Nationwide Parks, Alpine Passes, and The Bard: A Southern Utah Motorbike Experience


Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
The refined, pastel hues of southern Utah’s sedimentary rock formations meld seamlessly with the complementary shades of the asphalt in Zion Nationwide Park.

Whereas I waited for my steaming calzone to chill within the pizza restaurant within the tiny city of Orderville, Utah, and contemplated my impending southern Utah bike trip, I studied the large world map on the wall. An indication inspired guests to position a stickpin within the map to point their residence. The colourful plastic balls that served as pinheads mirrored a powerful worldwide span, with a very outstanding density in a lot of the United States.

Southern Utah’s Dixie Nationwide Forest and the realm’s nationwide parks have a magnetic enchantment for a whole lot of 1000’s of tourists every year. For me, the promise of unbelievable surroundings and winding roads drew me to the area on my trusty BMW. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride

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Day 1: Zion, a Bloodbath, and Shakespeare

After a superb evening’s sleep in a cushty and distinctive forest-themed room on the historic Parkway Motel in Orderville, I equipped and headed towards Zion Nationwide Park. I had no plans for filth forays on this tour, however my large R 1200 GS was the right mount for the realm simply in case. I rolled south by way of lush farmland till I made the westward flip at Mt. Carmel Junction onto State Route 9.

The midweek visitors was reasonably mild on what’s also called the Zion-Mt. Carmel Freeway. The muted hues and sweeping corners on the primary stretch had been a pleasant warm-up and finally led to the east entrance of Zion. After stopping to pay the park’s $30 entrance charge (good for one week), I quickly rolled into the shadows of placing crimson cliffs and stratified sedimentary rock formations. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
Tunnels carved by way of the sandstone are a novel and entertaining ingredient of a trip by way of Zion Nationwide Park.

The surroundings morphed into the placing magnificence for which Zion is legendary, and the highway coiled to observe the pure contours of the park’s stone majesty. After a cease to admire the large geometrical etchings on Checkerboard Mesa, the curves grew to become more and more tight and entertaining.

To my delight, I noticed two mountain goats posing atop two rock outcroppings. Fortunately, they held their pose lengthy sufficient for me to dismount and snap some pictures. Just some miles later, I rolled by way of a brief however spectacular tunnel carved into the pink sedimentary mountain. This trip was off to a scintillating begin. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
A mountain goat stands sentinel over stratified rock formations excessive above State Route 9 within the japanese a part of Zion.

See all of Rider‘s ‘Great Roads West’ touring stories here.

Deeper into the nationwide park, the visitors and vacationer presence grew to become denser however not so heavy as to spoil the gorgeous ambiance. I motored beneath sculpturesque rock formations dotted with vibrant evergreen bushes. The colours had been eye-popping. In stretches, the winding asphalt was crimson-hued just like the cliffs, and at different instances, it was the extra conventional grey. After miles of driving, stopping, and photographing, I got here to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. After ready for an outsized RV to be escorted by way of the tight passageway, it was my flip. 

The tunnel, which was carved in the course of the Jazz Age of the Twenties, is over a mile lengthy. Nevertheless, it’s not the size that was so placing to me. There have been intermittent arched “home windows” alongside the span that framed glimpses of the majesty of the mountains although which I used to be passing. Whereas stopping within the tunnel is prohibited, I moved at a snail’s tempo to soak up the residing artwork. It was really spectacular. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
White Navajo sandstone appears to be like like snow atop the pink rocks.

I emerged from the tunnel, flipped down my faceshield, and rolled farther into Zion. Within the distance, white-capped mountains rose on the horizon. What I assumed was snow was really the highest layer of white Navajo sandstone on towers just like the Nice White Throne. I resisted the temptation of wide-eyed sightseeing whereas navigating the slim, winding highway. Frequent stops gave my kickstand a exercise.

The western stretch of the park is way more developed and thus extra visited. I motored over the cool waters of the Virgin River and into the group of Springdale, which rests simply exterior the western entrance of the park. This bustling group sits in stark distinction to the extra pure and undeveloped japanese entrance. I’ve to say, I most popular the latter. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
Checkerboard Mesa in Zion Nationwide Park.

With Zion Nationwide Park within the rearview mirror, I set my sights on a distant stretch of my tour. After a northern flip at St. George, I rolled onto State Route 18. It is a highway that always parallels the route of the Outdated Spanish Nationwide Historic Path by way of Dixie Nationwide Forest. The trip began with extra of the pink and white Navajo sandstone that graced Zion as I handed by Snow Canyon.

After a number of miles of the properly sweeping highway, I stumbled on a somber historic website. The Mountain Meadows Memorial commemorates a bloodbath that came about in 1857. The four-day sequence of assaults had been carried out by members of the Utah Territorial Militia and focused the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon practice. About 120 males, girls, and youngsters had been killed within the tragic territorial dispute. 

I rode farther north by way of the excessive chaparral terrain till making a westward flip onto State Route 56. This stretch afforded me the area to make use of the upper gears on the GS and take within the expansive southern Utah views. Lastly, signage welcomed me to
Cedar Metropolis. The “Competition Metropolis” could be my extremely anticipated cease for the evening. After unloading my baggage within the El Rey Inn, I had a couple of slices of margherita pizza and a microbrew on the bustling Centro Woodfired Pizzeria close to the campus of Southern Utah College. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City
Cedar Metropolis is a compact and charming Utah city.

The college is residence to a world-class theatrical expertise, the annual Utah Shakespeare Competition, which runs from June to October. Anytime I can infuse a little bit of the Bard into my excursions, I accomplish that with enthusiasm. On this case, I had secured a ticket to a preview efficiency of Macbeth. I settled into my seat on the lovely outside theater and completely loved the spirited efficiency of “The Scottish Play” within the heat Utah night air. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City Utah Shakespeare Festival
From June by way of October, Cedar Metropolis hosts the Utah Shakespeare Competition, which has established itself as one of many premiere Elizabethan experiences within the nation.

See all of Rider‘s Utah motorcycle rides here.

Day 2: Cedar Breaks and Ski Slopes

The second day of my southern Utah tour would come with a severe acquire in elevation, so I layered driving shirts underneath my mesh jacket in preparation for the crisp morning trip. The climb out of Cedar Metropolis into the mountains of the Dixie Nationwide Forest was speedy and gratifying. The colourful mixture of conifers beside the winding path of State Route 14 was extra harking back to a forest within the Pacific Northwest than what one would usually discover within the Southwest. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City State Route 14
Variety is the rule of the day in southern Utah. State Route 14 carves a sinuous line by way of Cedar Canyon east of Cedar Metropolis.

I used to be glad I had placed on further layers. Even in late June, this mountainous space typically reveals some lingering snow. I clicked on the heated grips for a spell within the early morning shade of the mountains because the temperatures dropped into the low 40s. Deep within the mountains, I made the northern flip onto State Route 148 and continued my curvaceous climb. (Because of winter closures on this a part of the route, this trip is greatest executed in late spring to early fall.)

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head
Positioned simply north of Cedar Breaks Nationwide Monument and surrounded by nationwide forest land, the ski space of Brian Head is an alpine area with unbelievable driving by way of evergreens and alongside high-country creeks and wetlands.

Only a handful of miles into this stretch, I arrived on the spectacular Cedar Breaks Nationwide Monument ($10 entrance charge). The Paiutes known as the realm “Circle of Painted Cliffs,” and the Native identify is an ideal description. It is called a smaller, much less touristy model of Bryce Canyon, which is precisely why I opted for it on this tour.

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks Nationwide Monument is a geologic amphitheater stuffed with multicolored hoodoos, spires, and steep cliffs that spans 3 miles throughout and a half-mile deep.

It’s a pure shale, limestone, and sandstone amphitheater with a rim elevation of 10,000 toes. The highway follows that rim intently, providing a number of breathtaking views. After taking in these vistas, my trip out of the monument was flanked by mountains nonetheless laced with snow and flowing runoff streams. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar Breaks National Monument
Taking within the view at Cedar Breaks Nationwide Monument. The huge expanses of southern Utah are greatest imbibed slowly and fully. This isn’t an space to hurry by way of.

Simply out of the boundary of the nationwide monument, I continued north on State Route 143 and rolled into the ski resort city of Brian Head, which sits at an elevation of practically 10,000 toes. A number of the forests close to the city had been ravaged by wildfires in 2017, however the unaffected ski slopes are lush and dense. All the trip alongside Route 143 was wonderful. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head

I dropped out of the mountains, and after a brief leg on the interstate, I headed southeast on State Route 20. I used to be totally engulfed within the sweeping corners once I seen a sequence of steel sculptures that appeared like a mule practice within the tall Utah grass. The adjoining historic marker indicated that I used to be at an intersection of the Outdated Spanish Nationwide Historic Path. On the finish of this stretch, I headed south on U.S. Route 89. I rode by way of the small city of Panguitch, after which I turned west on Route 143 and rode by way of the Dixie Nationwide Forest for the final leg of my journey. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Old Spanish Trail
Human historical past, as evidenced in a portion of the Outdated Spanish Path utilized by merchants within the early 1800s, provides texture to an exploration of the realm.

I used to be again within the severe twisties as I handed Panguitch Lake. The expansive reservoir sits at greater than 8,000 toes. Tall bushes, meandering creeks, and crisp mountain air had been the earmarks of the remainder of the trip by way of the nationwide forest. I detoured south on Mammoth Creek Street, and at Duck Creek Village, I headed east on SR 14, descending out of the mountains to U.S. 89 and again to Orderville.

My southern Utah bike trip didn’t disappoint. My exploration proved to be an space wealthy in each pure and human historical past. The range of the trip saved it contemporary and entertaining, and the roads had been a motorcyclist’s dream.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head
From sandstone canyons to alpine mountains like Brian Head Peak, this can be a trip of gorgeous views. Decelerate, cease, and luxuriate in it.

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