Panguitch Loop Trip - October 2, 2019

Okay – I admit it. The mountain beat me, fair and square. I tried this trip 11 years ago, and though I failed to complete it then, I thought I could complete it this time.

The trip did not go as planned.

Nevertheless, it was a great adventure, with beautiful scenery, amazing geology, and interesting people, and experiences.

Here is the trip plan, with much more time budgeted for each segment (considering the big climbs), and done in a time of year when the heat is not a problem:

Each town listed in the left of the picture, was a planned stopover (except for the beginning, and end, in Panguitch, Utah).

The mileages planned for each day were as follows:

Begin Town

Distance (in miles

Climb (in feet)

End Town





























That was the plan.

Now here's what actually happened.

We're using recumbent bicycles, which Malcolm modified for cross-country use.

We really like these bicycles, with their comfortable seats, and no problems with sore hands on long trips. They also gear-down farther than our upright trip-bikes – to around 3 miles per hour, or even less. At that slow speed, there is some difficulty remaining balanced, so I don't think it would be useful for it to gear-down any lower.

Another thing I liked about the recumbents, is that when you stop to rest, you're already sitting in an easy-chair!

We started cycling at 2:00 PM, Wednesday afternoon, October 2nd. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with hardly any wind.

Heading east, out of Panguitch, highway 89 climbs a small hill as it turns south, which was fine, but how much we geared-down for it, was a portent of things to come.

Soon we were cycling south on highway 89, which was pleasant, and level.

Cycling south, from Panguitch, on highway 89

We soon turned east, on highway 12, heading for Red Canyon.

On this road, we had to gear down significantly, yet the landscape seemed flat.

Cycling east on highway 12, toward Red Canyon

Until we looked back at the way we had come, we didn't realize just how much the road was climbing.

Looking west, seeing how far we had climbed

Entering Red Canyon

Red Canyon has scenery similar to Bryce Canyon, since it is eroded from the same rock formation (the pink-cliffs formation of the Paunsaugunt plateau), but it has a highway climbing it.

The colorful, eroded rock formations of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, in Red Canyon

At the entrance to the canyon, is a parking-lot and a paved bicycle path going up the canyon, which we started cycling on.

For much of the way up Red Canyon, the bicycle path parallels the highway, and has the same steepness as the highway. The scenery was excellent.

Cycling the bicycle path, amid beautiful scenery

One of the highway tunnels in Red Canyon

The sign is confusing, since here is a paved bicycle path, and it's suggesting to turn back onto the highway. We stayed with the bicycle path for now.

Natural statue alcoves, in the cliffs beyond the highway

Farther east, on the bicycle path

Looking back to the west, on the bicycle path

Farther on, the bicycle path left the road, and often had a steeper grade (slope) than the road. With that additional steepness, we had to occasionally stop and rest, and sometimes get off and push. But the scenery was nice, and the shade better.

The bicycle path, away from the road, with a steeper grade

Finally, we reached the top of the Paunsaugunt plateau, with the path rejoining the highway.

On top of the Paunsaugunt plateau, the path rejoining the highway

Before long, we opted to cycle the highway rather than the bicycle path, because often the bicycle path would have steep grades, while the highway had a steady, even slope, which was much better for our fully loaded bicycles.

Notice how the bicycle path goes down into a wash (ahead to the right) then climbs a hill beyond it

We would cycle the road awhile, with the path having a similar grade, to where we would consider using the path again, then it would do something like in the picture above, so we stuck to the road.

The summit

Part of our difficulty climbing steep grades, was due to our being used to 4,000 feet elevation, rather than the altitude here, with its thinner air.

Under the open sky, on the Paunsaugunt Plateau

Due to our slow speed and rest-stops climbing the unexpectedly steep grades of the bicycle path, it was getting late in the day, and we had to hurry to get to the town of Tropic.

At the east edge of the plateau, the road descends quickly in an initial 8% grade, which becomes less steep a mile or so downhill. But it was certainly a long, pleasant glide into the town.

It was getting cold, so part way down, I had to change from a light-jacket to my heavy coat. I also had to turn on my rear-of-helmet strobe light for visibility, as it was getting dark.

We arrived in Tropic about 7:30 PM, and stayed in the Bryce Pioneer Village R.V. Park, where we had a tent campsite reserved.

That night was the coldest of the trip, getting down to 30 degrees F.

The next morning we got breakfast in a restaurant, packed up, and started out, heading for the town of Escalante.

Starting out the next day

It was downhill all the way to the next town, the headwind was light, and the day sunny, which made for pleasant cycling.

Entering Cannonville

From here, we followed the road east, where we soon encountered our first walk-up hill, with many more to follow.

Our first walk-up hill

We soon encountered more walk-up hills, which was discouraging, because my strategy for success in this difficult route, was based on being able to gear-down, and keep cycling, which is slower, but we had budgeted time for that.

Of late my hiking abilities haven't been very good, so having to get off and push, puts the trip in jeopardy.

Shady rest stop entering Henrieville

Just past Henrieville, turning north, was yet another walk-up hill.

When we had last driven this road, evaluating it as a bicycle trip route, I had remembered only a long, steady climb in this section. This was discouraging, and we almost gave up at this point.

My left knee was also unexpectedly sore, and getting worse from the hard pedaling climbing.

Seeing the terrain beyond the walk-up hill, we decided to go on

We continued on the road. And it turned out to me as I remembered it. Though it was slow-going because of the constant climbing, we seldom had to get off and push.

Turning east again, with more trees visible

The road began following a river, the slope getting steeper

Encountering the first of many walk-up hills

This was really wearing on me, and my left knee was hurting more and more.

On every turn, we hoped to see the top of the ridge, but there was always more climbing ahead, and the walk-up climbs were getting longer.

If you ski, you've probably heard of the term “bunny hill”. This was the “Energizer Bunny Hill” - it keeps going, and going...

The turn-around point

This is as far as we got. I could do no more walking up hills, and my left knee was too sore. We turned-around here, and headed back the way we came.

Fortunately, it was almost all downhill. Unfortunately, there was now a headwind, so we still had to pedal.

Map, showing estimated turn-around point – before Powell Point Vista is actually the steepest part, which we never got to

In talking to some people stopped at a turn-out, we found out that we hadn't even gotten to the steepest climb, which had a 10 to 14 percent grade, which in my state, I could never have done. So I was glad we turned back when we did.

People we talked to about the slope farther up the road

Sunlit Crags

We took only this picture (which was too good to miss) on the way back.

My left knee was getting really sore – more than I have ever experienced. And there were still a few walk-up hills in the return-direction.

I hoped to stay in Cannonville that night, given the amount of pain, but there were no campsites available, so I embarked on the most awful uphill 5 miles I have ever cycled in my life, fighting the pain.

We saw the town sign for Tropic, but of course, that sign is still miles from the town.

At long last, we cycled into town, and got a campsite at the same R.V. park we stayed in the night before.

Our camping shelter the next morning

Another group of cross-country cyclists we talked to in the morning

How We Got Back From Tropic

The next day, we were facing a problem.

With my sore knee, I really should not be doing more cycling, and Panguitch (where we left our car) was 28.5 miles (and an 8% grade hill) away.

We were prepared to pay to be given a ride to Panguitch, and two people agreed, if we didn't find anything else sooner, and there was a shuttle service that might have been able to take one of us to Panguitch.

In talking to people, someone mentioned hitch-hiking.

Malcolm was familiar with that process, having hitch-hiked maybe 30,000 miles in his younger days. So soon, he had made a cardboard “Panguitch” sign, and still wearing his bicycle helmet (with me with the bicycles on the other side of the street) he started soliciting a ride.

Malcolm, hitching a ride to Panguitch

To my surprise (and the kindness of people in the area), he had a ride within about 40 minutes.

So then, it was a matter of me waiting with the bicycles, for him to get our car in Panguitch, then drive back to Tropic to pick up me and the bicycles.

Waiting for pick-up

Best restaurant of the trip (where I awaited pick-up)

Soon, Malcolm returned with the car, and we loaded-up, and headed for home.

So the trip didn't turn out the way we planned. But it was an adventure, on which we saw a lot of beautiful country, and met some interesting people.

Here are the statistics for our aborted trip:

Though we didn't make it, I'm sure there are a lot of more-capable cyclists out there, who might want to give it a try.

If you're one of them, you can read the planning information, and profiles, by clicking the link below:

Panguitch Loop Trip Information

Click the following link to return to the bicycle trips documented on AeresRealm:

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