Ogden to Provo, Utah: Car, Bus, Train, and Bikes!
Antsy to get out and tour one last time before the snow flew, we were looking for someplace within reasonable driving distance of home in Denver with dry weather and plenty of amenities. When Pete first suggested Utah, I was skeptical, thinking it was all about mountain biking. Sure looks that way when you Google "bicycling and Utah." But after some map-studying and conversations with bike/ped coordinators, we settled on the Salt Lake Valley, from Ogden to Provo.
There are almost 100 miles of bike paths completed or nearly completed along the Ogden/Salt Lake/Provo corridor. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Rail Trail runs about 23 miles from Ogden to Farmington, following an old railroad grade. According to Wikipedia, when the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway (D&RG) was chartered in 1870, the goal of organizers was connecting Denver with El Paso, Texas. But when its narrow-gauge line reached Raton Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico border in 1878, the company learned that the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad had already claimed the best route across arid New Mexico. After a prolonged and expensive battle, in 1880 the companies came to a compromise, and — under the direction of Gen. William J. Palmer, a Union veteran of the Civil War — the D&RG took aim at Salt Lake City instead of El Paso.
In Farmington, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Rail Trail connects seamlessly to the Legacy Parkway Trail, 14 miles long, which took us into downtown Salt Lake. The ride from Ogden to Salt Lake is great, just one short gap on a road and a very strange railroad crossing (marked by no trespassing signs, but easily negotiated). The pavement looks to be brand new, at least on the DRGW Trail, and it's also in terrific shape on the Legacy Parkway Trail. In Salt Lake, we hooked up with the Jordan River Parkway Trail, which still had some poorly marked gaps and detours, but is slated for completion soon. The Jordan River trail took us to Utah Lake, about 15 miles out of downtown Provo. We cycled into Provo on State Street (Highway 89), which was not exactly scenic, but nice and wide and adequate for cycling.
The Jordan River corridor is quite scenic, following the river with its wild areas yet not far from city amenities. It sorely needed signing when we were there, so take a few maps of the trail and the cities — Lehi, Orem, American Fork, Pleasant Grove. They all run into each other and seem like one city, but they can be difficult to navigate due to Utah's unusual address numbering system. Each town has its own system, based on distance north-south and east-west of the city's Mormon temple — e.g., 2000 North 4000 East — and, consequently, you'll find a lot of similarly named streets from town to town.
Tip for this adventure: A real bonus for this trip is the terrific public transportation on the corridor via the Utah Transit Authority. We left our car in Provo and took a bus to the light rail line in Sandy, which took us to the downtown Salt Lake station, where we boarded the commuter train to Ogden to start our tour.
Favorite local bike shop: Back home, my favorite is Cycleton Denver.