Autumn Century: A Utah Jewel – 101 Miles of Cyclist Friendly Scenic Byway Adventure

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By David Collins — 

Dear Utah,

With all due respect to Smalls, you’re killing me, with your mountains and forests, national parks and public lands, famous resorts and secret hideaways, histories and prehistories, trails and dirt roads and miles of paved roads begging for attention and inviting every road cyclist to roll right down main streets and into the backroads and byways of the beehive state. They say you sport the greatest snow on earth, but before the snows take over the show each year, autumn colors dapple your Wasatch. Thanks for all your cycling venues and especially for this memorable self-supported road cycling century ride bursting with colors of the season every fall.

4 Riders on UT HWY 65 just west of the summit (between East Canyon Reservoir and Little Dell Reservoir). This is part of the Autumn Century route. Photo by David Collins

Snowbasin to Salt Lake City

Riding the Wasatch Back: Excursions and explorations are part of the fun of unsupported bicycle touring at your own pace. Mileage estimates are approximate and may vary depending on your tracking system and whims of the ride. Be sure to tell someone your plans and allow them to track your location using a smartphone or other device.

Solo or unsupported distance cycling often presents potentially dangerous situations related to terrain, weather, equipment, traffic, navigation and mental awareness. Even experienced cyclists must plan carefully and use wise judgment to successfully mitigate inherent risks of the sport or terminate a ride before it turns injurious or deadly. If you are new to the sport or have never ridden a bicycle more than 100 miles in a single day, learn the ropes with a seasoned buddy or local cycling club before strapping on this ride.

Make sure to check maps, plan your route and check local road conditions before you go. As with any ride, be aware of your surroundings and of roadway traffic.

Time to fill water bottles, stuff gear bags, click in and start pedaling a colorful Autumn Century.

Snowbasin Century Map by David Collins

Route

Snowbasin to Huntsville via Trapper’s Loop Rd. (Utah Highway 167), circling Pineview reservoir and returning to Trapper’s Loop southbound to Mountain Green, left on West Old Highway Road to Morgan, south on State Street (which turns into South 100 East), right on South Morgan Valley Drive to Stoddard, right on West Stoddard Lane, right again on West Old Highway Road (you just made a loop around part of Morgan Valley), back to Morgan, south on State Street again, but this time, take the road all the way to East Canyon Dam, turn left at the dam and circle the reservoir via Utah Highway 65 all the way over the mountain pass and to just past Little Dell Reservoir, right on North Emigration Canyon Road to Hogle Zoo and This is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City. Sound complicated? Check out the nearby map sketch and you’ll see it’s not too bad once you get the gist of the route.

Terrain:

All paved. Three mountain passes; canyons; valleys; agricultural zones and winding/bending undulated miles throughout. Although there are cycling (Share the Road) signs posted along the way, many segments have narrow (or no) paved shoulders and sharp curves.

What to See:

Snowbasin Resort, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics downhill event; historic Ogden Valley with three mountain villages: Huntsville, Eden and Liberty; three mountain reservoirs: Pineview, East Canyon and Little Dell; rolling hills over Trapper’s Loop; East Canyon Resort; Bauchmann Station, also known as East Canyon Station, Carson House and Dutchman’s Flat Old West Pony Express site (look for the historical marker a few hundred yards down the first left-turn dirt road past East Canyon Resort); TJ Cattle Company Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit slightly beyond East Canyon Reservoir; encounters with two historical Old West trails: Pony Express and Mormon Pioneer; numerous canyons and diversions throughout; This is the Place Heritage Park at the end of the ride (across the street from the Zoo) including several historical displays highlighting exploration and settlement including pioneers, trappers, explorers, and the Pony Express.

Selfies and Photo Ops:

Moose statue in Snowbasin Resort’s welcome plaza; views of Ogden Valley from Trapper’s Loop; Ogden Valley barn murals; Compass Rose Lodge in Huntsville, a few blocks detour (complete with astro-observation dome) and nearby Shooting Star Saloon, which claims to be Utah’s oldest bar; historic Eden General Store, home of Carlos and Harley’s Cantina; lakeside pullouts around Pineview Reservoir; Trapper’s Loop summit; historic pioneer cabin museum in Morgan; ruins of historic Porterville church meetinghouse; lakeside views of East Canyon Reservoir; Mormon Trail and Pony Express signage; Dutchman’s Flat landmark sign, see above; distant view of Salt Lake Valley as the road crests over the last alpine summit; lakeside views of Little Dell Reservoir, chicanes up and down climbs throughout; This is the Place Heritage Park statues; Hogle Zoo sign.

Wildlife:

Elk, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, black bears, turkeys, golden eagles, osprey and other raptures, lizards, snakes, foxes, coyotes, porcupines, mink and possums.

Best Post-Ride Eats:

Ruth’s Diner in the mouth of Emigration canyon just before ride’s end. Ninety-one years ago, Ruth, a cabaret singer, opened her diner. Good food has been served in her name ever since. If you ride this route in reverse, eat your post-ride dinner at Snowbasin instead (be sure to check their schedule since it varies) but eat your first meal at Ruth’s – they make a mean breakfast, highlighted by their Mile High Biscuits – mercy. Anyway, Ruth’s evening beverage menu pairs well with her dinners, so choose a few drinks and tuck into the Grilled Idaho Red Trout – it’s Cajun delightful and topped with a skewer of shrimp and a memorable lemon cream sauce. Or get their 12 oz ribeye, a classic plate of recovery protein done just the way you order it. Polish things off with some Chocolate Malt Pudding, made from scratch and topped proper with fresh whipped cream.

Still Have Legs, lungs and Sunlight?

Take a brisk dip in Causey Reservoir’s chilly waters, about a 20 mile round trip detour. Motorized boats are not permitted, so it’s pretty laid back. Except for a few paddleboarders, kayakers, or folks dropping a fishing line, there’s usually not much going on. You can find the short access road by turning east on East 1900 North just as you round the north end of Pineview Reservoir and pedaling east about 10 miles. Keep your eye out for wild turkeys, there are a rafter or two of them as you approach the canyon.

Notes:

  1. Some of the route between East Canyon and Little Dell Reservoir is closed during the winter.
  2. Be weather aware, riding conditions can swiftly change.
  3. Bring your best legs, total assent is 5459 feet (if you ride the route in reverse, the total ascent is 6758 feet).
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