Exploring Zion via Bike


What a better way to experience Zion National Park than on a bike? On this U-Explore course, a group of students including myself signed up to spend the weekend biking in this southern Utah desert paradise. U-Explore courses offered by the University allow students to earn two untraditional credits through a weekend in the outdoors. From climbing lessons, to backpacking, to canyoneering, and even backcountry cooking, these PRT (Parks, Recreation, and Tourism) courses allow for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, curious new folks, and everyone in-between, to explore the Utah landscapes through outdoor recreation. As a PRT major myself, I can’t get enough of these trips. Not only does it allow me to experience Utah through my favorite outdoor activities, but also meet people who I never would’ve known and bond over a common passion. I originally signed up for these courses to gain technical skills in outdoor recreation and explore the new home I was making in Utah. Since I’m from the east coast, I had only seen the vast landscape of Utah through photos, and I was more than eager to see these spaces for myself. The U-Explore courses have provided students the ability to get involved in the outdoors and create a sense of place.  

On this specific trip, the itinerary was to meet at a trailhead outside of Virgin, UT and mountain bike Friday afternoon before heading to camp inside Zion National Park. After the  first ride over dusty, red rolling hills, spirits were high, and bonds were already forming. We  drove 40 minutes to Springdale (the town outside of Zion), and were left speechless as we arrived at the park with the evening’s golden hour highlighting the towering red rock above. We set up camp and bundled up around the fire after cooking our dinners, listening to presentations on biking-related subjects. A common component of these courses is presenting about a topic or writing a paper to share with the rest of the class, so you not only acquire physical skills, but knowledge about the activity and the land. Some topics included wildlife specific to Zion, iconic bike competitions, common injuries, and trail maintenance. Connecting the knowledge that comes with the sport is incredibly important in promoting responsible recreators and U Explore instructors do a great job at teaching these values.  

The schedule on Saturday was jammed packed with adventure. We started off the day with a late morning road ride up the eight-mile-long canyon to the Narrows hike. We walked along the river to the start of this recognizable trail, passing other visitors and chatting with classmates about the natural beauty in front of us. We road all the way back down the canyon, getting passed by tour busses filled to the brim, stopping to look at wildlife like deer and turkeys, and even spotted a couple rock climbers on the big walls. After getting back to camp, we ate lunch then packed up to head 30-minutes west of the park to go on a technical trail ride on slickrock. We biked atop the rocky mesa for a couple hours with the western rim of Zion in view, bouncing up and down over sandstone features. We made our way back to the park and cooked up dinner as the Milky Way unveiled itself. To end the night, we cozied up around the firepit and played cards until the activities of the day caught up to us and we fell asleep.  

Sunday morning, we broke down our tents and said our goodbyes while a young deer buck moseyed around the camp. The beauty of the weekend was not only amplified by the places we were riding through, but the people who brought their unique spirit, stories, and  compassion. U-Explore courses are an amazing way to connect with fellow University students and create lifelong memories in beautiful Utah landscapes.