By David Ward — The Salt Lake Valley is rich in riding options. Yesterday, I was out riding 75 miles with four others as part of our LOTOJA training. One of our team members, Ace from Pocatello, commented on the nice route I had planned around the Salt Lake Valley, and how Pocatello simply did not offer such options right in the middle of the metropolitan area.
It made me reflect on how Salt Lake really is a cyclist’s mecca. Don’t get me wrong. I realize these is nothing quite like rolling along a winding road through a beautiful alpine forest. But you have plan that out and, usually, drive a distance to get to it. What I am talking about is the plethora of options to any rider in Salt Lake as he climbs on his bike and rolls out of his garage for a daily ride.
For yesterday’s ride, I had us meet at Hogle Zoo, and from there we headed south along Wasatch Boulevard. Thanks to the bike/ped bridge over I-80, we rolled along the east side to our first refueling stop, the Chevron on the corner of 1300 East and Draper Parkway, a watering hole for many cyclists. To avoid the traffic on Wasatch and the steep hill just past the mouth to Big Cottonwood Canyon, I took us through a quiet neighborhood cutoff to Danish Road and thence too its southern end near La Caille restaurant. This is, frankly, one of many nice neighborhood stretches to be found in the Salt Lake valley.
Had we been interested in doing some climbing, we could have headed up one of several canyons along this stretch: Millcreek, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons will test the legs of the most seasoned climber. I have been lucky to ride a lot of the big climbs that feature in the Tour de France, and I can vouch that Little Cottonwood Canyon can match up with any of them for challenge and difficulty. Add to that City Creek, Emigration and Butterfield Canyons, and you have more canyon riding for all different levels of riders than anywhere I know of. And all within an epicenter of 15 miles. Just mount your bike, choose your canyon and roll out from the garage.
From the Delta Chevron, we headed to South Mountain, picked up Highland Drive as it headed to Point of the Mountain, crossed under I-15, and then rode west past the prison and over to Redwood Road. At that point, we continued west along 14400 South.
I lived 30 years in Murray, nearly smack dab in the middle of the Salt Lake valley. During that time, I had time to explore the best routes to bicycle almost anywhere in valley. However, since having moved to Emigration Canyon five years ago, there has been explosive growth in the southwest area of Salt Lake Valley: the Bluffdale, Riverton and Herriman areas. So once we were on 14400 South, I recognized nearly nothing.
We headed west till 14400 South ended, at which point we kind of felt our way north and west till we finally came to point I recognized, the road (11800 South) which would lead us to Bacchus Highway which we would then take to the Old Bingham Highway. I knew this area well, having raced many district road races on the Herriman course.
What I was pleasantly surprised by, though, were the wide shoulders and designated bike paths on many of the roads built in the last several years. I used to like riding out here, but the narrow shoulders were always a drawback. Now, there are good options for cyclists to ride out here, with good shoulders and bike paths to accommodate them.
Once at the Old Bingham Highway, the plan was to ride east and wind our way back home. What I would have liked to do, but chose not to, was to ride on up to Copperton, one of my favorite destinations years back. I would ride to where the road heading into the Kennecott Copper Mine was closed to traffic, then come back through this lovely old town tucked into the west side, around its park, and then head back east. Yesterday, however, our legs were beginning to feel the toll of the nearly 50 miles we had already ridden so far, so I declined that option, though now I wish we had opted for it.
I love riding the Old Bingham Highway. Going back in the years again, I remember when I would ride it early in the morning, and listen to the meadowlarks sing to me as I passed them by. There were no meadowlarks (too late in the day) as we made our descent down the Old Bingham Highway. After our second fueling stop, I led our group through the roads I had scoped out over the years to get us east of I-15, and on the route back home.
Doing this ride, and going through areas I used to pedal frequently, it brought to mind the many routes available to cyclists for navigating and enjoying cycling in Salt Lake. I have two daughters living in the Phoenix area, and I have a bike parked there for when I visit. I have gotten to know the area somewhat well. People think Salt Lake has nothing but east/west and north/south streets criss-crossing the valley. But while that is the general layout, it does not hold a candle to Phoenix. If a boring ride is what you seek, go ride the straight, flat streets of Phoenix. You will yearn to return to the cyclists’ mecca of Salt Lake.
I suspect that many large urban areas (excepting Phoenix, I am sure) have their little known but enjoyable routes. My experience living in Salt Lake for 40 years convinces me that it takes years of exploring to find them. But they are likely there. In my travels, that is one of the things I really enjoy. Jumping on a bike, exploring the area, and learning to navigate the urban landscape in an enjoyable way.
In riding our half loop around the Salt Lake valley, we racked up 73 miles. Without seeking to climb, we still ended up with 3700 feet of climbing just rolling up and down the topography that comprises this valley.
As an avid cyclist who simply loves to ride, I consider myself blessed to live in such a beautiful and varied valley. I have cycled in this area for 40 years. I know most of the good places to ride, but am still surprised to occasionally find a new stretch to add to my routes. For cycling in a metropolitan area, there is no better than Salt Lake.