Nearly everybody who travels has heard of Zion Canyon National Park in Utah. It’s in the south west corner of the state and displays one of the most spectacular, colorful vertical canyon environments in the world. Nothing “off the beaten path” about the park itself, as attested by anyone who has seen it. However, we found an off the beaten path activity there that few know about.
It’s simple but rewarding: Put your bicycles on the free shuttle bus which runs every few minutes and carries three bicycles on the front. Board at the Visitor Center. Ride the bus “up canyon” to the end of the line, Temple of Sinawava. Take your bicycles off the bus and ride “down canyon” to the Visitor Center. You will see and be able to photograph the most dramatic scenery on earth — at your own leisurely pace. The entire route is downhill except for two short, modest climbs of several hundred feet or so. There will be few automobiles to scare the pants off you. When shuttle buses come from behind you it is required to dismount at the side of the road until the bus passes. That is no big deal because you can hear them coming slowly, never driving over 20 mph. You may see other cyclists on the way down, but frankly few visitors know about this easy option.
Park rules indicate you should wear a helmet. Our bike helmets are equipped with rear view mirrors so we see the buses coming in plenty of time to halt. Buses pull in to nine scheduled stops, each one a scenic hotspot or interpretive site. In addition there are road turnoffs between most of the shuttle stops. At each shuttle bus stop between one and four hiking trails of various lengths take off. Bring a bike lock so you can secure your bike to something solid if you want to investigate any of these trails. The shuttle is free to park visitors.
From the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction there is a separate bike tail with several bridges over the Virgin River. This means you don’t have to ride on the part of the road that carries much traffic. From Canyon Junction to the Zion Lodge the only private vehicles are Lodge guests. As a result you have a quiet and pleasant – and mostly downhill – ride. You can rent bikes at the Lodge if you did not bring your own. Many travelers carry bicycles on their Class Bs. Our two Downtube Nova folding bikes ride on our front bike rack. The folding bikes have the advantage that they can be folded and put inside the Roadtrek if needed. We have done that when riding a ferry.