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Zion's splendors by bike.

Routes are easy to challenging. You can rent bikes near the park

Nature's ability to sculpt stone into fantastic forms reveals itself in full splendor in Utah's Zion National Park. Most visitors see the park while driving along the several roads that wind through Zion's canyons to its upper reaches. But views restricted by car windows don't compare to the unobstructed, open-air vistas you get when touring the park by bicycle.

Starting from the south visitor center, take an easy day-long ride into Zion Canyon. Or choose a more challenging route up to plateaus of eroded sandstone.

Bicyclists exploring Zion Canyon often rest by the Virgin River or in shaded picnic areas. Short hikes reach enchanting spots such as Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and the springs and gardens along the Gateway to the Narrows Trail; this route leads to where the canyon's walls close to hallway width. Signed trailheads point you in the right direction. Most trailheads and picnic areas have bike racks. Locks, helmets, and extra water bottles are recommended.

A free biking brochure and a park map (25 cents) are available at the three entrance stations and two visitor centers.

The map details the four park roads that can be biked: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Kolob Canyons Road, Kolob Terrace Road, and Zion Mount Carmel Highway (State 9). It also shows the route to Grafton, a nearby ghost town. All park trails are closed to bicyclists.

The brochure offers valuable tips on hotweather cycling and on how to arrange a mandatory escort (provided free by the park or self-arranged with your own vehicle) through two unlit tunnels on the Zion Mount Carmel road.

Spring temperatures in Zion range from the 60s to 80s during the day, 30s to 50s at night; rainfall averages about an inch a month. In summer the thermometer can climb into the high 90s. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive climbs only about 500 feet over 6 miles from the south visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava, a massive rock formation.

Following tbe Virgin River, you ride past thick stands of cottonwood, box elder, willow, and ash, with a full view of the canyon's sheer walls and multicolored monoliths.You'll see springtime bloom of sand buttercups, Indian paintbrushes, violets, orchids, and lilies.

Feeling energetic? Three challenges

On three higher routes, you'll see juniper, pinon, live oak, manzanita, ponderosa pine, white and Douglas firs, quaking aspen. Kolob Canyons Road starts at the Kolob Canyons visitor center and heads over Lee Pass to a view point and picnic area, gaining some 1,250 feet in elevation over 5 miles. To reach Lava Point from the south visitor center, ride (or, better, drive) away from the park 13 miles on shoulderless State 9 to Virgin. Here take Kolob Terrace Road, which sees little traffic, back into the park and ascend some 4,000 feet over 24 miles (the last 2 miles are gravel road). Zion-Mount Carmel Highway starts 1 mile ftom the south visitor center and ascends to the east entrance, gaining 1,700 feet over 11 miles. One note of caution: park roads lack paved shoulders. Keep a sharp eye on car and motor home traffic. Traffic on Zion Scenic Drive and Zion-Mount Carmel Highway can be heavy now through October; the best times to ride are early morning and late afternoon.

Sturdy, one-speed "cruisers" can be rented from Zion Bikes (operated by Red Rock Rosey's, an antiques shop in Springdale, just outside the south entrance). Rental costs $3 an hour, $10 a day (including helmet). For reservations, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Zion Bikes, Red Rock Rosey's, Box 383, Springdale 84767; (801) 772-3857.

For overnight expeditions

Four operators include the park in vansupported tours of southern Utah and northern Arizona, now through September. Costs, including camping or lodging, range from $75 to $119 a day. Write or call for brochures. Backcountry Bicycle Tours, Box 4029, Bozeman, Mont. 59772; (406) 586-3556. Backroads Bicycle Touring, Box 1626, San Leandro, Calif. 94577; (415) 895-1783, (800) 533-2573 outside California. On the Loose, 1030 Merced St., Berkeley 94707; (415) 5274005, (800) 346-6712 outside California. Timberline Bicycle Tours, 3261 S. Oneida Way, Denver 80224; (303) 759-3804. The south visitor center is open daily from 8 to dusk. Park admission (valid for seven days) is $5 a car and $2 for bicyclists. Two campgrounds have sites ($6 per night) available on a first-dome basis. For more details, write or call Zion National Park, Springdale 84767; (801) 772-3256. Zion Lodge, in the heart of the canyon, offers accommodations now through early November. For reservations, write to Utah Parks Division, TW Recreational Services, Box 400, Cedar City 84720, or call (801) 586-7686.
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Title Annotation:Zion National Park, Utah
Date:May 1, 1989
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