Grand Staircase Escalante Bike Trip | Utah
The Grand Staircase has been called a "world class view a minute." And it's true. Our tour takes us through the incredible Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
We begin at the wonderful Boulder Mountain Lodge in the tiny town of Boulder, Utah. After a hike along Calf Creek, we descend on the Burr Trail to Capitol Reef National Park. The Henry Mountains, the last mountain range to be explored in the lower 48, tower over the elaborate canyons which make up the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef. After a great hike to the top of the reef, we continue our descent toward the shores of Lake Powell.
This trip is a great way to see the heart of Utah's fascinating and diverse geology. With two nights at the lodge and three nights of camping, it is a perfect introduction to mountain bike touring, and riders of all abilities will marvel at the scenery.
Our tour will meet in the afternoon in Moab and begin with a shuttle through Utah’s most spectacular and largely undiscovered territory. The dynamics of the terrain include the San Rafael Swell, the sandstone domes of Capitol Reef National Park, the “Mars-like” landscape of Hanksville and finally aspen swept Boulder Mountain. We will land at the charming Boulder Mountain Lodge, in Boulder, Utah, where you can walk the grounds as the sun sets over the Escalante canyons. We will dine together at Hell’s Backbone Grill, the Lodge’s intimate restaurant serving five-star cuisine, and anticipate the week’s events.
After spending a comfortable night at the Boulder Mountain Lodge in Boulder, Utah we’ll begin our first ride. Today’s route takes us along one of the most scenic drives in all of Utah. We’ll head west towards the town of Escalante along the area known as the hogback, with incredible views in all directions. The unique geology and complicated canyons of the Escalante River are quite mind boggling. We will descend from the hogback to Calf Creek where we’ll leave our bikes and embark on the trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls. This is a six mile hike which includes a great introduction to desert plants, incredible views of ancient Ancestral Puebloan granaries, some haunting petroglyphs and of course a visit to the falls. After our hike, we will shuttle or ride back to the Boulder Mountain Lodge for our second night. TOTAL MILEAGE: 10-20 miles riding, 6 miles hiking
From the lodge, we’ll begin a downhill ride on the Burr Trail through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After years of controversy, the first 30 miles of this trail have been paved. The ride begins on a high plateau named Durffy Mesa, which is surrounded by interesting slickrock formations. As we drop into the narrows of Long Canyon, sheer sandstone walls rise for several hundred feet above us. Along the way we’ll pass through The Gulch, the Circle Cliffs and Deer Creek Recreation Area. We will turn off the Burr Trail toward the Lamp Stand formation where we will spend the next two nights. Our 270 degree view includes the Henry Mountains, Boulder Mountain and Navajo Mountain, a sacred religious place for the Navajos. TOTAL MILEAGE: 26 miles
Today we will do a loop from camp on the Wolverine Loop Road. The road provides some great swooping downhill sections interspersed with a few rolling climbs. We begin in the
pinyon and juniper trees and drop down below the Wingate Sandstone. Views of the Henry Mountains, which rise 7,000 feet from the surrounding countryside, are spectacular. Lunch will be at the entrance to the Wolverine Petrified Wood Area where we can learn even more about the vast natural history of our surroundings. After lunch we’ll pedal through Horse Canyon and Wolverine Canyon, where the road and the drainage become one. At the junction of the Burr Trail, we’ll load into the van for a quick shuttle back to camp. The hearty may opt to ride the 6 miles. TOTAL MILEAGE: 28 - 35 miles
As we ride out of camp today, in the foreground lies the twisted rock formations of the Waterpocket Fold. As we enter Capitol Reef National Park, the contrast of the mountains and canyons creates a dramatic interface. After a quick five miles, we’ll turn off the Burr Trail and ride out to the trailhead at Upper Muley Twist Canyon. At the beginning of our hike, we’ll have a wonderful view looking right up the Fold. This canyon was named by the Mormons who arrived in their wagons. They said traveling through the canyon would “twist a mule.” At this point, we will still be traveling in the shadow of the Henrys, the last mountain range to be mapped and explored in the lower 48 states. Free roaming buffalo herds are still part of the mountain ecosystem. After our hike we’ll head back to the Burr Trail for lunch at the top of the Water Pocket Fold switchbacks. Descending the spectacular switchbacks places us at the base of the fold where we head south to our camp where we will be surrounded by desert solitude. TOTAL MILEAGE: 29 miles riding, 1 mile hiking
After leaving camp this morning, we will ride the most primitive section of the entire tour. Along this double track road, we will experience a few short, technical sections as we cross a series of drainages. Our route will parallel Muley Twist Canyon to the west and Bullfrog Creek to the east. Once we hit the pavement, our ride is all downhill to Bullfrog Bay, on the shores of Lake Powell. Lake Powell is a 200 mile long manmade lake formed by the controversial damming of the Colorado River. Despite the fact that so much fascinating country now lies underwater, the lake itself is quite beautiful. Along the shoreline, red rock cliffs drop sharply into its clear waters creating a stunning scene. TOTAL MILEAGE: 16 miles
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Variable, dirt roads, broken slickrock, clay, pavement.
Overall Rating: Introductory
Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Physical Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Altitude: 4,000 - 8,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.