Zion Nat'l Park - which bike?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Zion Nat'l Park - which bike?

    Will be staying a few days at the Lodge inside Zion National Park in March with the fam. Never been before. My 11 yr old rides a bit, but the Missus doesn't at all, so...limited biking time for me due to it only being a short stay.
    I have two bikes to choose from - geared gravel bike, and single speed rigid 29r mtb. I won't have time unfortunately to get to any the trails outside of the park on this visit (sounds like there's some GREAT ones nearby.
    So, for tooling around in the park, I assume the gravel bike is the ticket, or is there enough dirt where I might have more fun on the ss MTB?

  2. #2
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    Pretty sure mountain biking is forbidden in the Park. The riding nearby is amazing though. I could not visit that area and not go mountain biking, just not possible.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle View Post
    I could not visit that area and not go mountain biking, just not possible.
    I hear ya! Wish I could add a day on just for mountain biking.

    I'm guessing the cross bike will be the best bet since it's geared and will be a bit more versatile. I'll probably be on the road in the park mostly I expect but if I CAN sneak away for some singletrack I'll do OK on the cross rig if it's not too technical.

  4. #4
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    I hate to break it to you, but there's a TON of traffic on the one main road in Zion, and I personally don't think it's worth the effort to bring a bike to ride it. Since you can't ride on any real trails, I'd just leave the bike at home and enjoy the hiking.

    If you have time to get outside of Zion, head over to Hurricane (only half an hour) and hit one of the mesas for a few hours. It'll be empty and you will probably enjoy the solitude compared to the zoo that is Zion NP.

    And don't bother with the cross bike on Gooseberry or Little Creek (or any of the other trails, really). Sure, you CAN ride them with that bike, but it'll be SO much more fun with suspension and bigger tires.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by smmokan View Post
    I hate to break it to you, but there's a TON of traffic on the one main road in Zion, and I personally don't think it's worth the effort to bring a bike to ride it. Since you can't ride on any real trails, I'd just leave the bike at home and enjoy the hiking.

    If you have time to get outside of Zion, head over to Hurricane (only half an hour) and hit one of the mesas for a few hours. It'll be empty and you will probably enjoy the solitude compared to the zoo that is Zion NP.

    And don't bother with the cross bike on Gooseberry or Little Creek (or any of the other trails, really). Sure, you CAN ride them with that bike, but it'll be SO much more fun with suspension and bigger tires.
    Yeah, that's what I was afraid of! I suppose I can wing it and rent a bike outside of the park if I can set aside some time to get out there.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by smmokan View Post
    I hate to break it to you, but there's a TON of traffic on the one main road in Zion, and I personally don't think it's worth the effort to bring a bike to ride it. Since you can't ride on any real trails, I'd just leave the bike at home and enjoy the hiking.

    If you have time to get outside of Zion, head over to Hurricane (only half an hour) and hit one of the mesas for a few hours. It'll be empty and you will probably enjoy the solitude compared to the zoo that is Zion NP.

    And don't bother with the cross bike on Gooseberry or Little Creek (or any of the other trails, really). Sure, you CAN ride them with that bike, but it'll be SO much more fun with suspension and bigger tires.
    If JEM is in good condition, no reason you can't rip a CX bike out there. A few rocky sections but they are few enough and short enough that it's not a big deal.

    Really, all of the non-mesa top trails are CX-able, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    If JEM is in good condition, no reason you can't rip a CX bike out there. A few rocky sections but they are few enough and short enough that it's not a big deal.

    Really, all of the non-mesa top trails are CX-able, IMO.

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    Just checking out JEM--that looks great. I've got 41mm Knards on my CX rig--it hooks up quite well (unless it's really sandy). Still have a few weeks to figure it all out. Thanks for all the tips everybody!

  8. #8
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    You can ride your bike into Zion canyon, but can not drive, for that alone it's worth bringing the bike. There's also some paved trails & such you can tool around on. The main through road is really only "packed" in the AM in my experience, but have not been in a couple years now. In my opinion hiking into the narrows is the must do in Zion. There are MANY other more advanced canyons in the area as well. Angels staircase is cool too.
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  9. #9
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    The Subway.

    Go to Zion Adventure Company. Hook up with a tour. It will be worth your money.

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  10. #10
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    Zion Nat'l Park - which bike?

    Isn't the Swamp trail right outside of Zion? Like a short ride away? It's a lot of slick rock, but I think there is bike rental right there too!

    This is based on my First visit there 15 years ago.

    MANY other world class trails just a short drive away.

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  11. #11
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    No riding at Slickrock Swamp anymore.
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  12. #12
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    Lots of great info here folks!

    A buddy of mine is a hardcore canyoneer, or "gorger". He can give us tips on where to go for some of that, noobs that we are (done rock climbing in Joshua Tree but never much of the whole slot canyon thing). I think a tour makes sense too as recommended. So, it'll be hiking/canyoneering mostly but I can't go there and NOT ride somehow, some way. I think if I bring the gravel/cx rig since it's my only geared bike as I say, and it'll be versatile. Can always rent a trail bike if the opportunity presents itself.

  13. #13
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    Good job! Oh, Zion!

    As others have mentioned the CX bike is fine for some sections of the JEM trail system. Lower JEM, Dead Ringer and Goosebumps would be especially fun on a CX bike!


    a view from the lower JEM above the Virgin River




    a view from Cowbell Mesa looking back east toward Zion




    Don't let folks discourage you about road riding in the park. The roads are nice, traffic can be light (especially when the upper canyon is closed to cars), and the views are stunning. You'll need to jump in someone's truck or van to get thru the East Tunnel as bikes are not allowed, but it's easy to do when vehicles are stopped for one way traffic. We've done it many times.


    typical canyon view




    on the road up to the tunnel




    Checkerboard Mesa pullout




    Re Canyoneering: YES! Zion is arguably the best location in the world. You can get a taste by taking a half-day course from Zion Adventure Co (ZAC) in Springdale and then use the skills you've learned and their equipment to drop through Keyhole. It's relatively easy and safe for kids, just watch the weather (!).








    Have a blast!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by levity View Post
    As others have mentioned the CX bike is fine for some sections of the JEM trail system. Lower JEM, Dead Ringer and Goosebumps would be especially fun on a CX bike!


    a view from the lower JEM above the Virgin River




    a view from Cowbell Mesa looking back east toward Zion




    Don't let folks discourage you about road riding in the park. The roads are nice, traffic can be light (especially when the upper canyon is closed to cars), and the views are stunning. You'll need to jump in someone's truck or van to get thru the East Tunnel as bikes are not allowed, but it's easy to do when vehicles are stopped for one way traffic. We've done it many times.


    typical canyon view




    on the road up to the tunnel




    Checkerboard Mesa pullout




    Re Canyoneering: YES! Zion is arguably the best location in the world. You can get a taste by taking a half-day course from Zion Adventure Co (ZAC) in Springdale and then use the skills you've learned and their equipment to drop through Keyhole. It's relatively easy and safe for kids, just watch the weather (!).








    Have a blast!
    Awesome! Thanks for all the great pics and info! Trying to see if I can add a couple days on to the trip

  15. #15
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    Most of the JEM area got pretty beat up recently by all the cattle walking on the trails while they were muddy. It's going to take awhile for all the post holes to get ridden out, so I don't think it would be much fun on a cx bike.

    I'd plan on renting a bike if you can get away for some riding. If you want to minimize driving, rent from Zion cycles and hit up Guacamole or the JEM area from the north end.

  16. #16
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    March is going to be a little early in the season for taking kids on the wet hikes or into slot canyons. Even in June, that water is cold (it's snowmelt that never sees the sun) and adults are a little better at regulating and speaking up when they are cold than are kids. Even a really short canyon will seem like a long way if you've got a kid with the early stages of hypothermia and you need for them to safely down climb or rappel something. You are better off hitting the traditional hikes (which are spectacular) - if you've never been to Zion, the park itself is going to be a real treat.

    You can ride your gravel bike on a lot of dirt roads outside the park - the dirt road up to Gooseberry (good hard climb), the road out to Grafton (pretty flat) are both great gravel rides that you can do from the park. Also ride out to the Guacamole trailhead...

    For a really long, beautiful road ride, head from the main park , down through Virgin and up to Kolob Mesa. Lots of hard climbing, totally gorgeous. Cave Valley is a good turnaround if you don't want to go higher. There is probably snow on the upper sections, they usually clear it to Cave Valley because there are homes up there. Bring a jacket and warm gloves for the descent.

    Road riding in the park is really nice, a little short, I've done it quite a bit - the path gets you past the worst traffic and after that you just have to pull over for the shuttle buses - they aren't allowed to pass you. It's a little annoying on the way out, but they don't catch you on the downhill so that helps. It's a great after dinner activity.
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  17. #17
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    Well, if you go during the winter, the sensible thing to do is to rent a dry suit.

    Unless you jump into the water instead of lowering yourself in, a dry suit and the layers under it should provide enough volume, and thus floatation, that your head won't get wet. Only your hands.

    It's a non-issue unless you decide to make it an issue.

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  18. #18
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    I agree - wouldn't recommend a long canyon during winter or on cold fall or spring days. It can be close to freezing in the slots even in summer, and the water will suck the warmth right out of you. Here's some snow in lower Echo Cyn in late June:



    We've even worn full wetsuits in Subway in June:




    Weather in March is "iffy". It can be fine for a short canyoneering jaunt, or it can be too cold or rainy to risk it. ZAC can offer advice and recommend and supply gear for the short trip thru Keyhole. In the picture in post #13 above and the one below the gals are wearing a dry suit underneath a coverall (to protect the dry suit from springing a leak).


  19. #19
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    The canyon is still open to cars in March, closes to cars in April. It's a beautiful family ride through the canyon... dead flat for the most part.

    There are some good trails easily accessed off Hwy 9 not far out of the park.
    You access the lower Jem trail along the Virgin River Gorge from Sheep Bridge Road.
    You can get up onto Gooseberry from hwy 9 near Grafton by taking Smithsonian Butte Road... it's a little rough, high clearance would be a good idea.
    There also a fun, if short, MTB trail right in Springdale, behind the Houses and shops along the base of the hills on the North side of Hwy 9.
    Zion Cycles is a good resource.
    Definitely bring the MTB if you think you're going to hit any dirt. I love rigid bikes, but in this area... the more suspension you have, the more you will be smiling while riding.
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