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Touring Central Utah on a Motorcycle.

I love to get on my motorcycle and ride I am fortunate enough to live in Utah, which offers many different opportunities from the steep windy mountain roads, to the flat open desert highways, to the scenic beauty of our many national parks. The terrain is vast and varied, and the highways plentiful. If I have a week or just a couple of hours I can't seem to get enough of the wind, the sun, the sound's, the smells, and the bugs.

The mountains of central and northern Utah are some of my favorite places to ride. The Wasatch mountain range runs north to south covering almost all of the central, northern and eastern sections of Utah. From Salt Lake City there are many small canyon roads that lead out of the city and into the mountains. These allow you to climb from the valley floor of 4500 feet above sea level to 9,000 feet above sea level in as few as 30 miles. The roads wind up and out of the valley and into the mountains in almost all directions.

I will describe a few of my favorite places to get away from Salt Lake City for a day ride. Most of these rides are short enough for a good day trip. The 2 rides that go to the Uinta mountains and the Nebo mountain loop are longer and will make for a full day adventure.

The Salt Lake Valley Canyons, are all close to the city and basically head east out of the valley, from north to south they are: Emigration Canyon road, I-80, Mill Creek Canyon road, Big Cottonwood Canyon road, and Little Cottonwood Canyon road. These are all fun short and in some cases very steep canyon adventures. You can make a loop out of Emigration Canyon road, and East Canyon, and or I-80 if you would like. Big Cottonwood Canyon does loop over the top of the mountain into Park City but you get to travel on 2-3 miles of dirt road right at the top of the canyon. Traveling on dirt roads on a big touring motorcycle is an option, but not one I would really recommend if it can be avoided. Mill Creek Canyon road and Little Cottonwood Canyon are dead ends so once you head up the canyon you can expect to return to the same place after the ride.

The High Uinta Mountains:
The Uinta Mountains are located east of Salt Lake City about 80 miles. Getting there you have 2 basic routes, I-80, or highway 189 from Provo, Utah. Take either of these routes with Kamas as the destination. If you choose I-80 go east on I-80 and exit south onto Highway 40, follow this a few miles and exit east onto Highway 248 towards Kamas. If you choose highway 189 from Provo, follow this road into Heber, Utah and turn left onto Highway 40, follow this and exit onto Highway 248 towards Kamas Utah. Once you arrive in Kamas, you have two choices going into the Uintas mountains. The Mirror Lake Highway 150, or the Wolf Creek Pass Highway 35 south of Kamas. Both of these roads are nice long scenic byways into the Uinta mountains. The Mirror Lake Highway goes all the way over the top. If you have time you can continue on to Evanston, Wyoming. Once in Evanston you can take I-80 and loop back South into the Salt Lake Valley. This is nice ride and long enough with a lunch stop to turn your ride into an all day adventure. On the other hand if you take Wolf Creek Pass Highway 35, to make a loop out of it you will end up in either Duchesne, or you can turn south on Highway 208 and meet up with Highway 40 to loop back to Heber, Utah. I have not ever taken Highway 208 so I cannot recommend that. I have been over 35 all the way to Highway 40 in Duchesne so if you go this route I know you will be ok. This will also be a very long day. One other road worth mentioning is highway 32 from Francis back to Highway 40. This is a nice little short cut between Highway 40 and Highway 35 which is Wolf Creek Pass.

The High Mountain Mount Nebo Loop.
This mountain pass is south of Provo about 30 miles, the way I like to drive this loop is from the south end the road loops north over the top of the range and then drops back down into Utah Valley. To make this loop take I-15 south to Nephi, Utah and exit east onto highway 132 follow this east for a few mile then turn left and head north onto the Nebo Loop road. This road winds steeply up to the ridge top of the Nebo Mountains. Once on this road you can follow it for what seem like miles and miles, all the while feeling like you are on top of the world. Like other mountain passes if you have a fear of heights at a few places along the way you want to make sure you are paying attention because the mountain steeply drops off hundreds of feet on the downhill side road.

Spring is a nice time in the mountains, because all the flowers are out and the grasses and trees are bright green with new growth. Summer is a nice time to take a ride in the mountains because it allows you to escape the heat of the valley floors. Fall has a different look and feel to it the grasses are brown and dry, but the trees and leaves are a blaze with bright fall colors, as the trees change colors and the leaves fall off in preparation for the up coming winter. Winter in Utah is not a good time to take a motorcycle tour. The roads are icy, salty, covered in gravel, sand and snow. The Winter temperatures can also be very cold.

One other thing to remember about taking your Harley Davidson motorcycle in the high mountains. Be prepared, with extra warm clothes and some food. I have experienced many days where we leave the valley and it's 100 degrees, only to be rained on and experience wind chill factors in the low 30 and 40's at 10,000 feet. If you are not prepared with an extra set of warm clothes or leather gear in your saddle bags it can be an extremely long and possibly dangerous ride back home. One day about 100 bikers spent well over and hour at the High Uinta Forest Ranger District Information Center. They had all taken a day ride and got caught in massive rain storm, not being prepare for winter weather made for a serious and cold environment. Most of the people on the ride were forced to just wait out the rain in the tiny Rnger Station.

That sums up a few of the nice canyon touring rides around Salt Lake City. It certainly is not all the roads available, It is basically the fun roads south of I-80 in Northern Utah. For more nice day rides in Southern and Central Utah stay tuned or check my web site for more information. As always Ride-safe

Ian Parish is an avid motorcyclists and jeeper and has been for the past 20 years. He jumped into building a custom chopper full force and is assembling the parts and the plan, on his web site MyChopperBlog.com. Check out the web site to learn about building a chopper or to lend a hand. He needs all the help he can get. He is the owner of www.RedJeepClub.com and www.MyChopperBlog.com




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