How bike or ebike friendly are the Utah National Parks

mrgold35

Well-Known Member
The wife and I have several trips planned to Utah, Arizona, and Nevada over the next 6 months. We wanted to check out as many of the "Mighty 5" National Parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Capital Reef, & Canyonlands) since they are only a slight detour on our travel paths. I wanted to find out how friendly are the Parks to bikers and especially ebikers in Utah? I figured we could see more and still be part of the environment on two wheels compared to just driving or hiking the park(s). We do have our Transeo GT 700c commuter bikes that can ride hard packed trails if they are not fat tire ebike friendly.

We took our ebikes to the Grand Canyon and Sedona in Nov/2016. The south rim of the Grand Canyon was ebike friendly and we were able to see more and stay away from the crowded tourist lookout points at bus stops.
In Sedona, no ebikes were allowed on trails shared with walkers, hikers, and MTB in city limits. I could only ride the trails with other motorized vehicles if I wanted to ride off road. High powered gas powered vehicle hauling butt down a twisty dirt road while I'm pedaling at 13-15 mph; what can go wrong. Might as well put up a sign saying "ebikes not welcomed!"

Prefer the paved roads/trails or at most hard packed "bunny trail" levels for the wife. The wife wouldn't want to ride if the local bike/ebike trails are more challenging.
 

Nutella

Active Member
Out of the 3 federal agencies that govern most of the public land in the west, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service is the most restrictive. You can ride bikes pretty much anywhere on USFS and BLM trails, National Parks are more on a case by case basis and much more limited. As you found out in Sedona, USFS and the BLM consider ebikes motorized vehicles and only allow them on motorized trails. I would imagine if you kept to bike paths and roads in the National Parks you'd be fine though.
 

vincent

Well-Known Member
mrgold please write up your experiences with these trips, these are also places i may go this summer and my preferred riding is the same type of trails your wife likes
paved, wide flat dirt roads , slow cars etc

one place there are some pretty nice trails is at fort tuthill in flagstaff, super easy to get into, 1 minute off the interstate, great parking area

some pretty easy dirt trails and more advanced mtn biking trails that i have not ridden

this borders some type of federal land and i have ridden on the not maintained dirt roads on that, one idiot nearly hit us flying in a car but most of it was pretty safe

the forest type roads can be washed out in some areas but i found the rover did fine, we just went slow
this is where the fat tires do really good

havent been up there since late summer, good chance i will work that area in a week or so and may try to ride some, will let you know how the roads look
i do think that area got a lot of rain this past winter, so they may be worse

tucson has an excellent paved bike/walking trail if you guys come through this way
it hardly ever crosses a road and is miles and miles, you can ride all the way across tucson on it
it is called the loop, and it would be worth stopping to ride some if you come through in the winter when it is cooler, still nice here now but not sure how long that will hold

would love any suggestions of paved/bike path riding in the surrounding states that you come across

bought a toy hauler and plan to do some trips with the bikes this summer
 

mrgold35

Well-Known Member
Hey Vincent. thanks for the tip about riding paths in Flagstaff. We usually stop for a gas or hotel in Flagstaff and love hitting Diablo Burger downtown or Fractured Prune Doughnuts at the Aspen Place at the Sawmill.

I'm not planning to hit the parks until the 2nd week in May. My kid runs college track and their Mountain West Conf Championships are in Logan, Utah. It worked out pretty good to be in Utah at the same time as the Bike Expo in Salt Lake City at the end of the week after the track meet. I was planning to take a detour either up there or back home to hit 1 or 2 of parks if I can (Arches & Canyonlands). I will need to dig a little deeper and find out if some or all parks are even bike friendly (let alone ebike friendly). Having to share to the main roads with distracted tourist in cars, SUVs, and huge travel trailers doesn't feel that safe to me on our usual 10-15 mph ebike cruising speed.. I rather be on a separate dirt or paved trail parallel to the roadway if possible. I had to share the road a little bit at the Grand Canyon and you are either holding up traffic or having very close calls with almost every vehicle pass (no paved or dirt shoulder lanes with park roads).

I have another trip planned to Las Vegas in September (wife is a Bruno Mars fan). Thinking about making another detour to check out the other parks closer to that area. Thinking about spending a 4-5 days at the north rim of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National park before heading to Las Vegas for the weekend.
 

vincent

Well-Known Member
that is disappointing to hear about the south rim, a friend was there last summer and thought it would be a great place to ride the bikes...
but she does not tend to pay attention to the car dangers like me, i am pretty paranoid about riding with cars, especially with no shoulder

was asking some friends about the north rim, they said it was not near as busy as the south but were not sure about how it would be for bike riding

am also thinking about bryce

once you start your travels let me know how things are going
if i come across any good spots will pass them on

think you would like fort tuthill, when i get a chance will try to draw on my ipad with the map and indicate where the wider trails are for you
we just kind of explored and found places to ride up there

i should be in flag working twice before you head this way, sure i will ride tuthill and can let you know what shape the forest roads are in




have ridden some forest roads down by lake mary in flagstaff and for the most part they were calm, a few fast cars but the roads are wide

have ridden around woods canyon lake about an hour NE of payson, during the week it was ok, there is a short trail off the road and the paved road into there was calm most of the days i went
road around the campgrounds and up/down the main road
i tend to not like rides shorter than 30 miles and to get in many miles there you have to loop around a lot, but the temp is perfect
the campground areas were very calm and cars were slow
 

Larry Ganz

Active Member
Out of the 3 federal agencies that govern most of the public land in the west, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service is the most restrictive. You can ride bikes pretty much anywhere on USFS and BLM trails, National Parks are more on a case by case basis and much more limited. As you found out in Sedona, USFS and the BLM consider ebikes motorized vehicles and only allow them on motorized trails. I would imagine if you kept to bike paths and roads in the National Parks you'd be fine though.
That makes me mad, because class-1 eBikes should be treated as bicycles and are not defined as motor vehicles by law. I could be an exception because I am disabled and can bring my handicapped placard with me when I ride (if I'm not in my wife's car where I'd have to leave it in her front window, as my car has handicapped plates and I only get one placard). But when I'm on an eBike, my wife would not be able to go up the same hills if she was forced to ride on a normal bike (which is why I bought the bikes as a pair to ride together). It just makes no sense.
 

Larry Ganz

Active Member
Everything I had understood up to this point has indicated that under the ADA I can use my eBike as an assistive mobility device to access trails that are open to the public, and that a private trail must do a study to prove that my device would be unsafe in order to ban it.
 

Larry Ganz

Active Member
I just read the article and it's ridiculous, because federal law recognizes class 1 ebikes as bicycles and says they shall not be designated as motor vehicles, and the ADA clearly does not prevent us from using certain types of electric powered mobility devices based on number of wheels, power levels, how they're activated, or anything like that.

I'm even more astonished that biking advocacy groups would not support class 1 eBikes on mountain bike trails, regardless of disability or not. This is the first I've heard of this opposition and it makes me very upset.
 

Nutella

Active Member
The federal law states that is not a motor vehicle, not that it isn't motorized, there's a difference. I've never heard of a local park or agency that would question anyone with a disability on an ebike, even if they didn't consider them a OPMD, they don't want to get sued. The feds evidently are more strict. Most bike advocacy groups don't want ebikes anywhere near mountain bike trails, they do often support them on bike paths though.
 

Larry Ganz

Active Member
Why would bike advocacy groups be okay with restricting class 1 eBikes and basically excluding a whole group of people who would otherwise not be able to ride (maybe they need an eBike to ride to the trailhead because they can't bring the bike in/on a car, or they're too old or have bad knees, or disabled with one lung, etc).

We don't have enough power to destroy the trails. In the end, only the most physically fit get to benefit from these trails. Can you imagine a gym that won't let you join unless you can run 5 miles or bench press 180lbs?
 

RoadWrinkle

Active Member
The areas near and within Zion have hundreds of trails and I have never seen anyone get hassled on any kind of bicycle or ebike on my hiking trips there. I try to get to Yosemite once a year, I have ridden my ebikes all over the Valley floor on week long trips with never a problem or word from anyone (doubt they are legal there). Unless you create a reason other than simply riding an ebike to be stopped by park rangers, I would not worry about it.
 

mrgold35

Well-Known Member
Getting ready for our trip to Arches and Canyonlands next week (May 7th - 11th). We are spending the weekend in Durango, CO, before heading to our AirBnB in Moab, UT. After the parks, we will drive to Logan, UT, for the College Division I Mountain West Track and Field Championships (May 11th- 13th) to watch our son compete.

We decided to leave the ebikes at home since we had 4-6 days of the ebikes just sitting on SUV the 9 days we are gone, seems ebikes are not allowed on MTB trails in the parks (only motorized trails), and the Salt Lake City eBike Expo was moved to a later date. I'm still going to attach my bike carrier and we might rent MTB if we decide to ride in one or both parks. I will make it one of my stops to ask the park rangers for the 411 on ebikes usage for these two parks.

This is the first of many trips.
 

mrgold35

Well-Known Member
Completed my trip to Arches and Canyonland. We stayed in Moab; which, is about 5 miles from the Arches south entrance and around 32 miles from Canyonland's northern entrance. Pretty much what I expected about not being e-bike friendly. No ebikes (or regular bikes or pets) on walking and hiking trails. E-bikes are considered motorized vehicles and are allowed on dirt trails or paved roads along with road cars and off road motor vehicles only.

Town of Moab:
Tourist town with a lot of restaurants, 1/2 day/full day/overnight 4X4 tours, 4X4 Jeep or Moab RZR Dune rentals, MTB rentals, day/overnight river raft, day/overnight MTB tours, or flying tours (hot air balloon or plane). Nice place to walk up and down main street to check out the town, eat, and window shop. This town lives on tourism and I can see the population 2X-4X on the weekends and holidays during prime tourism months. I would book a regular hotel, AirBnB, or VRBO now if you are thinking of staying anytime in the next few months on a weekend. Bikes are not allowed on main street sidewalks; but, there are paved bike paths in and around other areas of the city. You can even ride along a paved bike path paralleling the Colorado river for several miles located at the north end of town.

Arches:
The Park service was re-paving the roads and the northern end of the park was shut down (about 1/3 to 1/2 of the north end of park). I think they should be done with paving by mid-summer? There were other dirt access roads to those areas; but, you would need a 4X4 to reach them.

There was a 5 mile two lane paved bike path from Moab to Arches Visitor center. You had to share the road once you entered the park and there was a very steep 2-3 mile switchback climb to reach the first viewpoint (Park Ave viewpoint and trail-head). I would have used 2-3 bars of power on my Radrover if I had to ride up the switchback. The paved park roads are just wide enough for a RV with little to no shoulder for a biker to ride (no dirt shoulder to ride in at all). A driver would most likely have to cross the center line to pass a biker. Because of the distances between viewpoints on the paved roads; you will holding up traffic 20-40 cars deep because of the 2-way road volume if you ride your bike on the paved roads without pulling over to let them pass every few minutes.

Arches also had restricted hours from 7am-7pm instead of the 24/7 because of the construction. This pretty much overcrowded the areas accessible by paved roads from 12noon til closing (Park Ave Viewpoint, Courthouse towers, Garden of Eden, and Delicate Arch). Parking at each lookout and Arch formation was extremely limited. You will spend more time looking for a parking spot and walking to the Arch/lookout if you don't get there first thing in the morning.

There was just one main paved road that branched off to the different arches and overlook areas. I put around 50-60 miles on my car round-trip with 1/2 the park closed off. I would need 3 batteries and the full 12 hours to do the same trip on my Radrover.

Arches PDF map: https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/upload/archmap.pdf

Canyonland:
Looked like the road paving was already done to the northern half of the park. Canyonland had a northern entrance (32 mile ride from Moab) and a eastern entrance around 50 mile west of Monticello, UT. No connect to either half through the park and you have to drive around +130 miles on the hwy to get from one entrance to another. I didn't explore Canyonland from the lower eastern entrance (about 1/4 amount of paved roads compared to the northern part of park).

Pretty much repeat for road conditions and viewpoints as Arches. You need to get there early to find parking and take pictures without having 10-20 strangers in every frame. Canyonland had a lot more dirt roads for 4X4 travel and we saw more folks doing MTB overnight rides with a chase vehicle following. Only saw a few hard tail MTB and zero fat tire bikes on these tours. Most MTB tours were full suspension mid to top end bikes. The terrain was was too steep and rocky in places for my Radrover. Another factor was the distances of 20-40 miles just to get anywhere in Canyonland park. We were lucky to be there with temps in the mid 80s on one day and mid 60s the next two. Locals warned about temps easily reaching 100 degrees during the summer months on a normal day. We did a full day 4X4 tour of Arches and northern Canyonland and put around 140-150 miles that day. I think we put around 100 miles easily the next day in my car from Moab just viewing northern Canyonland main sites on the paved roads.

Canyonland PDF map: https://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/upload/canymap.pdf
 

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Denman

New Member
In June we visited Bryce, Mt Zion, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and a few AZ National Parks, riding a pair of E-Trikes. I spoke to some of the Park Rangers in advance to find out their policy. Of those parks it was an unofficial "don't be a hazard and no one will bother you". Three of them all made comments to the effect of "its not like the Park Rangers are overstaffed. Cool.

We had a great time, putting on a little over 400 miles of blissful safe riding.

I've been a 4 figure donor to the National Parks for about 5 years now, and before that between $100-$500 a year for many years. We use the parks a lot.

BTW, while I have a Handicap Pass, I NEVER use it.

Recently got an alert from the National Parks (Arcadia) reminding folks that they've in effect chosen to eject the handicapped from their trails. As I dug into this, even electric wheelchairs are VERBOTTEN! Even with a Handicap Pass.

I'm done contributing to the National Parks.
 

sunderland56

New Member
To be clear about e-bike use in Moab: electric bikes (of any class) are prohibited on the pathways in town, the paved path that follows the Colorado River, and the paved path that goes from town up past the Arches entrance. They are also prohibited on all of the non-motorized mountain bike trails in Grand County.

Arches and Canyonlands both restrict bicycles of ANY kind - powered or not - to roads; i.e. only where you can drive a jeep. Off-road travel is illegal; hiking trails are for hiking only.

There are a ton of trails open to e-bikes, though; the Slickrock bike trail, the Sovereign trail system, and more. They're just not allowed on the non-motorized trails.
 

Larry Ganz

Active Member
To be clear about e-bike use in Moab: electric bikes (of any class) are prohibited on the pathways in town, the paved path that follows the Colorado River, and the paved path that goes from town up past the Arches entrance. They are also prohibited on all of the non-motorized mountain bike trails in Grand County.

Arches and Canyonlands both restrict bicycles of ANY kind - powered or not - to roads; i.e. only where you can drive a jeep. Off-road travel is illegal; hiking trails are for hiking only.

There are a ton of trails open to e-bikes, though; the Slickrock bike trail, the Sovereign trail system, and more. They're just not allowed on the non-motorized trails.
And those of us who are riding pedal assist-only e-bikes at 5-15mph on the motorized trails will be maimed or killed by Jeeps and motorcycles coming around blind curves and hills at higher speeds than we can realistically attain.

The 20mph limit on a 250 watt middrive can't really be attained climbing on steep terrain by a heavy rider, even at full assist. The only ones that might be safe will be the 4500 watt 40mph eBikes (more like e-cycles).
 

sunderland56

New Member
And those of us who are riding pedal assist-only e-bikes at 5-15mph on the motorized trails will be maimed or killed by Jeeps and motorcycles coming around blind curves and hills at higher speeds than we can realistically attain.
whoa.... I just provided information on the current status, nothing else.

As I said, there are no trails for any kind of bicycle, motorized or not, in Arches or Canyonlands - roads only. 45 MPH overall limit, lower in many places. Pretty sure Bryce and Zion are the same but haven't been recently.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Outside of Alaska I can't think of any national parks (or national monuments) where any motorized vehicles are allowed off-road, and even in Alaska that is usually just snowmachines during the frozen months. Even then, where and when they are allowed is usually very restricted.

Off-road access for bicycles is usually very hit & miss in most national parks. Since most of the area in most national parks is designated wilderness bicycles (electric or not) are simply not allowed. In the case of Zion National Park, out of a total of 146000 acres in the park about 124000 are designated wilderness. In quite a few other parks approximately ninety percent of their area is designated wilderness.