We rode this loop through southern Utah desert country on a mix of paved and dirt roads with a visit to a pioneer ghost town and stay in a scenic yurt.
Bicycle Adventurers: My son Niels and I.
When: January 2018
Accommodations: A motel and a yurt on Gooseberry Mesa
Distance: 95 miles over three days
Bonuses for this adventure:
The pioneer ghost town of Grafton
The Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway
A stay in the Gooseberry Mesa Yurts
Beautiful desert scenery.
With temperatures in the 50s — not bad for January — we rode backroads out of St. George, Utah, through the small town of Washington, then onto dirt roads, past ranches, and along the Virgin River to the town of Hurricane. We took a break here before continuing through the small towns of LaVerkin, Virgin, and Rockville to Springdale where we stayed in a motel. We were tired after riding 40+ miles when we hadn’t been training much since it was winter and cold at our homes up north.
We backtracked two miles to the town of Rockville, crossed the old Rockville Bridge over the Virgin River, then rode a couple miles on dirt roads to Grafton, a pioneer ghost town settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1860s and abandoned in the late 1920s. A schoolhouse/church and three homes have been restored.
We then rode back to Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway and began climbing out of the valley and up on to the plateau below Smithsonian Butte. This road was graded dirt with some very soft sections for the first three miles. Once we topped out, the road was nice and smooth. After a few miles, we turned off toward the other Utah mountain biking mecca, Gooseberry Mesa. Six more miles on dirt roads brought us to the very edge of the mesa and two yurts, where we stayed for the night. Our yurt was literally 50 feet from the edge of a huge drop. In fact, the site of the famous Redbull Rampage downhill mountain bike race was just below us. The yurt was luxurious with beds, a couch, camp stove, wood burning stove, and lanterns.
Since we only rode about 18 miles, we had plenty of time to explore. We unloaded the bikes and hit a few miles of the local singletrack. We then spent the evening in the warmth of the yurt eating, chatting, and reading, while outside, the temperatures dropped into the high 20s.
We got up early and rode the eight miles out to the highway, then had an enjoyable and fast descent back to Hurricane. We dropped off the yurt key, then retraced our route back to St. George. Since it was mostly downhill, the 45 miles went by quickly and we were back at the car in time for lunch.
Your favorite local bike shop? We were impressed with the bike shop in Hurricane, Utah, Over the Edge Sports, where we stopped for some bike lube.
Bike overnight tips and tricks? We used 90s-era, steel-framed mountain bikes equipped with wide touring tires that handled pavement and the dirt roads equally well. We also used a mix of traditional panniers and bikepacking bags. I also used a Wald basket up front that was nice and convenient. These were the perfect bikes for adventure touring on mixed surfaces. Though we usually prefer to camp out, the winter nights are cold and long, so we opted to stay in a motel and the yurt.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!