Salt Lake City has a nearly perfect climate for road biking: warm, dry, and sunny… during spring, summer, and fall, anyway! It is also surrounded by some of the best canyon roads anywhere. These serve as a perfect training ground for any cyclist. And while even the “easiest” of these will hurt at the beginning of a season, it is not uncommon for serious cyclists to complete circuits that include several of the area’s most difficult canyons. If you’re interested in riding these Wasatch Mountain canyons, grab a rental bike, a banana, and some water – and go. The canyons below are listed in order of increasing difficulty.
City Creek Canyon ascends northwardly from town, starting at Memory Grove (in the Capitol Hill/ Avenues district). The paved portion of this road stretches just 5.7 miles, but averages 7.3% (for a total of 1,500 feet elevation gain). The bottom portion serves as a warmup; the top half is where most of the climbing takes place.
Millcreek Canyon is an intro-to-big-canyons ride that ascends at a pitch of 6.7% for 9.2 miles, for a total of 2,700 feet of climbing.
Little Cottonwood Canyon is a punishing ride, with a steady incline (and average grade of 9.2%!) and long, open, straight sections: showing you just how far you must climb. This road is busy in all seasons, and the added traffic (and gas/ break fumes) can be unpleasant. It is therefore best to ride this at a very early hour in summer to avoid the traffic, and still enjoy some warmth.
Big Cottonwood Canyon is the ultimate test. A steady climb, this canyon averages an incline of 7.8% as it stretches a whopping 14.75 miles. The scenery is beautiful along the way, but as with Little Cottonwood Canyon: it’s best to ride this outside of peak traffic hours.