On the Back of a Hog
Take a Ride on Some of Utah's Greatest Routes
February 1, 2008
There is something about cruising the back roads on a well-built bike that motorcycle enthusiasts have come to love. Some say it is the power and sound of a Harley-Davidson. Others point to the freedom offered by the open road. Whatever it is, the options for hitting the highways are plentiful across the Beehive State.
With the flat desert to the west and winding canyons to the east, Mark Larsen, sales manager at Harley-Davidson of Salt Lake City, says the state is a draw for bikers from around the nation. Motorcycle rentals have become a popular division at the downtown dealership, and Larsen regularly lets out all 40 of his fleet bikes throughout the summer. Some of his clients, he says, fly in from out of state to explore Utah’s highlands and lowlands from the back of a bike. “The state applies itself wonderfully to someone who wants some diversity in their ride,” Larsen says.
Three routes come to mind quickly for many riders, he says. Two begin along the Wasatch Front, and one has earned national recognition among motorcyclists.
Three Musts for Motorcyclists
Best known as the home to Hell’s Backbone Grill and the Hogsback, this scenic byway in south-central Utah may not sound like the most inviting part of the state, but enthusiasts from around the country recognize the highway for its unique – and death-defying – route.
Starting in Torrey, Utah and ending at Ruby’s Inn at the entrance to Bryce Canyon, the route takes travelers through some of the most picturesquely barren portions of the western desert. Much of the hype for the route is generated from the nerve-wrecking ride over the Hogsback, a narrow, winding strip of two-lane pavement flanked on each side by 12-inch shoulders leveling off to 200-foot cliffs. Just south of Boulder, this portion of the highway carries an average of 1,000 travelers each day and is currently being considered for structural and safety improvements, however some riders hope those changes will be minimal to maintain the adventure of the road and the spectacular view. The Hogsback is only a few hundred yards of an equally compelling 110-mile journey. The route will be one leg of the two-day 2008 State H.O.G. Ralley in June. For more information visit www.gslhog.org.
Mirror Lake Highway
With a starting point in Kamas, the Mirror Lake Highway has become a draw for motorcyclists along the Wasatch Front looking for a quick weekend ride. The mountain road winds through aspens and pines to an elevation of 10,687 feet at Bald Mountain Pass. The road then passes Mirror Lake and continues down the back side of the Uinta Mountains paralleling the Bear River to Evanston, Wyo.
The 360-degree-view from the seat of a bike is especially compelling in this high mountain country where the scenery is top notch. Mirror Lake and other areas offer places for short breaks with Evanston as a destination for lunch or overnight lodging.
The closest and most impressive day trip is located right out the back door of many Utah County businesses. American Fork Canyon serves as the entrance to the Alpine Loop, a 20-mile trip on State Highway 92 to Provo Canyon, which returns travelers to Utah County. The short ride may be especially enticing to bikers because large vehicles can be cumbersome along the route’s twisting, narrow roads. The drive offers views of Mt. Timpanogos and other peaks as well as access to natural springs and Sundance Resort. The route is open from May to October.