Canyonlands National Park has some of the best terrain for mountain biking. Our plan was to enter the southeast portion of the park in an area called The Needles. We heard that there were some amazing areas to mountain bike but we thought the best option would be to ask one of the park rangers upon entering the park. As we reached the park entrance and shared some details with the ranger, she told us that the best mountain biking was a 4×4 road (marked below in yellow)that leads to an overlook of the Colorado River. She noted that, while this road was some of the best mountain biking in the park, it was not heavily traveled by bikers. This really got us excited because we do not prefer fighting crowds of people. With too many people in an area you lose the serenity and peacefulness of the experience.
We parked in the Needles Visitors Center parking lot and prepped our bikes for the 16-mile round trip trek. We were not quite sure what to expect but by just looking at where this dirt road was heading… it looked unreal.
The first thing I noticed (other than the phenomenal horizon) was that the sand road was packed really well from the 4×4’s. This made riding on it very easy. There were definitely areas where it wasn’t packed as well and it made pedaling a bit harder… but there were only small stretches in which this was the case. In the first quarter mile Patrick thought he forgot to lock the van so he rode back to lock it. That enabled me to do some climbing around while he was gone.
The eight mile journey to the Colorado River overlook took us a few hours. Not because it was a slow ride but that we stopped so many times to look at the views. To our left at on point in the journey there was an amazing rock area on which to ride around, again with amazing views.
The immense canyon area was getting closer and it seemed as if we were getting close to the end. We stopped to take in the view on this 75 degree day and to also have a bite to eat. We didn’t know that we still had a couple of miles to the end and some of the roughest trail to still cover. If you ever take this road it would be advised to take a bike with shocks. Your entire body will thank you.
The final stretch was primarily rock with cairns leading the way. It was not a particularly tough stretch to navigate but the rocks were so pock-marked that it felt as if we where riding jack hammers. A mile of that really takes a toll on wrists and shoulders, even with shocks. The payoff of the trail was a breath-taking view high above the Colorado River. The drop off was about 2500 feet and all you could do was stare at it and take it all in. There were four other bikers at the overlook- two couples (a father and son and their wives). The father and mother were in their mid-60’s and completely impressed us with their sense of adventure. This was not an easy eight-mile road by any stretch of the imagination… so they certainly had our admiration.
The 4×4 road leading to the Colorado River Overlook in The Needles area of Canyonlands National Park is unbelievable. Of all the trips I have taken and activities of which I have participated, this ranks at the very top of my list in term of how much fun I had. The views are picturesque. The road is diverse and challenging. And the payoff is an awesome stretch of canyon overlooks. The experience is nothing short of spiritual. It is just you and creation. Nothing else. If you are in Utah… don’t miss this opportunity.