Canyonlands National Park 2010

(Mountain biking in The Maze district - October 2010)

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Trip report

I had a fun five-day mountain biking trip to The Maze district of Canyonlands National Park with my Dad, uncle Ken, and some of my dadís friends from southern Utah and southwest Washington.

The Maze is the least accessible district of Canyonlands, and its roads require high-clearance four-wheel-drive (map marked with areas we rode).  The nearest paved road is more than 45 miles away form the Hans Flat Ranger Station, where you check in and pick up your permit, and there are no amenities once you enter the park (no food, no water, no gasoline and no toilets - we had to pack it all in and out).  My uncle Ken drove a 4x4 truck as a support vehicle to haul our food, water and gear as we rode 15-35 miles a day to wonderfully remote campsites (there are only nine campsites in an area well over 100 square miles).  The roads were originally built in a quest for discovering uranium during the Cold War (1950ís), and because the roads were present when the area became a national park in 1964, the U.S. Park Service allows a limited number of people to access the remote area on a backcountry permit basis.  My dad had to get the permit six months out and organized the logistics of the trip with his buddies.  Donít you just love it when your parents grow up and invite you on their backcountry trips!

The biking itself was a blast going downhill and brutal going up.  Downhill sections varied, with my snowboarding background helping with the slick rock, banked corners, compression washes, and staying balanced as deep sand and loose rocks caused the bike to drift in unexpected ways.  Going uphill was a long slog, with my lack of endurance shining through.  Although my dad and his buddies are in their 60s-70s, they are all avid road cyclists and in excellent condition. Bill (70) just completed his eleventh Ironman Triathlon (yes thatís a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride followed by a full 26.2 mile marathon).  Jim just won his age group in the overall cycling competition (three events) at the Huntsman Senior Games.  John, the strongest biker of our group, has had a remarkable climbing career, with one of his notable summits being Ama Dablam in Nepal among other feats (I truly wish I could have heard more about his climbing adventures).  Dave, who just finished second in his age group in the mountain bike downhill competition at the Huntsman Senior Games, gave me some useful tips to help my technique.  And my dad put me to shame every time we came across an extended uphill section.

We fell into a nice routine over the course of the trip, with mornings spent cooking, eating and cleaning up breakfast, then breaking down camp followed by loading the truck and hitting the trail.  We would ride for a couple of hours before meeting up with uncle Ken at a picturesque spot to eat lunch.  After riding for a couple more hours we would pull into camp, unpack and set up, cook, eat and clean up dinner, then go to bed - all to be repeated the following day.  Good times!

It had been years since I had visited the Utah desert, and I came away with a renewed appreciation of the unique sandstone geological features, ancient Anasazi Indians, stark beauty and utter solitude.  I canít wait to explore other corners of the desert southwest!

Thanks again to Tai for letting me borrow his awesome full suspension bike!

Photos from the trip:  Click here for the gallery view, or here for a slideshow view. 


Travel links

Trips from the last two years    Interactive travel map



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