Mary and I did our first bike tour with Lizard Head in May 2013. It was called Redrock Canyons and was in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. In six days we covered 474 miles, including two centuries, with 30,200 ft of climbing. There were three other guests – Bob, Mary Ellen, and Charlie from Florida – and two guides – Joe and Chuck.
We had unusual, unsettled weather. On each of the last five days there was alternating sun and precipitation of some sort. Day 2 was the hardest. Not only was it long, but we had 40 miles of light rain into a headwind with the temperature in the low 40s. On the last day we briefly biked with hail stones pounding on our helmets and carpeting the road!
Here is the itinerary for the tour.
Day 1 (Sunday, May 5): Fruita -> east side of Colorado National Monument + Unaweep Canyon -> Gateway (62 miles & 4,600 ft of climbing) Day 2 (Monday, May 6): Gateway -> Dove Creek (113 mi & 6,200 ft in under 12 hours), the Queen Stage and the longest that we had ever ridden! Day 3 (Tuesday, May 7): Dove Creek -> Bluff (86 miles & 3,500 ft of climbing) Day 4 (Wednesday, May 8): Blanding <-> Salvation Knoll (49 mi & 5,200 ft), a “rest day” ride Day 5 (Thursday, May 9): Bluff -> Monument Valley (57 miles & 4,900 ft of climbing) Day 6 (Friday, May 10): Monument Valley -> Hite (107 mi & 6,000 ft in under 10 hours), another century ride!
Photos and commentary follow.
Day1: Sunday, May 5. After a short shuttle from Grand Junction, Mary and I are ready to start biking in Fruita. Soon we enter Colorado National Monument via the west entrance. We climb these switchbacks to reach the rim of the canyon. We follow Rim Rock Drive and eventually get to this great view of Independence Monument. This closeup of Independence Monument shows two climbers on the ledge just below the summit on the left! After lunch near the east entrance of the Monument, we do another shuttle to Unaweep Canyon. Many years ago it contained a river, but now there are just two creeks which are separated by this gentle divide. We continue biking to Gateway, where we spend the night at the fancy Gateway Canyons Resort (not this log cabin). The Palisade is the prominent butte in the background.
Day 2: Monday, May 6. Mary leaves Gateway just after dawn with the Palisade in the background. We get an early start for this Queen Stage of the tour. We follow the Delores River upstream for miles and eventually get to this overlook. When we get to the junction with the San Miguel River, we follow it upstream. We have lunch in Naturita, after which we ride for 40 miles through cold rain! Eventually we reach the Delores River again and dry off. We cross the river there at Slick Rock and warm up as we climb on our way to Dove Creek, where we spend the night.
Day 3: Tuesday, May 7. John Humphries, the owner of Lizard Head, joins us briefly during our wet start from Dove Creek. After the rain stops, we have this view of Sleeping Ute Mountain across the sagebrush of the Colorado Plateau. We cross into Utah and enter Hovenweep National Monument. It contains the ruins of several prehistoric villages scattered across multiple sites. This ruin is called the Stronghold House. Mary and I pose in our cold-weather biking attire. After lunch we continue west to a rest stop at the Hatch Trading Post. Here Chuck and Joe stand by the trailer that hauls our luggage and food. Mary climbs up from the trading post with the Sleeping Ute in the background. We ride to Bluff, where we spend the night.
Day 4: Wednesday, May 8. Mary, Charlie, Joe, and I decide to do an out-and-back bike ride on our “rest day”. After a shuttle
to Blanding, we bike over Comb Ridge. Here Joe whizzes downhill from the road cut in the ridge. We stop for a break at the Mule Canyon ruins. We turn around at Salvation Knoll dressed in our cold- and wet-weather attire. The weather finally clears as we go back through the road cut in Comb Ridge. After we shuttle back from Blanding to Bluff, we find Chuck fixing a BBQ dinner for us!
Day 5: Thursday, May 9. We leave Bluff and bike one last time over Comb Ridge in the distance. We see four wild burros on today’s ride. We stop for a break at this stunning overlook of the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. We follow famous US 163 to Monument Valley. We stop for lunch near the top of the climb and wait for the weather to clear. This thunderstorm is pouring rain over the park at the end of our ride. After waiting out the storm, we bike to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which is just across the border in Arizona. This is the spectacular view of the Mittens and Merrick Butte from our room at the View Hotel!
Day 6: Friday, May 10. We retrace part of our route from the day before and go past famous Mexican Hat back in Utah. We bike across the Valley of the Gods and are awed by the formidable escarpment of Cedar Mesa, which awaits us ahead. This sign advises us of the steep gravel road ahead. Called the Moki Dugway, it was built in the 1950s for trucks hauling uranium and vanadium ore down from the mesa. We do the 1,200 ft climb on our road bikes. The road switchbacks above and to the right of the sign! We are treated to this awesome view down the switchbacks and across the valley from the top of the climb. The road is straight and gently rolling on top of Cedar Mesa. The La Sal Mountains in the distance have new snow from the recent storms. We stop for lunch by the van one last time at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Soon after we leave, a black cloud passes overhead, and hailstones pound on our helmets and cover the road! We bike west through the spectacular scenery of the future Bears Ears National Monument with the Henry Mountains in the distance. Mary and I celebrate the end of a terrific tour on our bikes by the bridge over the Colorado River at Hite! We then do a long shuttle back to Grand Junction.