Southwest Day 22: St George to Pine Valley
September 14, 2021. 38 miles, 4916 feet of climbing.
Day one of part two of biking was the first of a couple long climbs out of St George to get back up to the elevations I’ve been used to this trip. St George is at abut 2700ft. In a couple days I plan to be in Cedar Breaks National Monument at 10000ft. So that’s a bit of climbing. St George is HOT though, so I think it’s worth it to get to more pleasant weather.
There are a couple possible routes from St George to Cedar City. The Adventure Cycling folks include two in different routes. The Grand Canyon Connector route sticks to paved roads and uses the interstate for a bit. The Utah Cliffs route swings out farther to the west and cuts through Pine Valley and some unpaved roads. That’s the one I’m following. I’ve biked on freeways before and it’s not that bad, but this seems better and my bike is fine for dirt roads.
I planned on leaving as soon as it got light, but I didn’t quite get my act together and ended up leaving after 8. The temperature was still ok for most of the day though, so it turned out ok.
There were lots of signs around this part of St George about road closures in a few days for an Iron Man race. I suppose overall I’m probably glad I didn’t get into the middle of that.
St George does have a lot of bike trails leading out in various directions. I got to follow one for a number of miles and the first bit of climbing. The road it paralleled had a good shoulder, but it’s still nice to be a bit farther from traffic. Means I can hear my audiobook if nothing else.
The morning was mostly uphill, but it didn’t feel that hard. Overall, today was the most elevation gain I’ve done in a day, but most of it was a lot lower grade than the mountain passes. Though they didn’t appear to believe in grading the bike trail. There were a few of these small ridges that I push the bike over.
The scenery was great. Lots of rocks, lots of different colors. And even after joining up with the road I had a good shoulder and the traffic wasn’t too bad.
Eventually I went through a couple somewhat more populated areas. Though I’m a little confused about the status of this canyon.
It wasn’t really until I got to Central and turned onto route 35 toward Pine Valley that I really started to feel the climbing. I’m not sure whether the grade increased meaningfully or if I was just getting tired. It was only 10 miles or so from there to the campground, but it seemed like it took forever. Probably in reality it was a few hours. It wasn’t too hot, but the sun was pretty intense. There were lots of signs about snow removal and ice, which sounded pretty nice in the moment.
There were at least an increasing number of trees amongst the rocks as I got farther into the valley. After what felt like forever I got to the Pine Valley sign and even got a little bit of downhill before the last couple of miles.
There seemed to be quite a few houses in the village in Pine Valley, though I didn’t see too much that looked commercial. Maybe there was something in the other direction away from the recreation area.
The last couple miles were “mostly flat”, but I was pretty tired. I was also running out of water, and was really glad to see the entrance to the Pine Valley Recreation Area.
There are a number of different campground loops in Pine Valley and I didn’t have a specific reservation. I stopped at the first one and refilled water which made me feel a lot better. It was small though, and didn’t have open sites. I aimed for one where there had been a lot of first come first serve sites listed online (Crackfoot Campground). I looked around and found some absolutely gorgeous walk-in tent sites. It was a little confusing whether or not they were reserved (the signs were on the reserved side, but without any dates listed), but the campground host reassured me that my site was free. She also told me that her son was a bike tourer. I ended up in site 19, and it was really nice. Private, lots of trees and rocks, still close to the bathrooms and water.
I set up camp and cooked food and still had a couple hours to lounge about. I ended up sitting on a rock for a while listening to my book. The end of the biking today was hard, but the Pine Valley camping made it worth it.