Kearney NE to St. George UT tour- Advice needed - CycleBlaze

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Kearney NE to St. George UT tour- Advice needed

Bill Giffin

Taking this question from Kelly Iniguez's forum post and starting a new thread. I'm planning to do a credit card tour from Kearney NE to St. George UT in late August-early September.  I have toured from home (Kearney) to Breckenridge, Estes, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Buena Vista on two separate tours, so that area I'm pretty good with.  It's points west/southwest that I'm wanting some recommendations on. Or even a more southern initial direction from home. I'm open to anything.  My mileage per day would probably range between 140 on flatland, to 80 in the mountains.  I love climbing passes (type II fun) and am open to limestone type trails.  I don't especially care for gravel, but I've pedaled  my share of it when need be. Thanks in advance!

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2 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezTo Bill Giffin

Bill,

This is a fun assignment. There are many good roads. It's hard to choose. You can always come back for more another time! Overnight locations can be adjusted to suit, if miles/elevation gain aren't sufficient for you. I wasn't sure of your time frame . .  . here's my first thought.

I went for big climbs, small towns. I'm thinking with those miles, you aren't looking for night life?

See the first map below, to go with this commentary:

Day 1- features a climb into the Wet Mountains from the plains. I would stay at Westcliffe, but have you continuing on to Salida. 

Day 2- An excellent climb over the recently paved Cottonwood Pass. If you don't put this ride in your top ten, there is no hope! 

Day 3 - Highway 92 remains my favorite road, vistas, no traffic, climbing. What's not to like? Note that road construction has forced traffic onto Hwy 92 - I'm hoping that is not true for 2022. 

Day 4- This day has the crown jewel for any Colorado cyclist - the ride over Grand Mesa. It's almost a requirement!

Day 5 - You finish the day with the climb over Colorado National Monument, once a stage of the Coors Classic Bicycle race. Keep your camera out! The correct finish for your day is Fruita (small color coding error).

Day 6 - This will be a climbing rest day, and a chance to put on the miles. Hope that the west wind is kind. I'm not sure what I think of my routing you around Moab, but I do believe you will want to ride the giant climb on the La Sal Loop.

Day 7 - You do like wind shaped red rocks? That's why everyone comes to southern Utah. Your overnight by the river is a find, and worth the back tracking to ride La Sal.

Day 8 - Did I say small towns and open spaces? Self sufficiency is important for the next couple of days. You are now in Navajo Nation. Today is Monument Valley! These will be the best photos of your tour. Maybe. That's a big statement.

Day 9 - I have not ridden this day. It's a bit on the far side of my fun factor. More Navajo Nation, with big, open spaces.

Day 10 - This is a big mile day with a downhill finish. It's just what you ordered!

You need to make your own way to Pueblo. The different colors show different riding days.

The following map shows an alternate ending. I would love to ride the route through Bullfrog, but I don't have the legs do ride it in one day. A very important component is confirming the water taxi across Lake Powell. If you can't arrange that, this route is trash. 

If you are willing to double and triple confirm the water taxi, and really, really find pleasure in riding the big empty, this is your route. Red rocks everywhere, featuring the crown jewel of summiting  Devil's Backbone at mile 235 of the trip.

There are many good roads to choose from. I hope more people will chime in with their favorites! 

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2 weeks ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly Iniguez

Hi Kelly,

I of course defer to your knowledge of riding conditions in the Western USA, but I do have a question about your "Bill's Strong Finish" route. How about taking Utah-95 all the way from Blanding to Hanksville if the water taxi is unavailable? I did that in 2013, and I think it's one of the two or three most scenic rides I've ever done. Hite Recreation Area was a reasonable distance from Blanding. I don't remember any other services at all between Blanding and Hanksville, though.

Is the route through Bullfrog even more spectacular? If so, I definitely need to try that someday.

Jeff

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2 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezTo Jeff Lee

Jeff


I have been looking at the Blanding/Hite route for myself for 2022.  Key, for a credit card tour is the RV rentals at Hite Marina. I have been told availability is dependent on having cleaning help, which they won’t know until last moment. If you are willing to tent camp, that’s not an issue. 

The next choice to traverse the stunning area is the Bullfrog route. I reluctantly decided I’m not capable of the miles/climbing without breaking the day up. Bill is capable! Perhaps I can bicycle vicariously with him, or you!

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2 weeks ago
Henry DaltonTo Bill Giffin

I agree with all of Kelly's route in Colorado; I've ridden some of it (Cottonwood Pass, CO92, Colorado National Monument) and it is indeed spectacular. If you're not rushed for time, I'd suggest doing the full La Sal Loop and finishing in Moab, then staying there two or three nights and doing out-and-back rides to Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point. 

Here's how I'd cross from Blanding to St. George. From Blanding to Bullfrog, the roads are really desolate with very little traffic and great scenery. There's no water unless you take a side trip to Natural Bridges. There are three ways to cross from Halls Crossing to Bullfrog. One is the ferry, but it doesn't run when the water level is low (they stopped running it the day before I got there last May). The second is the water taxi, which is a much smaller boat and should be able to keep running at any water level. It was about $35 if I remember right. The third option would be to hitchhike across on someone's boat. Not as many people put in on the Halls Crossing side, so I don't know how long you'd have to wait for that to work.

From Bullfrog to Boulder, you could take Kelly's route via Hanksville and Torrey, or the Burr Trail, which I've mapped. The Burr Trail (which is a road, despite the name) has a few miles of gravel, but it's good-quality; I had no problem riding it on 35 mm road tires. The Burr Trail had remarkably little traffic when I rode it in May. Either route has spectacular scenery. 

More great scenery, and relatively little traffic, from Boulder to Bryce. If you have time, I'd recommend spending two nights in Bryce and either riding out and back into Bryce Canyon or taking the shuttle bus and doing some short hikes.

From Bryce to Cedar City, I'd recommend going via Cedar Breaks National Monument. It has scenery like Bryce Canyon, but you'll have it all to yourself. 

From Cedar City to St. George, I suggest going via Snow Canyon State Park (as did Kelly). The geology isn't quite as large in scale as earlier in the trip, but it's still quite beautiful.

The obvious alternative would be to go from Bryce to St. George via Zion National Park instead of Cedar City. Zion is very, very crowded, and I think by then you will have seen similar scenery in places that you've had all to yourself. So Zion wouldn't be my first choice.

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2 weeks ago
Henry DaltonTo Jeff Lee

Jeff, I rode UT95 from Blanding to Hanksville, and Burr Trail/UT276 from Boulder to Blanding. UT95 has lots of big red cliffs; Burr Trail has more intimate brushy canyons, while UT276 has bleak desolate emptiness. If there were an objective way to measure scenicness, I'd think they'd measure out to be exactly the same. As you know, UT95 doesn't have a lot of traffic, but Burr Trail/UT276 has even less. Clearly the only thing for Bill to do is a loop that includes both routes.

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2 weeks ago
Henry DaltonTo Bill Giffin

Bill, for Kelly's route via northern Arizona, you might want to go from Blanding to Mexican Hat via UT261 (which includes the "Moki Dugway"). I haven't ridden it, but it sounds great. If you do, be sure to take the side trip to Gooseneck State Park, which I have seen and highly recommend. 

US160 west of Kayenta is pretty hellish; lots of traffic, and a shoulder that has the rumble strip badly placed. You might want to stay in Kayenta and then get going at the crack of dawn. You could get off US160 at AZ561 and go to Navajo National Monument, which is well worth seeing, then take the good-quality gravel road through Shonto. AZ98 to Page has pleasant open desolate scenery and little traffic, but it's not spectacular. 

From Page, you could go south on US89 (another highway with a crappy shoulder and lots of traffic) and then take US89A (much better) and go south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Then from Fredonia, you have the choice of going north via Zion, which is pretty nice but crowded, or west via AZ389, a route I don't know anything about (except the creepy polygamist cult in Hilldale/Colorado City).

Having ridden across southern Utah twice and northern Arizona once, my slight preference would be for Utah, but any route you choose in that general area will be amazing. (Actually, my recommendation would be that you ride across Utah, then come back across Arizona, then take a different route back across Utah. You might not have time for that, I suppose.)

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2 weeks ago
Karen CookTo Henry Dalton

Henry I am getting goosebumps.  I have not thought about the Moki Dugway for years but all day I was thinking about it, wanting to go back someday and wild camp along the rim someplace.  Weird!

The only thing I will change is to go in September or October.  It was blazing hot when I did it in summer.

The Moki Dugway is an enthusiastic yes!

My Day on the Moki Dugway...

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2 weeks ago
Bill GiffinTo Kelly Iniguez

Thanks Kelly!  I'll take a bit to fully digest this and then probably have some questions.  Off hand, I plan to come up with a few different plans, including a there-and-back, in event I have enough time to do a round trip.  Most of my late summer tours have ended early, due to harvest (I farm for a living) starting early or an extended irrigation season before that.  If I can leave home by the end of August, I could have a few weeks. That would be pretty cool.

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2 weeks ago
Bill GiffinTo Henry Dalton

Thanks Henry! I'm taking a little time to look over your recommendations.  It helps me to pull out a paper map, use google and the white pages for service possibilities and get a plan. Great thing to do when the temps are 5° outside!

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2 weeks ago