Bike Ride of the Month: Woodland Beauty
Climb Millcreek canyon for fall splendor.
by Shane Farver As the mornings turn crisp and the days grow shorter, Mill Creek canyon beckons. Located at the top of 3800 South, the canyon offers miles of deciduous trees that are right now bursting with color.
But no matter what the time of year, Mill Creek Canyon has many charms for the road cyclist. The canyon offers a moderate climb with a few steep sections and winds more than nine miles to the top through awe-inspiring scenery.
To get there, take Wasatch Drive to 3800 South and follow it east. You will eventually come to a fee station. Bicyclists don’t have to pay.
Soon the meandering creek will appear on the right, cascading over moss-covered rocks. Tree canopies shade much of the road, offering respite from sun, but a chilly descent. Bring sleeves or a windbreaker for your return.
Trailheads, picnic sites and scout camps dot the landscape as you climb the first four miles of the road, which vary from moderately steep inclines to rolling sections.
A gate marks the beginning of the upper section of Mill Creek. In winter, the gate is closed and that section of the road transforms into a cross-country skiing track.
Past the gate, the road continues to the Elbow Fork entrance of the Pipeline Trail. Just past Elbow Fork, the vegetation changes dramatically to lush green carpets, towering pines and distant peaks. The road also narrows.
Many motorists who drive Mill Creek canyon are used to sharing the road with cyclists. However, be cautious and hug the shoulder, especially in the narrow sections.
As you pass the Thousand Springs sign, prepare for some of the steepest grades of the journey. You may occasionally be required to hammer on those pedals, but not for long. A rider with a good fitness base shouldn’t struggle much.
Your climb comes to an end once you’ve reached the parking lot for the Upper Big Water Trail. Now for the descent: The steep grade, particularly at the beginning, lends itself to speed. Be careful. The slopes spill rocks into the road; that could mean curtains should you hit one.
For the 23-mile version of this ride, start at the road on the east border of Hogle Zoo then head south. Turn right on Wasatch Drive and follow it to Thunderbird Drive.
The ride now becomes a bit unorthodox. Ride the sidewalk on the east side of Foothill Drive. That’s right, the sidewalk. Shortly, it will become a shared-use path that travels above Interstate 215. When you reach the section that heads either toward Parley’s Canyon or west back over I-215, head toward Parley’s Canyon. This will actually cut south and connect back to Wasatch Drive. The road then curves down on 3300 South, where you can turn left onto a bike lane and continue on Wasatch Drive until you reach 3800 South. Then head east. u
When he’s not teaching, you can find Shane riding his bikes and getting dirty in the Utah desert.