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  • Writer's pictureJason Ryser

10 Best Cycling Spots in Salt Lake City, Utah

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Cycling enthusiasts — are you searching for new routes to explore and breathtaking views to admire? Look no further than Salt Lake City, Utah! Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City offers a diverse range of cycling experiences for riders of all levels. This destination has everything from scenic mountain climbs to serene city paths.


In this blog, we'll take you on a tour of the best cycling spots in Salt Lake City, sharing insider tips and must-see sights along the way. So get ready to saddle up and discover this cycling paradise's natural beauty and vibrant culture.


City Creek Canyon


One of the must-see cycling spots in Salt Lake City is City Creek Canyon, which offers a challenging yet rewarding 10-mile round-trip ride with an elevation gain of 1122 feet. The route features a relatively consistent grade with a few short, punchy sections, making it an excellent choice for intermediate to advanced riders.


One of the biggest pros of cycling in City Creek Canyon is its super easy access from downtown Salt Lake City. Riders can quickly reach the canyon and start their ride in no time.


The canyon is also closed to cars on odd days, ensuring a peaceful and safe ride. Additionally, the forested areas provide ample shade, making it a great escape from the heat during the summer months.


Wildlife sightings are also common on this route, as the canyon is home to various animals, including deer and moose. The beautiful forest setting and tranquil surroundings make for a memorable ride that truly showcases the natural beauty of Salt Lake City.


However, like Stats, City Creek Canyon is closed to bikes on even days, so plan accordingly. The first mile of the route can also be crowded with dogs, walkers, and joggers, so cyclists should be aware and cautious. Rattlesnakes can also be a concern, but they typically stay on nearby dirt trails. Additionally, riders should expect some rough patches in the road, including potholes, uneven asphalt, and areas with standing water.


Despite these potential drawbacks, cycling in City Creek Canyon remains a popular choice for intermediate to advanced riders seeking a challenging and picturesque ride. With its beautiful forested setting, abundant wildlife sightings, and relatively consistent grade, this route is sure to impress even the most experienced cyclists.


Emigration Canyon


Emigration Canyon is a popular destination for cyclists in Salt Lake City, thanks to its easy access from the University neighborhood and relatively consistent grade. This out-and-back ride covers a distance of 16 miles with an elevation gain of 1339 feet and features a couple of long switchbacks towards the end. For those seeking more challenge, continuing to Big Mountain Summit adds 7 miles and a good dose of outdoor scenery.


One of the biggest pros of cycling in Emigration Canyon is the wide shoulder, which provides ample space for cyclists and promotes bike safety. The road quality is also good, and drivers are typically bike-aware due to the consistent bike traffic in the area. Riders will likely spot some wildlife on this route, including deer, moose, and coyotes. The canyon scenery and cool old houses along the way also add to the ride's charm.


Another perk of cycling in Emigration Canyon is the chance to stop at Ruth's Diner on the way back down. This iconic diner has been serving delicious breakfast and lunch dishes since 1930 and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.


While Emigration Canyon may have low to moderate traffic and is not quite as scenic as some other canyons, the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lush forests make it a beautiful ride nonetheless. Cyclists looking to add more mileage to their ride can also take advantage of the many options for tacking on additional miles in the surrounding area.

Overall, Emigration Canyon is a great choice for intermediate to advanced riders seeking a challenging and rewarding ride with stunning canyon scenery and plenty of options for adding mileage.


Millcreek Canyon


Millcreek Canyon is a beautiful and challenging ride located just east of Salt Lake City. The ride covers a distance of 18 miles with an elevation gain of 2628 feet and features a relatively consistent grade that gets noticeably steeper passing Elbow Fork, as well as over the last couple of miles.


One of the biggest pros of cycling in Millcreek Canyon is its easy access from the Millcreek neighborhood, making it a convenient option for local riders. The canyon also stays relatively cool in the summer, providing a refreshing break from the city's heat.


Additionally, riders are likely to spot some wildlife on this route, including deer, moose, and various birds. The lush forest setting adds to the natural beauty of the ride.


Another advantage of cycling in Millcreek Canyon is the lower traffic volume compared to nearby canyons. This allows for a more peaceful and enjoyable ride without the stress of sharing the road with too many cars. The lack of traffic also enhances the safety of the ride for cyclists.


However, the road quality in Millcreek Canyon can be a little iffy above Elbow Fork, which can make for a less comfortable ride for some cyclists. Despite this minor con, the stunning scenery and challenging terrain of Millcreek Canyon make it a popular destination for intermediate to advanced riders seeking a rewarding ride with plenty of natural beauty.


Big Cottonwood Canyon


If you're looking for a challenging ride with some seriously stunning scenery, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a must-ride. With a distance of 30 miles and an elevation gain of 4104 feet, this canyon is not for the faint of heart. But, if you're up for the challenge, you'll be rewarded with some of the most dramatic, glacier-cut canyon views you'll find anywhere.


One of the best things about Big Cottonwood is its easy access from the Cottonwood Heights neighborhood. The ride offers a relatively consistent grade, with steeper climbs past Storm Mountain and between Solitude and Brighton ski resorts. For an extra challenge, turn up Guardsman Pass just before reaching Brighton.


The wide shoulder and good road quality make this ride safer than some of the other nearby canyons, and you'll likely spot some wildlife along the way, including deer, moose, and coyotes.


However, it's important to note that Big Cottonwood has a few downsides. The S-curves and Storm Mountain descent can cause some first-timers to experience vertigo, and there is more traffic than in Millcreek Canyon. Generally speaking, the drivers are less predictable than those in Emigration, so be sure to stay alert.


Finally, there is the occasional rock fall, so it's essential to keep your eyes peeled during the descent. But, overall, if you're an experienced cyclist looking for a challenging and rewarding ride, Big Cottonwood Canyon is worth checking out.


Little Cottonwood Canyon


Little Cottonwood Canyon is a challenging and beautiful ride that is easily accessible from the Cottonwood Heights neighborhood. The ride is 18 miles from the mouth, with a steep and relatively consistent grade that will test your fitness.


The canyon offers dramatic and rugged views and frequent sightings of wildlife, making it a unique and exciting ride. The road quality is good, but the shoulder is only moderate, so staying alert and riding defensively is important.


However, it's worth noting that Little Cottonwood Canyon can be busier than Millcreek, and drivers can be less predictable than those in Emigration. It's recommended to avoid riding during Oktoberfest, as traffic can be especially heavy during this time. Keep your eyes peeled for occasional rock fall during the descent. Overall, Little Cottonwood Canyon is a must-ride for experienced cyclists looking for a challenging and scenic adventure.


Parley's Trail


Parley's Trail is a fun and rolling bike trail along I-80, with several hop-on/hop-off spots in the Sugarhouse and Millcreek neighborhoods. This 16-mile trail provides cyclists with an easy and car-free route, making it a popular option for families and recreational riders. The trail starts in Hidden Hollow, behind PetSmart, and links up with Wasatch Boulevard.


One of Parley's Trail's biggest pros is its easy access from the Sugarhouse and Millcreek neighborhoods. Cyclists can ride without worrying about cars, making it a safe option for riders of all levels. The paved path quality is also good, providing a smooth ride for cyclists.

Parley's Trail also provides access to two city parks: Sugarhouse and Tanner. Cyclists can easily stop for a break and enjoy the scenery or have a picnic. Additionally, the trail links up with other bike routes and the Sugarhouse streetcar, allowing riders to explore other parts of Salt Lake City.


However, cyclists should be aware of dogs and walkers on the trail, which can be a minor inconvenience. Nonetheless, Parley's Trail is a great option for cyclists looking for a fun and easy ride without the worries of car traffic.


Wasatch Boulevard


Cycling on Wasatch Boulevard provides a relatively flat suburban ride with mild elevation gain between the mouths of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. With a distance of 20 miles and an elevation gain of 663 feet, this ride offers a fun link-up option with other bike routes on this list.


One of the pros of cycling on Wasatch Boulevard is the easy access from the Millcreek neighborhood. The wide shoulder and good road quality make for a comfortable and safe ride. The route also offers fairly uninterrupted city riding with minimal traffic lights.


However, one of the main cons of cycling on Wasatch Boulevard is the traffic, especially during rush hour. The first half of the ride isn't very scenic, but the second half offers a sweeping view of the Salt Lake Valley, which makes up for it.


This ride is also a fun link-up option with other bike routes, such as Parley's Trail, Millcreek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Little Cottonwood Canyon. Cycling on Wasatch Boulevard is a great option for those looking for a relatively flat and easy suburban ride with easy access to other popular routes.


Saltair


Cycling in Saltair offers a unique experience that's quite different from the canyon rides mentioned above. The ride is relatively flat, making it accessible to riders of all skill levels, and has a distance of 20 miles out and back, which can be doubled if starting from downtown.


One of the biggest pros of cycling in Saltair is the lack of stoplights and very little traffic, which means riders can enjoy the peacefulness of the ride without interruptions.

Additionally, the unique lunar landscape across the Salt Flats toward the Great Salt Lake is a sight to behold, offering a nice change of scenery from the more mountainous rides in the area.


However, there are some cons to consider before embarking on this ride:

  • The area can be quite buggy, so riders should come prepared with bug spray.

  • The ride can be quite windy, typically with a headwind out and a tailwind back, so it's important to dress accordingly.

  • The area can also be hot, so riders should wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water.

Overall, though, cycling in Saltair is a great option for riders looking for a unique and less challenging ride in the Salt Lake City area.


Antelope Island


Antelope Island is a gem of a destination for cycling enthusiasts in Salt Lake City. The island is located in the middle of the Great Salt Lake and offers a unique cycling experience. The ride out and back is 36 miles, and the elevation gain is negligible, making it an easy, flat ride.


One option is to take the Jordan River Trail, connect to the Legacy Trail, and take Antelope Island Drive to the causeway to reach the island for a longer ride. Once on the island, cyclists can enjoy good road quality, relatively sparse traffic, and beautiful views of the island and the Great Salt Lake.


Antelope Island is also a wildlife haven, with bison, pronghorn, rabbits, coyotes, badgers, and eagles being common sights. Cyclists can also take a free tour of the historic Fielding Garr Ranch.


However, there are some cons to consider before embarking on a ride on Antelope Island. The island can be buggy, especially during the summer months. Cyclists may also encounter strong winds, so checking the weather forecast before heading out is important.


The Farmington Bay area of the island can also have a strong smell due to decomposing algal blooms that give off hydrogen sulfide gas. Additionally, bison crossings can happen, so providing them with a wide berth for safety is crucial.


Despite the cons, the unique cycling experience on Antelope Island and the beautiful views and wildlife sightings make it a must-visit for any cycling enthusiast in the Salt Lake City area.


Alpine Loop


The Alpine Loop is one of Utah County's most popular cycling routes, offering scenic mountain views, challenging climbs, and thrilling descents. The loop is about 38.8 miles long and features an elevation gain of approximately 3,673 feet.


The ride begins in American Fork Canyon and takes cyclists through stunning alpine landscapes, with sweeping vistas of rugged mountain peaks, towering trees, and pristine streams. The loop includes two major climbs, with the first ascent leading to Cascade Springs and the second taking riders over the top of the mountain and into Provo Canyon.

One of the highlights of the Alpine Loop is the descent into Provo Canyon, which offers a thrilling ride down winding roads and hairpin turns. This stretch of road is particularly popular with cyclists and motorcyclists, offering an exhilarating ride with breathtaking views of the surrounding canyon walls.


While the Alpine Loop is a challenging ride, it is also rewarding, with ample opportunities to stop and take in scenic views along the way. Cyclists can stop at Cascade Springs for a refreshing break and a chance to soak in the area's natural beauty or take a detour up the road to the Sundance Resort for a bite to eat and a chance to relax before tackling the final climb back to the starting point.


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