Biking Overview: Zion National Park

Gorp.com
Cycling in Zion National Park
Cycling in Zion National Park (Nathan Borchelt)

Zion National Park Road Biking Travel Tips

  • The 6.2-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is the highlight for cyclists, who have unobstructed views in this magical place. Most trailheads and picnic areas have bike racks.
  • The 1.8-mile paved Pa’rus Trail connects Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the nearby Watchman and South campgrounds in the south with the turnoff for Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the north. It’s the only park trail open to cyclists.
  • If you get stuck, shuttle buses have a front rack that can carry two bicycles. Routes connect Zion Canyon Visitor Center with Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and Springdale from April to October.
  • If you start at the park’s east entrance on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, you’ll enjoy a descent of 1,700 feet over 11 miles. Cyclists may not ride in the 1.1-mile-long unlit tunnel on the highway, so if you don’t have a vehicle to shuttle your bicycle, contact the park in advance to arrange one.
  • The lightly traveled Kolob Terrace Road ascends about 4,000 feet in 20 miles from UT 9 to the turnoff for the unpaved road to Lava Point. Here you’ll find a viewpoint, picnic area, campground, and trailhead.
  • Over in the park’s northwest section, Kolob Canyons Road climbs from Kolob Canyons Visitor Center to Lee Pass and on to a viewpoint and picnic area, gaining 1,250 feet in elevation over five miles.

At the turn of the century, the scenic drive was converted to a wonderful semi-greenway, open only to bicyclists, pedestrians, shuttle buses, and the occasional park service vehicle. Up until then, bicyclists had to be content with sharing the park roads—trail riding was not allowed. Current visitors can now trek or pedal to their heart's content on Zion's roads—in fact, the twisting curves of pavement through Utah canyon country is some people's idea of paradise.

You can glimpse the future of Zion Canyon on the Pa'rus Trail, a paved, car-free alternative for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people with strollers or wheelchairs. The Pa'rus links bicyclists and hikers from the campgrounds and South Entrance with the auto-free Scenic Drive.

The name Pa'rus is a Paiute word meaning "bubbling, tumbling water." This two-mile trail follows the Virgin River from the Watchman Campground entrance to the intersection with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. You can access the Pa'rus Trail at the south end by parking in the Watchman Campground Amphitheater parking lot, biking back across the Virgin River, and turning right (north) after the bridge into South Campground, or start from the other end, just north of the Scenic Drive Junction.

Along the Pa'rus Trail, you will cross Oak Creek, the Virgin River, and Pine Creek—the slow but steady stone cutters of Zion. You will also enjoy broad views of the cliffs of lower Zion Canyon. Try to identify the West Temple, Watchman, Bridge Mountain, Sentinel, and East Temple. Let your eye be drawn from the cottonwoods on the banks of the Virgin River, across the floodplain, and up the hillside of the Moenave and Kayenta rock formations to the red and white peaks of the vertical Navajo Sandstone cliffs. Look for cottonwood trees, yucca, prickly pear cactus, juniper trees, and tall ponderosa pines high on the cliff tops. Also watch for birds, lizards, and mule deer.

While traveling on the Pa'rus Trail, remember to observe all stop signs. The trail crosses and joins park roads, where drivers may not see you. Also, always travel on the right side of the trail to allow room for oncoming bikers and hikers. Like any trail in Zion National Park, pets are not allowed on the Pa'rus Trail.


advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »