63°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Bike tour geared toward exploring scenic marvels

After a tasty dinner of enchilada pie packed with sliced zucchini, yellow squash and bison meat, two touring bicyclists — Elizabeth from Utah and Nancy from California — strolled from their campsite at Bryce Canyon National Park to the canyon rim for a peek at the sunset.

The tips of the canyon’s famed spires called hoodoos were illuminated as the pair carefully followed an 8,200-foot-high path for inspiring views of the national park.

Elizabeth and Nancy enjoyed the day-end visual spectacle as touring road bicyclists with Escape Adventures, a Las Vegas-based company that has taken guests for mountain bike and road bicycle tours in places from the Tetons to the Grand Canyon to Oregon’s Pacific Coast for the past 22 years. Escape Adventures stages 40 to 70 tours throughout the West every year, ranging in price from $795 to $2,500. Custom tours can be tailored to customers’ requests.

Jared Fisher of Blue Diamond, who owns bicycle stores in Las Vegas and Moab, Utah, launched Escape Adventures more than two decades ago. For this bicycle tour in mid-June, Fisher used his vast knowledge of Southern Utah for a seven-day road trip that includes the Holy Trinity of national parks — Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon.

I joined the tour for the first three days to get a taste of a scheduled bike trip. I have bicycled solo across the country twice and have created urban restaurant bicycle tours in Tampa, Fla., but I wanted to see what it was like to pedal on an organized commercial tour.

FRIENDLY GUIDES

I have been meaning to explore Southern Utah’s amazing landscape of high country and red rock formations, and Escape Adventures proved to offer the right balance of tour guidance and bicyclist autonomy.

My two guides were a can-do pair of twentysomethings whose love for bicycling came through in an enthusiastic and caring fashion. Merrick Golz, 27, and Zephyr Sylvester, 23, led rides, cooked three unbelievable meals a day and struck the right balance of advising guests in a friendly manner without talking down them. Both are avid mountain bicyclists with strong road cycling skills.

Golz and Sylvester formed a great team, making sure tires were properly inflated and gently reminding us to stay hydrated while doling out anecdotal tips on the road conditions and elevation changes.

The duo prepared meals ranging from French toast in the mornings to homemade pizzas complete with peppers and cilantro at lunch and appetizers and tasty dinners at night, including a splendid grilled salmon on the tour’s first evening.

During our rides, Golz and Sylvester each took turns cycling with the three of us — I joined Nancy and Elizabeth on the daily rides in Southern Utah — while the other drove the Escape Adventures van and trailer.

Escape Adventures offers two options for biking guests to launch a tour. In this case, Nancy met the Escape Adventures crew at The Element boutique motel next to the Las Vegas Cyclery bike shop for the trip to St. George, where they rendezvoused with Elizabeth and myself at The Crystal Inn off Interstate 15.

CEDAR BREAKS

While Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion are the Big Three of national parks within a day’s ride of Las Vegas, there are other noteworthy scenic stops along the way.

The first day was a case in point. From St. George, we drove to Cedar Breaks, an 81-year-old national monument that offers a spectacular natural rock amphitheater at more than 10,000 feet.

We lunched on turkey sandwiches and soft apple cookies before we hopped on our bicycles for a 5-mile ride in the hilly terrain around Cedar Breaks, then we took a right turn for a 15-mile descent to Panguitch Lake campground in the Dixie National Forest.

The descent was amazing as I hit 50 mph thanks to the slope and tailwinds.

Elizabeth, Nancy and I joined Sylvester for a casual 9-mile bike ride around Panguitch Lake, where vacation homes dot the gentle rolling hills lining the lake.

Sylvester, who started on the job in May 2013, said he enjoys meeting the array of guests such as Nancy and Elizabeth. Both enjoy road cycling, with Elizabeth cranking up the hills and Nancy going slower with her two trusty Nikon point-and-shoot cameras at her side.

“I meet so many cool people from every field,” said Sylvester, who grew up in Vermont and attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.

BRYCE CANYON

The first day was an easy 27 miles — and it was a pleasant start to the tour to see spectacular Cedar Breaks, which tends to get overshadowed by the higher-profile canyons such as Bryce and Zion in Southern Utah.

After zipping down from 10,400 feet at Cedar Breaks to 8,200 feet at Panguitch Lake, we cycled the second day from the National Forest campground to the quaint city of Panguitch, dropping about 1,700 feet.

I enjoyed the display of quilts down Panguitch’s main street as we pedaled through the quiet town and headed to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Before we arrived at Bryce Canyon, we pedaled through Red Canyon — a visual treat. We left the road and pedaled on a paved trail for about six miles through the aptly named Red Canyon.

After battling headwinds from Panguitch to Red Canyon on U.S. Highway 89, we turned on state Route 12 to pedal through Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon. It was mostly uphill to Bryce Canyon. The tour’s second day involved biking 47 miles.

For bicyclist tourists who would like to log more miles, Golz was happy to accommodate the request. For example, Elizabeth wanted to ride some more at Bryce Canyon, so she pedaled another 30 miles or so during the afternoon inside the park, while Nancy and I decided to hike down the loop Navajo Trail at Bryce Canyon. We all met up at our park camp spot around 5:30 p.m.

CORAL PINK SAND DUNES

My third and final day entailed trying to pedal from Bryce Canyon National Park to another underrated natural gem — Coral Pink Sands Dune State Park, some 72 miles away.

Biking back from Bryce Canyon to U.S. 89 was pleasant, as it was mostly downhill and meant another trip through gorgeous Red Canyon.

But when we turned left on the highway and headed north, we bucked ferocious 30 mph winds. The fierce winds eventually forced us to seek cover and a van ride to an alternative route, a side road miles down the road that took us back to 10,000 feet elevation and chances to see the lava rocks from ancient eruptions and get a glimpse of the headwaters of the Virgin River.

We stopped for lunch at Duck Creek at about 9,600 feet. Golz prepared two delicious pizzas and we carbed up for the rest of the afternoon of riding.

Between cycling from Bryce Canyon to U.S. 89 and then the second mountain segment, we logged 40 miles — not bad when you consider the nasty winds that forced us off U.S. 89.

We packed the bikes on the van roof and headed for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where the windblown sand that formed the dunes made for some fun routes for ATVs.

END OF THE TOUR

The organized bicycle tour was a hit. The guides were helpful and terrific chefs, while offering accurate information about the various routes.

After the third day of riding, Golz drove me from Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to St. George, where my car was parked.

While I ended my mini-tour, Nancy and Elizabeth continued on to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Zion National Park, where the two hiked the park’s well-known Narrows. In Springdale outside Zion’s entrance, the tourists stayed in an inn overnight — the only night the two were not camping out during the tour.

Escape Adventures is featuring another road bicycle tour this summer in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and offers various mountain bike tours in North Dakota, Utah and Washington during the next few months.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at 702-387-5273 or asnel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST