When you talk about biking in Utah, most people assume you’re talking about mountain biking. Utah has some of the best mountain biking in the world, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I have yet to brave the single track downhills and smooth red rock drops that Utah is famous for in the world of MTB. I have sampled a lot of the paved cycling trails and road routes available around Salt Lake City, and they are worth checking out.
Salt Lake City is famous for its wide streets, and along with plenty of room for cars there are tons of bike lanes. For the most part, drivers around SLC are very considerate of bikers on the streets. You just have to make sure you look both ways even when the lights are green as I’ve found that people run red lights here like it’s the state pasttime. Luckily the traffic doesn’t even come close to what you’d see in other major cities, so once you get out of the heart of downtown you almost have the roads to yourself. There are designated bike routes from North Salt Lake all the way down to Sandy and beyond. It makes it super easy to get around town on two wheels and get where you’re going in a healthy and environmentally friendly way. Anyone from Salt Lake knows we need less smog in the air.
Jordan River Parkway/Legacy Parkway/D&RGW Rail Trail
If you’re looking for something with less cars and traffic lights, then there are a couple of great trails with beautiful scenery to choose from. The Jordan River Parkway Trail runs for 45 miles from the north end of Utah Lake to Bountiful where it connects with the Legacy Parkway Trail (14 miles) and that continues north as the Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail (23 miles). With only a handful of road crossings you can get into your rhythm here, crossing over small bridges and marshes as you take in the views of the beautiful Uinta range to the east. The signage leaves something to be desired at times, but keep an eye on your map and you should be fine.
The ride from downtown SLC to Utah Lake is about 35 miles and once you get there you can reward yourself with a very warm dip in the Saratoga Hot Springs! Personally, on a hot day, I couldn’t get in past my ankles before I had enough, but someone with a higher tolerance for heat on a cooler day might enjoy a dunk! I don’t recommend this. One of the best parts about this trail is the UTA light rail runs along most of the trail so you can go one way as far as you feel like then hop on the train to get back to the city!
City Creek Canyon
If it’s hills you want then you’ve come to the right place. It’s hard to pedal anywhere in this city without going uphill at some point. The serious cyclists will head up Big Cottonwood Canyon or Emigration Canyon for a workout, but I like to get away from the cars. City Creek Canyon offers a challenging workout uphill 5.5 miles through some beautiful scenery following the rushing creek. The best part? It’s closed to cars from October to June and on every odd day of the month the rest of the year! Even when you have to pass people you have a full-sized road to do it.
There are a few rough sections of road, but it’s a mostly smooth ride to the top. There are picnic areas along the way to rest and even a few water fountains that sometimes work! Once you make the last push to the top, you have a 5 mile downhill cruise ahead of you. Just watch the turns and keep your speed under 15mph, and you’ll have a great time coasting to celebrate your accomplishment!
Downtown SLC to Airport to Saltair/Salt Lake Marina
My favorite bike trail starts on North Temple heading west out of Salt Lake and goes through bike/pedestrian gates around SLC International Airport. As you pedal around the perimeter of the runways, huge planes soar just overhead and touch down just a few hundred feet away! It’s an amazing sight to see them so close and feel the wind as they blow past you. Don’t stop to look or the police will come ask you politely not to interfere with the radar equipment. From there you pick up an actual bike trail leaving the airport property. You will shortly follow some roads in between sections and pick up another freshly paved trail soon after. It eventually opens up to a frontage road that is very lightly trafficked and has basically become a very wide bike trail instead.
Enjoy the open space and the distant view as you approach the salt flats. It might look like snow, but it’s really salt deposits from the Great Salt Lake you’re seeing. That big structure that looks like the Taj Mahal isn’t a mirage, it’s the Great Saltair, a music venue on the edge of the lake overlooking the salt flats. Check out the unique architecture, and, if it’s close to sunset, I highly recommend walking out to the water to watch the show! Continue on to the marina and you can sit at picnic tables for a break and walk down to the water to put your toes in. From here you just turn around and head back to the city to finish your 35-mile ride!
Millennium Trail – Park City to Summit Park
In the warmer months you might want to escape the heat of the valley by heading up to Park City. The elevation will alleviate some of the heat, but it will add an extra challenge to your ride as well! Beginning at City Park you pick up the Silver Creek Trail and head north to the Park Avenue multi-use trail before finally connecting to the Millennium Trail. This will take you through Kimball Junction turning northwest the rest of the way and climbing to Summit Park. Be forewarned, Summit Park is not a proper park so there’s unfortunately no official stop and rest point here. On your way you’ll pass by beautiful mountain views and a beautiful large pond.
After visiting the “summit” and cruising down you can take some time to stop at one of many restaurants (or the Whole Foods hot bar) for lunch and treat yourself to a couple of beers at Park City Brewing Company before the easy ride back to the park. There’s even a pedestrian overpass to cross I-80 and get there easily!
Salt Lake has a few great small trails through the city and some under construction, but these are my favorites. SLC is a very bikeable city, which makes it great for visitors and residents alike. There are plenty of bike racks around town and at local bars and restaurants. There are bike rental kiosks in several places for quick trips around town. If you need any work done there are tons of great bike shops. The Salt Lake Bike Collective does group rides every Tuesday night at 6:30pm and they only go as fast as the slowest rider so no one is left behind. It’s a great social event! This is definitely a bike-friendly city, and it’s only getting better!
This entire article made me smile! The only thing it’s missing is a video of you drinking out of the water fountain on City Creek Canyon, HA!
Haha I should definitely make a gif of that.