My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking and Hiking Zion National Park

An hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, rows of creosote bushes and gnarly-looking Joshua trees lead to ridges of sandstone. Crossing into Utah, these walls of rock become far more dramatic, shaped into a phantasmagoric blend of towering cliff walls, slot canyons, lonely buttes, and organ-shaped mesas. It’s a harsh, rugged terrain, best suited for pioneers and as a backdrop for 1940s Westerns. You half expect John Wayne to pop out of the bush and mutter, “I’m hoping to round up a posse and you’re it.” 

The unforgiving rock is also ripe for adventure. October 2012, three close friends and I signed on to a 4-day jaunt with the reputable West Coast outfitter, Bicycle Adventures. The itinerary took full advantage of jaw-dropping scenery, offering two days of riding through Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park, and then two days of hiking on classic Zion trails, within a narrow slot canyon and atop Angel’s Landing, a precipitous perch better suited for the condors we would spot. This was not some pansy-ass undertaking, but a thigh-burning workout with sustained climbs longer than 7 miles on two wheels and a steep ascent up Angel’s Landing on two legs. The best form of therapy.