone where the Mojave, Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin all converge. As you see, the soil and rock formations are red in appearance due to the presence of iron oxide.
Upon entering into the small town of Hurricane, pronounced “Hur-a-kin” by the locals we will have lunch at a small park before we will ready ourselves for our first short climb up onto the plateau above town. We ascend about 2 miles on SR 9.
Grafton Historic Ghost Town Cemetery This old grave yard is one of the cleanest and well preserved cemeteries of any Ghost Town. The cemetery has around 20 visible grave sites and even a couple Indians buried along the back of the property. The oldest head stone was from 1800-1871. There are many old buildings, houses, a church and a schoolhouse. This small out and back route goes over some hard-pack dirt road, depending on the recent weather, the road could be in an unpredictable conditions.
Day 2: SPRINGDALE - BRYCE NATIONAL PARK
98.8 miles / 7,6030 Feet
This morning we will rise early to greet the incredible light and stillness of one of the most beautiful parks in our country. Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with the Virgin Anasazi culture. The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava, which refers to the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians. At the Temple the canyon narrows and a foot trail continues into the mouth of the Zion Narrows, a gorge as narrow as 20 feet wide and up to 2000’ tall.
Once we pass through the tunnel, we will stop and unload your bikes. While we are doing this we recommend that you take a short 1-mile (45 to 1-hr) R/T walk on the Zion Overlook Trail. It is a short and easy hike ending at the edge of a cliff that allows a glorious view of lower Zion Canyon, including Zion's famous Switchbacks, the Beehives, West Temple, East Temple, Towers of the Virgin and the Streaked Wall-so have your walking shoes ready.
After your walk, zero out your bike computer, we begin a magnificent section of the Mount Carmel Highway that reveals a colorful display of orange, brown and white slickrock that includes one of the parks landmarks, Checkerboard Mesa. The majestic criss-crossed mountain appears as a massive hill towering 900 feet above the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and resembles a giant, extended chess or checkerboard. The vertical and horizontal fissures are more evident on the north side of the mesa, where most of the photographs of the mountain are taken. The left to right deep scratches are due to a north to south wind direction while the vertical cracks are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing.
Day 3: BRYCE TO BOULDE
95.1 miles / 6,679 Feet
There is no place like Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) can be found on every continent, but here is the largest collection of hoodoos in the world! Descriptions fail. Cave without a roof? Forest of stone? Photographs do not do it justice. An imagination of wonder will serve you when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.
This morning we are cycling into Bryce NP, we will cycling out 20 miles to the end of the park road at Rainbow Point (9,115’), we gain 2,300’ feet and lose 780’ feet on this rolling road. When your cycling back, please make sure to stop along the route to enjoy the many viewpoints along the way: Fairview Point, Bryce Point, Sunset Point.
So called for the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. A kaleidoscope of color and a national gem at each end -- Utah's Scenic Byway 12 is a showcase of sandstone sculpted by nature where people have lived and explored for thousands of years. Cycling this Byway connecting Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks and you will soon see that you are on no mere transportation route -- the views and stops along the way are just as enthralling as the two stunning parks at each end.
Between Calf Creek Recreation Area and Boulder Town is an internationally famous stretch of byway known as “The Hogback.” As the asphalt clings to this thin razorback ridge of slick-rock, the terrain spills steeply off to each side toward winding creeks and canyons below, where cottonwoods provide ribbons of green, gold, or gray depending on the season.
Day 4: BURR TRAIL
72 miles / 6,800 Feet
No need to unpack today! Today’s route is made up of 2 distinct rides, the first has us cycling out and back on the remote Burr Trail. After lunch, we will return to Boulder and in the afternoon where we can cycle up to the lookout on Boulder Mountain if you like. Choose to do one, both or neither-you can choose to use today as a layover day if you like-but you would be missing out!
The Burr Trail is a great scenic back-way. It starts in the town of Boulder, crosses through the north-eastern most portion of the Grand Staircase and then crosses the water pocket fold of Capitol Reef. Past the water pocket fold it joins Notum Road and continues south to Bull Frog Marina on Lake Powell. The best section is the 25 miles from Boulder to the Notum Road. Here the route passes through some fantastic narrow canyons and then climbs through rugged and beautiful red rock to the top of the reef. At the summit are good vistas of southeastern Utah and the Henry Mountains. The route descends over tortuous switchbacks down the other side of the reef.
Day 5: BOULDER TO BRIAN HEAD
69 miles / 6,750 Feet
This morning we will avoid backtracking along SR 12 and cut out 67 miles. Our transfer of 1hour 30 minutes will take us to Tropic. From there we climb 1,300’ in 7.5 miles. We cycle back down the Red Canyon bike path through the park and then turning right toward Panguitch at 28.6 miles.
From Panquitch we begin our epic 40 mile climb gaining 4,600’ feet up to Brian Head at 11,300’. In the spring we will likely encounter cold temperatures and some snow. At 46 miles we will have a lakeside picnic at Panquitch Lake. This section of SR 143 is designated the Brian Head-Panquitch Lake Scenic Byway and is being considered for an All-American Road designation. It is also the second-highest paved road in the state at 10,626 feet.
O/N Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa at Brian Head - Relax at the full-service spa, where you can enjoy massages and body treatments. A spa tub and a sauna offer a relaxing way to wind down after a day on the bike.
Day 6: BRIAN HEAD TO ST GEORGE
109 miles / 5,000 Feet
We make our way from Brian Head, for about 10 miles as we cycle alongside the half-mile deep geologic amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument. We descend 20 miles into Cedar City before we continue our ride through the Cedar Valley.
As we enter Cedar City we cycle along SR 56 till we turn left on the small dirt road called Pinto Road [FR 009] at 47 miles. From here we cycle about 23 miles on this rolling dirt road passing the remnants of a ghost town and eventually passing through the remote farming community of Pinto.
Pinto, with its lush meadows and clear stream of good water, was a natural stopping place on the Old Spanish Trail. The chief products carried over this trail, before the coming of the Mormons, were Indian slaves and peltries. When the Mormons first arrived in southern Utah they found a well-beaten trail through the streets of Pinto. After passing through Pinto, we turn left at mil 58.6 towards Pine Valley, from here there is 13 miles more of rolling dirt roads until we hit pavement again in the outpost of Pine Valley.
Nestled at the foot of a semi-circular arc of the Pine Valley Mountains in southwestern Utah is the small town of Pine Valley at an elevation of 6700 feet. After lunch we continue through Cedar Valley toward the very old town of Gunlock, a small community on the Santa Clara River. This quiet scenic route will bring us to the western edge of St George. We finish with a scenic ride towards our finish hotel on the outskirts of town.