Nestled between 95,000-acre Utah Lake and the scenic Wasatch Front, Provo is one of Utah’s fastest-growing cities. And it’s quickly becoming a hub for road cycling, too: Its residents bike to work at more than five times the national average, and the Tour of Utah pro cycling race passes through each August. So it’s no wonder traffic stops for cyclists in the family-friendly town of 116,000, which ranked second in Outside Magazine’s Best Cities contest in 2014.
The Provo River to River ride, stretching 35 miles from Utah Lake to Provo Canyon, is a great introduction to cycling in the Provo area. The route begins at Vivian Park and connects the paved Provo River, Murdock, and Jordan River trails — all paved and gently graded, making an ideal warm-up or family outing. There are a few short, steep (8 percent grade) climbs, though they’re few and far between, and cyclists are in for a gorgeous view of Bridal Veil Falls near the trail’s northern terminus. There's also an ambitious loop option from Provo Canyon past Sundance Mountain Resort, through American Fork Canyon, and back to Provo on the valley floor.
Ambitious cyclists can take on a 90-mile circumnavigation of Utah Lake. Ridden clockwise from downtown Provo, the route provides sweeping views of the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, all while cruising mellow rollers — the steepest grade is just under 2 percent. Though the hills aren’t strenuous, be prepared for some harrowing conditions: Summer temperatures in central Utah climb into the triple digits, and the shoulder is characteristically narrow along the quiet country roads on the west side of the lake.
Not surprisingly, there’s no shortage of opportunities to give your bike a little TLC between rides. Thanks to its active-minded population — and more than 30,000 college students between Provo’s two universities — Provo is home to nearly a dozen bike shops. One popular spot is the Bicycle Collective, where cyclists can learn to repair their own wheels and exchange volunteer hours for parts, an ideal option for budget-minded types.
Of all the road cycling hubs in Utah, Provo is perhaps the best suited to families. The city hosts weekly showing of kids movies in Rock Canyon Park during the summer, and the Provo Rooftop Concert Series puts on a free show the first Friday from May through September (bonus: there’s a free bike valet).
Complete Family-Friendly Destination
For non-cyclists or if the weather isn’t cooperating, take the family to Thanksgiving Point, which features kid-friendly museums, a 55-acre garden, golf course, and the annual Tulip Festival. Most locals are members of the Mormon church so there aren't many bars, but there are still spots where you can grab an adult beverage after a ride: The Owl Bar at nearby Sundance Mountain Resort, owned by Robert Redford, is a local favorite and the Black Sheep Cafe serves up a refreshing prickly pear margarita.
On rest days, three nearby state parks make it easy to stay active: Utah Lake, Wasatch Mountain, and Deer Creek are all within a 40-minute drive. Utah Lake is a popular paddleboarding and sailing destination, and Deer Creek’s campgrounds offer spectacular views of 11,752-foot Mount Timpanogos, the second-tallest peak in the Wasatch Front. Depending on the season, book a whitewater rafting trip on the Provo River or check out the world-class ice climbing scene — Provo Canyon’s high concentration of ice routes makes it a destination for climbers of all ability levels.