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Cycle America: Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon Parks 2001

Background

We decided to rejoin Cycle America for their Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon tour in 2001 after a fun Glacier/Waterton Lakes Park tour with them the previous August. This tour was held twice in the summer of 2001 and we selected the earliest, which ended at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The timing was better for us, and it seemed fitting to finish there. We again selected the camping option, rather than the motel option, and enjoyed meeting the other campers. The tour was organized by Cycle America and Pedal the Peaks, a company based in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

Itinerary

Day Start Stop Mileage Elevation Gain
June 9 Cedar City, UT Panguitch 59 5000
June 10 Panguitch Ruby's Inn (Bryce) 23 1000
June 11 Ruby's Inn (Bryce) Glendale 50  
June 12 Glendale Springdale (Zion) 33 2200
June 13 Layover at Zion National Park
June 14 Springdale (Zion) Kanab 43  
June 15 Kanab North Rim, AZ 80 5300
June 16 Layover at North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
June 17 Transportation to the St. George Airport
Totals
288  

Diary

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

8 June 2001 (Friday)
Linda and I arrive at Cedar City, Utah, in the early afternoon after traveling from Lake Powell where we have spent a few days enjoying the desert environment and jet skis on the lake. We especially enjoyed traveling through the Dixie National Forest over a pass to Boulder and then through the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument on our way to Panguitch, where we spent last night. We find the Cycle America campsite at the KOA and meet our Salem friends John and Joanne as well as many other riders. We set up our camp, then John and I drive to St. George Airport to leave our vehicles there and catch the shuttle bus back to Cedar City. It is hot in St. George, so John and I stop to buy sunshades for our vehicles since they will be left in the sun for several days.We find Alan, another friend from Salem, riding the bus after his flight to Las Vegas. We return to Cedar City, enjoy a pizza dinner with the other riders, and prepare our bikes for tomorrow's big climb.

Cedar Breaks National Monument
Descending towards Panguitch

9 June (Saturday)
We ride from the KOA into downtown Cedar City for breakfast at Shoney's. After breakfast we begin our climb to the east along highway 14 into the Dixie National Forest. The climb is sustained and at times steep (8%) but Linda and I drop into our "granny" gears and grind away enjoying a pleasant day and nice scenery. At one pullout near the top of the long climb we can see Zion in the distance to the south. Soon we turn left onto highway 148 and ride along rolling meadows and forest into the Cedar Breaks National Monument. We stop at a viewpoint and enjoy the view. It is a colorful preview of what to expect at Bryce tomorrow. We continue on through the forest, turn right on 143E and drop downhill to our lunch stop. After lunch we continue gradually downhill beside lava flows, Lake Panguitch, and scenic Panguitch Creek. The drop into Panguitch is fast and fun and we are soon at the High School where we find our camp. It was a long day, but everyone seems pleased with how they did and enjoyed the route.

Bryce Canyon Nat. Park from Bryce Point
Towards Bryce Point from Sunset Point
Towards Bryce Point from Sunset Point
Navaho Loop Trail
From Navaho Loop Trail

10 June (Sunday)
Today we anticipate a short and scenic ride. We leave Panguitch on Highway 89 south, then turn east onto Highway 12 and climb into and through Red Rock Canyon. The canyon is very pretty with the red rock beside and above us contrasting with the ponderosa pines. Above the canyon we cross grasslands, then turn south to Ruby's Inn and our campsite at the Campground. After setting up camp Alan joins us as we take the short walk to catch a shuttle bus and enter Bryce Canyon National Park. We visit Bryce, Inspiration, and Sunset Points. Here we take the short Navajo Loop Trail down into the canyon and back to the rim. After one last stop at Sunrise Point we return to camp. John and Joanne spend the afternoon bicycling far into the park and back.

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon Hoodoos

11 June (Monday)
This morning we retrace yesterday's route down through scenic Red Rock Canyon to Highway 89, stopping at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor's Center on the way. We turn left and fight a mild headwind through Hatch and climb to Long Valley Junction. I am feeling strong today and catch some bicyclists on the climb. We continue through Long Valley to Glendale where we find camp at the Bauer Canyon Ranch RV Park.

Loading bikes for the tunnel
Ready to descend into Zion Canyon

12 June (Tuesday)
We anticipate an exciting day. We leave Glendale, continuing south on Highway 89 to Mount Carmel Junction where we turn onto Highway 9 and climb towards Zion National Park. Linda, Alan, and I are riding together with a few others with Linda in the lead. The route is curvy and we accommodate some traffic by moving onto what we believe to be a pull-out, but discover it is just sand and Linda goes down. She is scraped, but is otherwise able to continue, and we continue on to the tunnel. Here the support staff load our bikes onto vans and shuttle us through the long tunnel. We get peeks of the Zion cliffs through large tunnel windows, then exit the tunnel to views of colorful and dramatic cliffs. The staff unload our bikes and return for more riders and we continue our descent through the park. It is a fun switchback descent with distracting views and I stop at points for photos. We regroup at the bottom of the descent and find the bike path leading to Springdale and our campground there. After setting up camp Linda, Alan, and I rent inner tubes, arrange for a shuttle, and float a few miles down the North Fork Virgin River. The river flow is quite low, but I do manage to sustain my reputation by flipping over in some minor rapids. After our shuttle back we clean up, visit the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, and have dinner in Springdale.

Angels Landing
Traverse on Angels Landing
Traverse on Angels Landing
View from Angels Landing
Angels Landing summit

13 June (Wednesday)
Today is a layover day so Linda, Alan, and I ride the shuttle bus into Zion to explore the park. We hike up Angels Landing on an interesting trail cut through cliffs, a switchback staircase, and then along an exposed ridge with chainlink handrails and footholds carved in the sandstone. Angels Landing is well placed to view much of the Zion Canyon and we enjoy the scenery and watching the buses and pedestrians far below. After descending the trail back to the road we take a bus further up the canyon to the Riverside Walk. Here the canyon narrows and the trail eventually disappears into the creek bed. Linda and Alan return to Springdale while I take one more short hike from Weeping Rock up to Hidden Canyon before returning to the Visitor's Center and camp.

Zion's Beehives and the Streaked Wall
Zion view above the tunnel

14 June (Thursday)
We start the day with a scenic climb back up the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway, ride the vans through the tunnel, and then continue on out the park back to Mount Carmel Junction. We turn south, again, on Highway 89 and climb towards Kanab. Linda and I take a side trip to visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary off of the highway before dropping into Kanab. Our campsite is at the Crazy Horse Campground. The staff had hoped to stay at the High School, but a motorcycle convention has already reserved it, so we search out a grassy spot with minimal thistles. We have a barbeque dinner with local musical entertainment at camp this evening.

Towards Kanab from North Rim climb
Evening view of Grand Canyon

15 June (Friday)
Today is the last bicycling day of the tour and it is another long day with a big climb. From Kanab we continue south into Arizona through highway construction to Fredonia. We climb a mild grade for many miles, then enter the Kanab National Forest and begin a steeper ascent for several more miles. We stop for lunch near Jacob Lake at a rest stop. From there we continue our climb through the ponderosa pine to our high point. I suggest to Alan that he continue on to find us a good campsite while I wait for Linda to catch up. She is tiring from the long ascent and I lead her across the windy meadows towards the Grand Canyon National Park entrance. The headwind is very strong and at times we are only making about 5 mph. Linda is tempted to flag down a SAG van, but fortunately they approach and pass too quickly for us to recognize them. Eventually we enter the park and find some protection from the headwind amongst the pines. The Park Ranger and the entrance says that just a few days before they had snowfall and very high winds at the park, so we were fortunate to have missed that. We make the last climb to our campground at the North Rim. We are very happy and satisfied to have completed the tour. After setting up camp and showering we walk to the Grand Canyon Lodge were the bicyclists have dinner and enjoy the beautiful sunset. It seems a very fitting way to celebrate the completion of the bicycle tour.

Grand Canyon from Bright Angel Point

16 June (Saturday)
Today is our layover day at North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park. We take short hikes from camp, including out to Bright Angel Point, and relax at the Lodge and enjoy the scenery.

17 June (Sunday)
We load buses and ride to St. George Airport, where John, Joanne, Linda and I find our vehicles. Alan leaves his bike with John and Joanne and continues on to Las Vegas to catch his flight. Linda and I head for home by way of Ely, Nevada. We explore a "shortcut" from Highway 278 to Interstate 80 near Emigrant Pass that involves some guesswork and backtracking on primitive roads before we successfully negotiate a remote pass and gain I-80.

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