May 03, 2021
The Cathedral Valley Loop is the perfect bikepacking loop to start your year. This relatively short overnighter is a great shakedown run for all the new gear you've accumulated over the winter. Nearly 80 miles of double-track gravel roads with a mixed terrain of chunder, sand, and Cadillac gravel.
We assembled our group of mountain bikers and gravel grinders at 5 AM early Friday morning. Threw all the gear and bikes into the Tacoma, and made the short three-hour drive to Caineville, Utah.
After a short 7 miles of a scary highway riding without a shoulder, you hop on to gravel and are immediately hit with the wake-up call of the cold river water of Fremont River. Bring a small towel to dry off your feet to prevent any blistering. Depending on the time of year you decide to attempt this ride, the river can get pretty high. During the weekend that we were there, it didn't get above knee height.
Now it's time to gain some elevation. 4,000 feet in about 38 miles. We had some pretty gnarly headwinds maxing out at around 25mph. We pressed forward at party pace and enjoyed the suffering. Between the sand, washboards, and headwind it was difficult to find pace. This is when the extra water was coming in handy. We each packed about 7 liters of water and it was perfect for the amount of riding we did.
Depending on how adventurous you're feeling, there are plenty of little break-offs on this route that you can explore. These detours can be very short, but the payoff is well worth your time.
Roughly 35 miles from the river crossing is a designated campground area that overlooks the stunning Cathedral Valley. I wouldn't stress about finding a camping area, there are plenty of scenic camping spots. These beautiful campsites are perfect for stargazers. If you happen to do this loop on a night without any clouds, you will be in heaven. We slept under the stars, and although it was freezing - it was well worth it!
The wake-up call was at 6 AM to watch the sunrise light up the Cathedral Valley. Our dehydrated meals were perfect for such a brisk morning. A nice hot cup of coffee and a warm meal is exactly what your body will want after a brutal day of climbing. There is also a bathroom at this designated camping area which was great for changing and getting ready for the day. We packed up our gear, loaded the bikes, and started our ride into the Cathedral Valley.
The ride gets your blood pumping with a quick chunky descent from the campsite. You are immediately rewarded by some of the prettiest views of the Cathedrals. The descent out is much easier to hold pace, but there are much more sand and washboards. I would recommend going 2.0"+ tire, but it can be done on a skinnier tire. You'll just really have to work for it.
This descent can be very quick, be sure to stop at Gypsum Sinkhole and Temples of the Moon and the Sun to make the most out of the day. The Temple of Sun is probably the highlight of the trip. Seeing it in person is well worth the two-mile detour. The views are breathtaking as you navigate through the colorful sandstone and hills of this desert landscape.
The Cathedral Valley Loop is a great loop to take a new bikepacker on no matter what type of bike they're riding. We had a mixed group of gravel grinders and mountain bikers with ranges of skill levels and everyone had a blast. Make sure you bring enough water on this ride. It's very dry out there and the only few water sources and they are within the first 15 miles of the loop. On the way out, stop at "The Burger Joint" in Tory for a well-earned greasy burger and fries.
View or Download our Strava Route Here -
Videography and Photography: @branson_kendall
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