Cruise up City Creek canyon for a quick retreat from town.
by Shane Farver
Salt Lake City is heralded for its easy access to outdoor opportunities and City Creek Canyon is a big reason for such accolades. Located just east of State Street off of North Temple, City Creek offers a tree-shaded ride near the heart of downtown.
In summer, bicycles ride on only odd-numbered days. The tradeoff is no cars to deal with. From October through Memorial Day weekend, however, the trail is open daily to bikes.
Enter the canyon by taking a left off Canyon Road, just off North Temple east of State Street. Pedal past a gate and into Memory Grove Park. Here, you’ll begin to hear City Creek whisper its history.
The creek has both a life-giving and destructive past. In 1847, it served as a water source for Mormon pioneers. In 1983, it wrought destruction in downtown Salt Lake City when it flooded the streets. Currently, City Creek provides water to much of the northern part of the city.
As you wind your way up the canyon, tree canopies cool the path; bring a light jacket. In the sun-baked sections, you might notice a tarantula skittering across your path or sunflowers speckling the hillsides.
How crowded City Creek gets depends upon the time of your ride. Its proximity to downtown guarantees a glut of cyclists, runners and other recreationists during the evenings and weekends. However, if you’re lucky enough to catch a midday ride during the week, you can have the road almost to yourself.
City Creek Canyon also offers a sight seldom seen on other rides: plentiful restrooms. They’re pit toilets, granted, but they’re better than behind a tree.
Conditions vary from smooth to bumpy and pothole-pecked. The first few miles of the ride are undulating hills and flat sections, well paved. Take note of a section of the path that curves into a gate and onto a road. Instead of following the gate, keep straight and take a narrow path toward the upper section of the canyon.
Once you reach a water treatment plant on the righthand side, the road narrows and steepens. Expect to get out of the saddle and grind up some of the steeper sections. Debris can also litter this section more than the bottom part. The top of the canyon, Rotary Park, is a loop that points you back downhill. Many people find the park a nice place to lock up their bike to hike further up the canyon.
When cruising downhill, be aware of sticks, rocks, potholes, pedestrians, dogs and other cyclists, lest your lunch-break ride turn into a snapped collarbone or something worse. In 2008, a retired University of Utah professor suffered a spinal cord injury after colliding with another cyclist in the canyon.
In some of the smoother sections of the descent, lean into snaking turns and sharpen your skills as you make your way back to the beginning. You’re going to have to hit the brakes sometime, though. The 15 m.p.h. speed limit applies to bikes, and its enforcement is on the rise.
You can find Shane riding his bikes and getting dirty in the Utah desert.