Mountain Biking in Canyonlands – Colorado River Overlook Trail

Canyonlands National Park is one of the only national parks in the US where there are trails which allow mountain biking. You’re still not allowed to ride on any of the single track walking trails but there are a number of high clearance four-wheel-drive trails which make for a fun mountain bike ride.

From the visitors centre at the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park I rode the 7 mile one way trail to the Colorado River Overlook.

Colorado River Overlook Trail Map

Click to open a full PDF map of the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park from the National Park Service.

This track is open to high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles; some of the step up’s and drop off’s are pretty significant so be sure to have a serious vehicle and know how to handle it if you decide not to mountain bike.

Much of the track is over slick rock marked by intermittent spray painted arrows and dots on the rock surface, a number of times I couldn’t find a marker and found myself wondering in which direction I was supposed to be heading. If you keep a bearing on the direction you came from and look around you’ll eventually come across another marker or a continuation of the dirt track.

The view at the end is well worth the sometimes tiring mountain bike ride. You can look down into the steep canyon forged by the Colorado River and see it snaking its way off to the left and the right.

If you visit Canyonlands National Park and have a mountain bike with you I highly recommend you take a couple hours to ride the Colorado River Overlook Trail.

The following photos were all taken on my mobile phone, for which I apologise.

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My Bike Against the DANGER Sign

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My Bike Propped in a Crack in the Rock on the Edge of the Overlook

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Yet Another Picture of my Bike & the Colorado River Canyon

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Can you spot my bike?

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Portrait of my Bike

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Panorama of the Colorado River Canyon, and of course - my bike...

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Last Panorama of the Colorado River Overlook

Would you rather mountain bike or four-wheel-drive to this lookout?

 

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Comments

  1. Would way rather Mountain Bike it! You did well with no shocks etc. Good job.

    • I agree Cole, mountain biking is so much better than driving. This track was pretty fast for the most part (other than when I lost the trail and needed to search or it) and was a lot of fun on my rigid single speed. Mountain biking Red Canyon however was a different story, my hands were exhausted and sore after the downhill stretch – would have loved 6″ of travel…
      http://samsplayground.com/mountain-biking-red-canyon-utah/

  2. I think I’d four wheel drive, Sam. Glad you didn’t go over any of those edges on the bike, and that you survived to post this one! Very dramatic scenery in your shots.

    • When I rode this I didn’t really believe a 4WD would be capable of the whole route. However a couple of days later we went out back Moab in a four wheel drive and I was amazed by the stuff a skilled driver can do.

  3. Fabulous site! You are a fellow adventurer~

  4. Wow! Those are amazing shots, Sam! It’s got me really believing in smartphones, if only to automatically and easily capture these unforgettable moments! =) I’ve never mountain biked before, but now I’ve got the urge to learn! =)

    • Mountain biking can be a lot of fun. You can often see similar scenery as if you were hiking, but a lot faster!
      The phone photos are fine for web but I wouldn’t bother to print any. So it’s always a shame when you capture some amazing scenery but then realise the quality isn’t in the image to do anything with it other than go back with a real camera and hope to get the same shot.

    • Actually as an aside my phone is the Samsung Galaxy S (the first version) and I’ve always been impressed by its panorama photo taking ability.

      I just select panorama mode and then move the phone in a panning motion and it automatically takes the shots and stitches them together to get the above panorama shots without any post processing – easy.

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