Note from the author: Throughout much of the United States, Covid-19 cases are on the decline, and while that is great news, we still have a bit of mitigating measures ahead of us before we truly round the proverbial corner. While producing this I took several measures to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus, which included limited involvement of additional riders, and basically spending the entire week either on the trails, grabbing takeout, or working in the apartment I rented. Please adhere to Park City local guidelines and mandates while in town, and please continue to wear masks indoors even if you are fully inoculated.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO RIDING IN
PARK CITY, UTAH
Words, photos, & video by Brice Shirbach
I blew my first opportunity to spend time in Park City. It was back in 2008 and I had traveled to the Wasatch with some friends to chase some snow storms. While the majority of the trip was a success, the evening before our planned day in Park City ended with me in the ER learning about my a.c. joint separation. I wish I could say that it resulted from getting sendy in the backcountry, but it may have had more to do with elevated levels of debauchery and a road sign collision. Fret not, no motor vehicles were involved. As it turned out, snowboard legend Travis Rice would be in Park City the next day filming for one of my all time favorite shred flicks, "Community", and my friends were fortunate enough to see some of the action firsthand. I wasn't, so there's that.
Fast forward a dozen or so years and with a slightly better grasp on adulthood I pulled into town for a trip to PC that I had no intention of blowing. The week looked brilliant, with perfect weather and far more miles of trail than I could ever possibly hope to see over the course of 5 days. Leading up to my trip I often caught myself glancing at Park City on Trailforks, and every time I found my eyes glazing over at the sheer volume of trail that surrounds the community. Utah presents all manner of recreational opportunities, and perhaps none more so than those involving two wheels.
Driving through town I was struck by how beautifully manicured this place was. Murals covered the roads, buildings of all shapes and colors lined the streets, and very expensive bikes were draped across very expensive cars. It's clearly a community that wears its love of the outdoors on its proverbial sleeve, and when you look at the mountains that surround this town on all sides, you realize how contagious that love can be.
// Local FlavoursAge:
Wilmington, DE, USAIndustry affiliations:
PEARL iZUMi, Pivot Cycles, Shimano, Maxxis, Stan's NoTubes, Julbo, Lazer Helmets, Topeak, Fox, ANVL ComponentsInstagram: @bricyclesFavorite Ride near Park City:
A Bit About the Region
Long before Anglo and Mormon settlers made their way into the valleys between the Wasatch to "make the desert blossom as a rose", this land was home to the Eastern Shoshone and Ute tribes. Based on their migration patterns, experts have claimed that the Northwestern Shoshones were among the most ecologically efficient and well-adapted cultures of the American West, while Ute people engaged in a sophisticated gathering and hunting economy. Anglo and LDS immigrants brought conflict as they moved into these territories, competing for natural resources with the indigenous people who already called this place home. The Utes frequently defended themselves in a number of armed conflicts before reluctantly signing Treaty of Spanish Fork in 1865 which effectively forced a relocation to the Uintah Basin, a far less forgiving environment than what we now call Park City. Sadly, the Shoshones endured one of the most tragic events in American history on January 29, 1863 when Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and 200 army volunteers
attacked a group of 450 Shoshone men, women, and children, which saw over 350 of them lose their lives in the violent assault. Today the Shoshone people have the smallest reservation in Utah, consisting of only 187 acres. The Utes own over a million acres which is home to 3,500 people.
These days Park City is home to nearly 9,000 full time residents, a number often dwarfed by the amount of tourists that can be found in town on any give day. Tourism is the primary driver of the community's economy, which was previously driven by the extraction industry before suffering a series of mishaps throughout the mid twentieth century. The town's first ski resort open in 1963 and quickly ushered in a new era for the community as it became known for "The Greatest Snow On Earth". Park City has leaned into its allure for travelers looking to revel in the surrounding mountains, attracting over 4 million per year and developing into one of the most affluent communities in the state. While winter still holds the edge, summer is catching up quickly when it comes to attracting visitors, with mountain biking playing a pivotal role in that regard.
Getting to Park City
Park City is situated along the southern edge of the Snyderville Basin, about 30 miles to the southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah's largest population center. It's easily accessible via Interstate 80 or US Route 40 depending on where you are driving from. The town runs an intra-city transit system
that is free for passengers, with service to the Canyons Village, Deer Valley Resort, Kimball Junction, Park City Resort, and Prospector Square among other stops.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is 45 minutes away as well and as one of the American West's busiest airports, offers a range of flight options at relatively low fares. Car rentals and public transit are all easy to navigate as well, making getting to and from Park City via air travel a popular option.
Please stay up to date on any and all COVID-19 restrictions via the Summit County Health website
The Best Trails to Ride in Park City
I suppose one way of determining which trails you should ride would be to just go wherever you see Mitch Ropelato posting up, but you're not likely to get as much out of a trail as he does, so I'm going to step in and try to provide a rough template that hopefully helps. There's an overwhelming connectivity between Salt Lake City, Park City, Heber City, and everything in between that a glance at the region on Trailforks can be a confusing spaghetti bowl of colorful squiggles no matter how zoomed in you are. That's a testament to an unbelievably dedicated and driven contingent who, over the years, have really worked hard to cement mountain biking as a preeminent facet of life in the Wasatch Mountain Range. The riding is quite diverse, with plenty of purpose built and progressive bike park flow, loads of Aspen, Spruce and Fir groves, ridge lines, and everything in between. The scale of the terrain has produced some of the most talented riders on the planet, and has become a beacon for what is possible in the mountains. We'll be focused on the region within a 5 mile radius of Park City, which includes hundreds of miles of trail to choose from.Deer Valley Resort Bike Park
Deer Valley offers up some of the only lift served riding in the state, so needless to say it's a hit. Spread across 6 different peaks, Deer Valley is home to 70 miles of trail, several of which were built and designed by flow trail masterminds, Gravity Logic. Deer Valley utilizes three lifts for rider access including Silver Lake Express chairlift at the base of the resort, Sterling Express located mid-mountain, and Homestake Express which is also found mid-mountain.Key trail: Tsunami. Featuring the park's largest jumps, Tsunami is an ultra flowy, ultra fun trail full of table tops and perfect corner pockets.
Key trail: Fireswamp. One of the more technically advanced trails at the mountain, Fireswamp drops about 700 vertical feet over the course of a mile. Pockets of dust, loose scree, and plenty of rock gardens and drops await.Wasatch Crest Trail
Many a Youtuber has waxed poetic and nigh hyperbolic about this ride, but by most measures it's a categorically epic ride. The Wasatch Crest trail is really a series of trails, bypasses, and fire roads that combine to make for a massive ride in either direction. You can ride just a portion of it, ride the whole crest, or any combination in between, but no matter what you will be afforded views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and the rest of the Wasatch, as well as Park City itself. All of the trails that connect directly to the Crest are bidirectional, so while it's tempting to death grip some stretches, you need to be mindful of hikers and other riders headed in the opposite direction. Evil Empire to Empire
Individually, both trails are a lot of fun but quite short. When combined the length of the ride doubles, and you move from the precipitous and rowdy Evil Empire, into the faster and flowier Empire. These trails are a bit higher up in elevation at Park City Resort, so they tend to open up a bit later into the season than much of what is found lower, but that obviously changes from year to year. Expect loam, drops, and plenty of tech early on, with more moderate technical riding but much faster speeds for the second half.Black Forest
While it starts off a bit flat, the trail quickly points down and does so rather precipitously, losing most of its elevation (500 feet) in the final half mile. The switchbacks are tight, the dirt loose, and the Aspen groves aplenty throughout. It's fairly high up at Park City Mountain Resort as well, so it's almost certainly something you'll have to yourself.Woodward Park City
What a place! Outside, Woodward offers up lift access to 3 trails across all ability levels, a stunning asphalt pumptrack, and multiple dirt jump sets. Plus there's a skate park. You can also head inside to yet another pumptrack, a concrete skatepark, mini and mega ramps, a foam pit, trampolines, and more. This is how world class athletes are developed.W.O.W. Trail
This 10+ mile long gem tops out at just over 8,300 feet near Deer Valley Resort, and proceeds to drop close to 2,300 vertical feet down to Heber City. While the bottom will be surrounded by a pumptrack and community bike park, the trail itself is an absolute stunner. From the top the trail works its way down through aspen groves, to fir forests midway down, and ending with dry, powdery dirt among sage and scrub. There is nothing particularly technical about the ride save for maybe a few high speed, off camber sections and the occasional root garden. The dirt is pretty stellar early on, and the latter portion of the ride will provide you with genuinely breathtaking views. It's a lot of fun from start to finish, and you can add some flow and jumps to the end at the Pine Canyon Bike Park.
Park City sits at 7,000 above sea level which makes it considerably cooler compared to the larger population centers in the valleys below. The riding season for PC begins in earnest in May and runs through October or whenever the snow begins to fly. Higher elevations will see a shorter riding window. With much of the rest of the state being a desert, it's not hard for locals to get some quality time on two wheels at virtually any point during the year, but prime time for Park City would be in July and August, as those are the two warmest months of the year and see the least amount of cloud cover.
Average temps rarely exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, however due to the nature of the higher elevations it can feel a bit warmer as the thinner atmosphere allows for a bit more UV roasting. Summer nights are fairly cool, so pack accordingly.
I feel like this is a lazy suggestion so apologies in advance, but bring whatever ya got. Between the lift served terrain, the massive backcountry, Woodward, so on and so forth, there are opportunities for everything from a dirt jumper to a downhill rig. I will say that for what it's worth, there were a few times while riding my Firebird on trails that were rated black, I found myself wishing I had opted for the shorter and snappier Trail429.
Local Clubs and Advocates:
Park City and the surrounding area are well served by two primary advocacy groups: the Mountain Trails Foundation
and the Wasatch Trails Foundation
. The Mountain Trails Foundation is a 501c3, and much of their focus is specifically on trails within Park City proper. Founded nearly 30 years ago, Mountain Trails Foundation works with local government entities, private landowners and developers to ensure access to over 400 miles of multi-use trail in and around town.
Eric Porter, longtime professional mountain cyclist and Youtube extraordinaire, is the president of the Wasatch Trails Foundation, the group responsible for the W.O.W. trail among other gems. The 501c3 is currently working on completion of the Pine Canyon Bike Bark, which in addition to the completed pumptrack, will include a beginner jump line as well as 2 new flow trails connecting the lower W.O.W. trail parking lot to the pump track. Both organizations are now working together to apply for grant funding on a singletrack connector between the Park City trails and the Wasatch County trails.South Summit Trails Foundation
does a lot for the area as well, managing the trails around Kamas, Oakley, and the Eastern areas of Park City in Summit County.
Accommodations and Food:
Park City has absolutely no shortage of places to eat and sleep while in town. In fact, I'd say that the options are rather overwhelming. Tourism reigns supreme here, meaning there is something in Park City for just about everyone, from hostels and camping sites, to rooms that cost almost as much as my mortgage payment. Per night. I stayed in a condo in Old Town which is effectively "Main Street" without being called Main Street, which proved to be a great spot for walking around and exploring the town by foot or bike. Other options can put you at one of the two main resort areas in town, or you can stay a bit further away and closer to Kimbal Junction and Woodward. If you'd rather just park your glossy van life somewhere or go old school in a tent, you can post up at places that include Rockport State Park, Echo State Park, or the Park City RV Park. Check out Visit Park City's lodging guide
for a complete list of available options.Breakfast: Wasatch Bagel and Grill
serves up tasty breakfast sandwiches and bagels (captain obvious over here), plus they've got your burger needs covered for lunch or dinner!
I'm a big smoothie and coffee in the am kind of guy, and Atticus Coffee and Tea House
delivered on both fronts quite nicely while I was in town. Fret not, they've got plenty more if you're looking for additional breakfast items.Lunch:
You had me at the poke bowl. Check out Five5eeds
for super tasty midday eats.
Serving up comfort food in a casual setting, Windy Ridge Cafe
is a great alternative to the pricier Main Street options.Dinner:
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Park City, eat at a world class restaurant at least once. Make it the Stein Eriksen Lodge
has some top notch noodles and curries, as well as a really cool spot to eat outside when the temps permit.
Organic, fresh, and freaking tasty burgers are waiting for you at Burgers and Barley
Local Bike Shops:Jans
is dedicated to the sports they love and has your needs covered, whether you are interested in the latest alpine skis or best new mountain bikes, you want to take a fly fishing lesson, or you’d like to book a guided mountain biking tour.White Pine Touring
has been at it in PC longer than most, specializing in mountain biking, backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and rock climbing.Contender Bicycles
builds custom bikes and carries MTB stalwarts including Santa Cruz, Cannondale, Juliana, Moots, Scott and more. Storm Cycles
has been serving the Park City community for over 20 years, carries brands that include Pivot Cycles, Trek, and Yeti. Stop in for all of the local trail beta you could ask for.Park City Bike and Demo
has your rental and service needs covered.Switchback Sports
is Park City's only outdoor gear consignment shop, and also offers a range of service options.
1. Look for that angle
. The Provo and Weber rivers are both renowned for having plentiful brown and rainbow trout that are kept fat and happy by a year round diet of sow bugs. Both are also tailwaters, which means that the fish benefit from cold oxygenated water throughout the year leading to upwards of 3,000 fish per mile. Be sure to give Jans
a shout if you need gear or info!
2. Check out Bridal Veil Falls
. The drive out of Heber along route 189 is pretty stunning, but it's the destination here that really sets this scenic drive apart. Bridal Veil Falls is a 607 foot tall waterfall in the southern end of Provo Canyon, and is well worth a break in the bike action to see firsthand.
3. PC is obviously well known for its resort amenities
and now for its action sport complex in Woodward, but the National Ability Center
is an adaptive sports complex just outside of town, and works "with people of all abilities, harnessing the power of specialized equipment, techniques, teaching methods and over 1,900 volunteers."Park City mountain biking trailsPark City Mountain Resort mountain biking trails