About this Itinerary
Located at the base of the beautiful Wasatch Mountain range north of Provo, Utah, the flat, 17-mile, paved Murdock Canal Trail (MCT) offers stunning scenery, few crowds, excellent trail conditions and many amenities, making this an ideal trail for families or those looking for a leisurely bike ride. The MCT follows the route of the Murdock Canal, which is now underground, from the mouth of Provo Canyon in Orem to Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. For the adventurous, there are connections to other trails at both ends of the MCT, which travel for many miles throughout the Utah Valley and north through Salt Lake City. With multiple trailheads, it is also easy to make the ride shorter.
Our base for this itinerary is Provo, Utah. Located about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, this town of just over 100,000 is nestled between the shores of Utah Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range in the Utah Valley. With the peak of Y Mountain towering dramatically over the city, Provo is an ideal spot from which to explore the vast array of outdoor activities in the region, and to take advantage of numerous restaurants, cultural exhibits and historical sites.
In the historical downtown area, stay at the Hines Mansion. A Victorian house built in 1895, the property features nine rooms each with a private bath, beautiful common spaces, hearty gourmet breakfasts and fresh-baked treats in the afternoons. With its relaxed yet elegant atmosphere, Hines Mansion is the ideal place to return to after a long day of biking the nearby MCT. To reach the property from the Salt Lake City International Airport, rent a car and travel south on I-15 to exit 265 in Provo on to W. Cedar Street. Take a right on N 500 W (at Pioneer Park) and the first left on to W 100 S.
The Hines Mansion was chosen for this itinerary due to its historic charm and location in Provo; however, another excellent lodging option is the Courtyard Marriott Lehi at Thanksgiving Point. Located trailside at the northern terminus of the MCT, this hotel is ideally situated for those who want the convenience of biking directly from the hotel. This branch of the chain hotel offers a fitness center, pool and free wifi; the onsite restaurant also serves breakfast and dinner. If staying here, follow the proposed itinerary in reverse.
Despite numerous bike trails, options for renting bicycles in the Provo/Orem/Lehi area are limited. In Midway, which is located about 27 miles from Provo, Midway Adventures Co. rents cruiser and tandem bicycles. This company also runs numerous guided tours including rafting, hiking, horseback riding and more. Even if you are not renting a bike, check out their offerings for fun guided outdoor adventures in the area.
After a hearty breakfast, depart from the Hines Mansion B&B for the MCT, located about seven miles away. Parking is not available at the trailhead; however, there is an accessible lot less than one mile away. To reach it, travel east on W 100 S and take the second left on S. Freedom Boulevard. Follow this road slightly more than a mile and take a right on Bulldog Boulevard (just past Provo High School). Take the next left on N. University Avenue and travel about 4.5 miles to E 800 N. Turn right on to N. Canyon Hills Drive and park in the lot for the Provo River Parkway Trail. Follow signs for the Murdock Canal-Provo River Connector Trail, which runs along E 800 N, to reach the MCT trailhead.
On the Murdock Canal Trail, riders will enjoy an extremely well-maintained trail with excellent signage, mile markers and, best of all, restroom facilities and water fountains located about every three miles (though we still advise setting out with full water bottles). While the trail is essentially connecting several suburban neighborhoods (and you will notice many trails that led off to these communities), the trail really feels more like a country route as it is sheltered from its surroundings and offers spectacular scenery. Mountains are visible throughout the ride and, in the town of Lindon, there is a lovely valley view with Utah Lake off in the distance.
There is one section of the trail that deserves a special notation and that is in Highland. When you reach Highland Glen Park, there is a short gap in the trail that necessitates finding your way through the park and around a neighborhood in order to resume riding on the MCT. To navigate this section, follow park roads to West Park Road and take this out of the park to Route 74. Turn left here and continue south until you see the trailhead for the MCT on the right-hand side of the road. The park roads have low traffic and on Route 74 you can ride in bike lanes and on the sidewalk.
Once you arrive in Lehi, there are several options for places to grab lunch close to the trail. Continue west on Club House Drive (past the Courtyard Marriott) to find a Starbucks, Subway, Dickey's and Mountain West Burrito, as well as other fast food restaurants all within a short distance of one another.
At this end of the trail, riders can also link up to two additional rail trails. The Historic Utah Southern Rail Trail is a 3.5-mile paved route that runs through Lehi and can be picked up shortly before the end of the MCT (look for it crossing the MCT around N. Frontage Street). The other option is the Jordan River Parkway Trail, which runs almost 47 miles north through Salt Lake City and into Davis County. While this may be a bit much to add on after the MCT, consider riding a portion of the trail while in the area. The route follows the Jordan River and goes through a variety of terrain including urban areas, parks and wetlands, and, with numerous trailheads, can be ridden in sections. To reach this trail, continue along Club House Road to Garden Drive and make your way down toward the river to find the trailhead.
At the end of the MCT you will also find Thanksgiving Point, a non-profit center that includes gardens, two museums, restaurants, a golf course, a movie theater and the site for a number of large events. The various venues are spread out, but the gardens provide a nice resting spot and are located less than one mile from the trailhead. Follow Club House Drive, turn right at the intersection with Garden Drive and follow this road until you get to the gardens. Thanksgiving Point Gardens feature 55-acres of lush gardens, manicured lawns and the largest manmade waterfall in the Western Hemisphere. Here you will also find the Trellis Cafe, a beautiful outdoor dining restaurant offering salads and sandwiches.
After a filling lunch, head back on the MCT to Orem. Once you arrive at the southern trailhead, head east on 800 N for about one block for a refreshing treat at Dairy Queen. For even more biking, ride a section of the Provo River Parkway Trail. Head north on the trail from the parking lot, and bike just over one mile to reach Mt. Timpanogos Park. This park has restrooms, picnic sites and access to the Provo River. The park is also the host site for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, a large event that attracts over 25,000 people to the area each September for a multi-day festival of storytelling and music. Or, bike six miles to the end of trail for spectacular view of Bridal Veil Falls. These beautiful falls flow from springs along the Cascade Mountain and provide a year-round stream. At the top of the falls, the water is constricted and then opens up creating the semblance of a lacy veil. At the bottom is a shallow pool that is used for swimming. If you opt to include this in your itinerary, be sure to pack a swim suit for a quick and refreshing cool down before biking back down through Provo Canyon to the parking lot. Note that this route does involve some steep sections, although you will enjoy the downhill on the return trip.
Head back to Provo and grab a fresh-baked treat from the kitchen of the Hines Mansion before enjoying a soak in your luxurious jetted tub, a feature of all rooms at the property. Tonight, enjoy dinner at La Jolla Groves. Designed to evoke the Italian island of Capri, this fine-dining restaurant features a varied menu with such specialties as tenderloin bourguignon, cilantro butter-crusted salmon fillet and apple-glazed pork loin.
Provo and the surrounding towns, have many additional restaurants worth considering. A few of the more popular options include Black Sheep Cafe, which serves creatively prepared Mexican-inspired cuisine with such tempting dishes as green chile stew, buffalo nickel burgers and their signature hog jowl tacos; or for a taste of India, try Bombay House, which serves traditional classics such as chicken curry, chicken tikka masala and lamb saag in an elegant yet comfortable atmosphere. A newer arrival on the dining scene is Communal Restaurant, a farm-to-table concept that unites people through food by partnering with local farms and has a festive environment with shared tables.
Round out your trip by exploring the many great nearby attractions. Visit Timpanogos Cave National Monument and hike a beautiful, but strenuous, 1.5-mile route to reach a dramatic limestone cave system. Entrance to the caves is only permitted with a ranger on a guided tour and tours sell out early, so plan ahead. This really is a spectacular site and for those physically up for it, it should not be missed. Be sure to carry a lot of water; in addition to the steep climb, summer temperatures routinely top 100 degrees. The caves are open from May to mid-October.
Catch a performance at the SCERA Shell. With the Wasatch Mountains providing a stunning backdrop, this open air amphitheater hosts a variety of events including live theatre, musical acts and big screen outdoor movies. Located in the middle of SCERA Park in Orem, this venue provides an ideal spot to spend a summer evening under the stars.
Take a scenic train ride aboard the Heber Valley Historical Railroad. Based in nearby Heber City, this railroad was formerly part of a Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad branch line and operated between Heber City and Provo from 1899 until 1967. The route travels 16 miles and passes landmarks such as Mt. Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir, Provo River and Sundance Ski Resort. Experience one of several themed trips including a Wild West adventure, night trains and a live music train.
The Utah Valley has a wealth of activities to keep you occupied for days. You can sail or swim in Utah’s largest freshwater lake at Utah Lake State Park, hike numerous trails in the Wasatch Mountain Range, explore additional bike trails, or take a rafting trip. Stop by the Visitor Center in Provo for detailed information about more activities in the region.