Three of Salt Lake’s Best Canyon Bike Rides


While mountain adventures abound in the Salt Lake Valley, beautiful canyons are everywhere, and are just as great for local recreation. If you like to breathe hard and enjoy great views, road biking up some of the Salt Lake area’s nearby canyons is a must-do for great views and tired legs.

City Creek Canyon

14 miles out and back, ~1450ft. elevation gain

At just three miles from downtown, City Creek Canyon is one of the most accessible rides in Salt Lake City. Starting at Memory Grove Park, the road climbs up the winding, rolling road for 3.2 miles until you reach the water treatment plant. For the next 2.6 miles, the road narrows and gets a little rougher, until you reach “The Grotto” picnic area at Rotary Park at the top. Because the canyon is well-forested, there’s great foliage in the fall, and the canyon is continuously shaded and cool in the summer. Just because this route is close to the city and one of the most widely used roads for runners, walkers and cyclists, the climb is not to be underestimated. It’s not wildly steep, but a long steady uphill with few to no flat spots – City Creek Canyon will have you breathing hard right out of the gate. If you want to get in a workout but don’t have much time, this ride takes anywhere between one and two hours, depending on your penchant for the continuous uphill grind. Keep in mind that while the downhill is a fun reward, the speed limit is 15 mph in order to keep all users safe amongst the many blind corners.


Emigration Canyon

16 miles out and back, ~1300ft. elevation gain

Next to City Creek, Emigration is probably the second most accessible canyon ride from downtown Salt Lake and is often touted as one of the best rides in the area. At about 16 miles round-trip from the This is The Place Monument to Little Mountain Summit at the top of the canyon, the winding road offers great down-canyon views and the occasional wildlife sighting along the way — if you’re lucky. The climb here is a gradual grind that can be great for training, or if you’re just up for a fun climb that isn’t too killer. You can look forward to the reward of great views at the top, and a stop at the famous Ruth’s Diner on the way down. Cyclists from all over the valley come to ride Emigration, and because it’s such a well-known ride, most locals driving Emigration know to look out for bikes on their way up and down, which, in addition to the extra-wide shoulder makes this ride feel a lot less exposed and dangerous.


Big Cottonwood Canyon

30 miles out and back, ~4100ft. elevation gain

Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the longest rideable canyons in the area, and while it’s a tough, steep uphill grind, it’s certainly not as difficult as the ride up Little Cottonwood — in terms of climbs in the Cottonwoods “Big is little and Little is big!” The grade here is consistent and tough, and if you’re not acclimated to the elevation, you’ll certainly feel it on this ride. Starting from the mouth of the canyon, the ride is about 15 miles up to Brighton ski area. There are three main steep sections that show up at about 2 miles in, 4 miles in at the S Curve, and just before Solitude at the Silver Fork Lodge. The road is well-maintained, has a good shoulder, and there are often great wildlife sightings along the way. Dramatic views down-canyon, as well as of the canyon walls and a couple of lakes all the way up make the leg burn worth it, but be mindful of unpredictable drivers in the s-curves. Because Big Cottonwood is home to numerous trailheads and parking lots all the way up the road, you’ll need to look out for people and cars who generally forget to watch for bikes. After you’ve soaked in the beautiful views from the top and had a chance to catch your breath, enjoy the beautiful 15-mile downhill. And be sure to remember to bring a windbreaker to beat the post-sweat chill on the way down!