Touring - Riding north-south on west side of rockies
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03-07-10, 09:12 AM
Several times I have asked for information on riding from south central British Columbia, down to southern Arizona by following roads along the plateaus west of the rockies. It seems not very many riders try this route. I have driven through this area several times, including a couple of weeks ago. Aside from brisk headwinds, the biggest obstacle seems to be the lack of camping, and, as "pathlesspedaled" warned about his ride in west Texas, lack of good water. In general, most of the highways are lightly travelled, there are challenging grades, and the scenery is a bit boring along the wide flats. I am still contemplating riding this route, but am considering using a single-wheeled trailer in order to carry a bit of extra water, food etc. without overloading my bike. I realize it's likey to be more challenging than my ride down the west coast but on par with my ride down the Alaskan hwy. I greatfully welcome any tips or comments from those that have ridden through this area, thanks.
03-07-10, 09:21 AM
I'd recommend the east face of the Sierra Nevada with a side trip to King Canyon or Yosemite. For beauty , can't get much better than that..
In my early touring days almost 40 years ago I chose the 9_ highways for N to S and/or S to N tours- 97, 95 and 93 between Canada and Arizona. Lots of stark, beautiful, often seasonally hot and water limited portions in Eastern Oregon, Eastern California, Idaho and Nevada.
I have no current details to offer and I assume that traffic volumes have increased considerably since then. Still worth considering for part of your routing as in Idaho where it may be one of the only routes available at times.
Good luck and report back for our vicarious pleasure.
03-07-10, 12:10 PM
Hwy 191 from moab utah, down through arizona to I 10 east of tucson is very nice.
The eastern edge of arizona (191) through the apache forest in the white mountains is awesome, and the "coronado trail" south of alpine into Clifton is absolutely stunning, with a great winding ~60 mile descent at the end eventually taking you from the forest, through the huge strip mine of Morenci. The contrast is intense. Highly recommended.
As far as carrying water, I really like MSR dromedary bags. I use a 6L bag on desert trips, which can last about 3-4 days if frame bottles can be refilled periodically from gas stations or hoses. I would actually recommend 2 4L bags, which would be put into the front panniers to balance the weight... The bags make good pillows as well. I also carry iodine tablets just in case.
+1 on Hwy 191 from Moab South.
+1 on Hwy 191 from Moab South.
I would do the ACA new Casscade route and then head through Reno. US 50/I70 to Moab.
03-07-10, 08:56 PM
You don't say where or when.
I'm guessing somewhere near Kelowna in BC.
Phoenix/Tucson in Arizona.
You also don't say how much time you might allot.
ALso - whether or not you will be riding a mountain bike and can do dirt.
Not to mention that "west of the Rockies" is a big place.
If you did this during the summer months, you would want to stay as high as possible - especially as you got into Utah and Arizona. Not only would that be cooler, but there would be more public lands, trees, and water. If you live in the Okanagan, you know that it can get pretty darn hot - and it gets even hotter the further south you get.
So it might be best to backtrack - -
In Arixona you would want to stay above the Mogollon Rim until you have to drop down. Unless you do the trip in cooler months, you do not want to be coming into Arizona from California or Nevada - the Mojave is blistering hot. I would suggest Flagstaff to Payson via Mormon Lake then to Globe and Tucson avoiding Phoenix. I would also skip Sedona since Old Hwy 89 is narrow and extremely busy.
There are a number of ways to cross the Colorado River. You can ride to the North Rim, shuttle your bike, and hike across. Or you can ride either US 89 or US 89A. US 89A is tougher, with more climbing, but it is far more scenic and allows you to visit the North Rim - which only has about 10% of park visitation and a great hiker/biker camping area. US 89 north of Flagstaff does have pretty heavy traffic - and when they need a passing lane, the shoulders simply disappear.
Another reason to come into Arizona on wither US 89 or 89A is because you can ride in the Wasatch mountains in Utah. There are some incredible roads in the high country with light to moderate traffic. I would come into Utah at near Bear Lake on the Idaho border and ride Hwy 16 to Evanston, Wyoming, then Hwy 150 through the high Uintas to Kamas. There is some busy riding around Provo - but there are many paved bike trails - then you can ride Skyline Drive south of Payson to Manti, cut over to Loa and Capitol Reef, then over to Escalante and Bryce and down to Kanab.
In Wyoming, there are some lovely roads on the western edge of the state between Alpine and Evanston. North of Alpine, you can either take the Trans Am from Missoula, Missoula to Jackson - or you can cut into Idaho at Lost Trail Pass and Hwys 28 and 33 to Rexburg connecting to US 26 to Alpine. All of this keeps you at higher altitude - - assuming this will be a summer trip.
Thus, connecting to the Northern Tier just south of the Canadian border makes sense. If you ride the Northern Tier from Republic to Sandpoint, you can connect with Hwy 200 to Missoula. Hwy 200 is also a nice, scenic ride with only moderate traffic - until you get close to Missoula.
Of course, if you are planning this trip for cooler months, then the opposite is true - you would want to stay as low as possible. Maybe straight south from the Okanagan thru eastern Washington and Oregon. Sweet highway between Alturas, Calif and Wadsworth, Nevada. Then heading thru Death Valley and the Mojave to Parker, Ariz.
03-08-10, 10:29 PM
Yes, you are correct, although I live 45 miles east of Vancouver, I would be heading south through Oroville. I would like to start this spring, but I have another cancer surgery slated for sometime in april which will lay me up for a least a month, so I am re-scheduling any trip for this late fall. As for which road system I will use, I will likely use a combination of suggestions from this thread. I first was considering "97" to Yakima, following the rivers to hwy. 207, then on to 395, 136, 190, 178, 372, and 160 into Las Vegas, from which I would fly home. In the past, my long rides have averaged 75-85 miles a day for 750- 1500+ trips. I'm getting older, and am not in as good shape, so am planning for 65-75 miles a day. Even now, with favourable riding conditions, I can ride over 100 miles in a day if I push it. I now use a hybrid touring bike and normally carry about 35 pounds of gear.
03-08-10, 10:32 PM
I would like to thank everyone for all the great suggestions. Carrying water bladders in the front paniers is a very good consideration, and might do the trick so that I wouldn't need to use a trailer.
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