Camping

Camping“From West of Casper, WY to outside of Sacramento, CA free camping on public lands can happen almost anywhere you can find a place to put your sleeping bag down. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest a hammock as there aren’t very many tall things to tie off to out in the high desert.

Mile 1285: Henefer, UT

“For anyone riding through Utah, be forewarned that the c-store in Henefer is currently dead. There is an ice cream shop attached to it where they’ll refill your bottles.”

[N.B. the note refers to Grump’s Grocery Store, noted on the Pony Express Bikepacking Route.]

Mile 1299: Big Pass Update

“Pony’s clear from Henefer to at least Ibapah. Can’t vouch for Wyo. Be careful if you decide to take the singletrack off of Big Mtn Pass in Utah. They made the lower reaches by Mtn Dell Reservoir more MTBish.”

Borby Kennedy on Bike The Pony Express , 5/5/2020
Mile 1327-1477: Salt Lake to Fish Springs

Western Utah road
Western Utah road

[N.B. The following ride report from Tim Tait is written from west to east]

“I did a day trip from Fish Springs Wildlife refuge (mm1477 on RWGPS file) to Salt Lake City just recently. Here’s my notes on the section . . .

From Fish Springs to Highway 36 is reasonably smooth. I spoke to the ranger at Fish Springs and he mentioned the road was just regraded in October, so it only had a few months of traffic on it. It’s a surprisingly high trafficked area so I suspect it will return to washboards in the next few months. Lots of clay based areas so rain could put you at a stand still, depending on what time of year you ride. I rode two days after a small storm and roads were already dry. From highway 36 over to highway 73 were the worst washboards I’ve ridden in a while.

Keep in mind these areas are OHV playgrounds, so you will run into a good amount of Tacomas/Jeeps/ATVs in these areas. On a sunny weekend during early recreation season (as I hit), you’ll be in a dust cloud of big trucks. Plan accordingly.

It was 24 degrees in early March when I started at sunrise from Fish Springs, and possibly mid 50’s at the finish around SLC. I did it on 4 liters, but that’s b/c it was cold and the desert has slowly turned me into a camel. It’s probably an 8-9 liter section in hotter conditions.

I rode a Hakka MX on 650/47’s Specialized Pathfinders. Worked just fine on this section, but I wasn’t fully packed down and this isn’t the roughest of sections. Bring your aero bars, and tires with good side wall casing. Lots of sharper, larger gravel sections.

Make sure to take some time to cruise around Fish Springs (as long as it’s not bug season). It’s really breathtaking.

As mentioned by others, you can’t camp in Fish Springs but there is a small little gravel pit to camp at right in between the refuge lines [pictures here]. It has some camp fire rings and is protected from the wind (which you’ll want out in that area).

What the Utah west desert lacks in elevation, it makes up for in wind, heat, quick forming storms and limited shelter. It’s pretty damn unforgiving. I’d avoid riding this between June-August IMO. Even with a night riding strategy, there’s just no shade/shelter…”

Mile 1328-1396: Salt Lake City to Callao, Utah

Still from the video
Still from the video

“A little video I made of the first two days on the Pony Express trail from Salt Lake City to Callao, Utah. Unfortunately, due to time constraints that were too tightened for comfort by weather I had to call my ride to Sacramento on Ibapah, UT, right at the Nevada border.

I had hoped to document via video the whole route from Salt Lake to Sacramento and scout some more challenging options for the route. I am planning another trip later this summer, so I might still get that chance.”

[N.B. You can find the video on YouTube here]

Mile 1432: Simpson Springs Campground

Western Utah
Western Utah

“It gets legendarily hot out there. I’ve ridden there in March when it was already 80ºF in the West Desert. So much better from late September on. There’s seasonal water access at Simpson Springs campground with a pump and such, but it’s never been working when I’ve gone through.”

Mile 1475: Fish Spring National Wildlife Refuge

Fish Springs, UT
Fish Springs, UT

“The area is named for the numerous small fish found in the abundant warm springs in the area. The presence of freshwater since prehistoric times means this area has been an important oasis in the Great Basic region for quite some time.

Not only was this a home station for Pony Express riders, but it is also a vital water stop for current day bikepackers traversing the route. Drinking water is available at the refuge office, on the east-facing side of the main building just inside the refuge gate.”

 
Fish Springs Station, UT (station marker)
Fish Springs Station, UT (station marker)

[N.B. This entry accompanies the Historical Trail picture for the Fish Springs station marker: “The end of October doesn’t just mean Halloween. On October 24, 1861 the Pony Express ceased operations with the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line. The Pony stopped operating just two days after the telegraph line reach Salt Lake City, linking east coast cities with west coast cities. Interestingly though, some people preferred the Pony Express to the telegraph due to difficulties with keeping the line operational. They claimed the telegraph was unreliable when breaks in the line occurred.” –posted on the Pony Express National Historic Trail Facebook page , 10/29/18]