Trail Hounds

Biking Guide: 5 Challenging MTB Rides Worth the Grind

Park City's mountainous terrain has tremendous offerings for the advanced rider.

By Jane Gendron June 19, 2019 Published in the Summer/Fall 2019 issue of Park City Magazine

Wasatch Crest trail

Though not all of the trails in this section are purely for advanced riders, they require decent levels of fitness, a fair amount of chutzpah, and, often, technical prowess.

Shadow Lake Loop

Length: 18 miles
Find it: Park at or ride to the Silver Star Trailhead (1825 Three Kings Drive), or start from the lower parking lot at Park City Mountain and ride Silver Spur Trail to Armstrong.
A lung-burning ascent rewards riders with a gorgeous retreat—a remote alpine lake and views of West Face and Portuguese Gap—followed by a tremendous downhill return. Begin by hunkering down for a steady climb via Armstrong all the way to Mid Mountain. When the trail intersects with Crescent Mine Grade (CMG), continue upward on CMG. Turn left onto Thaynes Road, then right onto Apex Trail, then turn right onto Keystone Trail toward Shadow Lake. Once at Jupiter access road, descend toward the lake and look for singletrack on your left. Pop onto the trail hugging the lake’s shore. Take a well-deserved break for a swim, snack, and alpine snooze. Then, remount and climb the Wasatch Crest Connector. Make a hard left and switchback uphill until the Shadow Lake Loop (left). Ride the loop counterclockwise, cruising around the lake, eventually reconnecting with the Keystone Trail. Continue back down Keystone, past Apex, and downhill (left) onto Three Candles, past the yurt onto Mojave (downhill only) to Mid Mountain, which you descend until a service road, then take a 270-degree right turn onto lower CMG, which brings you back to the resort base. Phew!

Wasatch Crest Trail

Length: 13 miles (one way)
Find it: Shuttle to Guardsman Pass, or climb Armstrong to Mid Mountain to Pinecone Ridge.
These ridgeline views rock, with the dramatic peaks of Big and Little Cottonwood on one side and glimpses of Park City on the other. That said, it gets crowded at the 9,000-foot level, from July until the snow flies. Starting at Guardsman means riding Scott’s Bypass and climbing the Crest’s first test: “Puke Hill” (350 feet of vertical within a half mile). The rest is smooth sailing by comparison, except for the mileage-induced fatigue, and a stint along the scary, exposed spine. Ride all the way to Mill Creek Canyon (and shuttle back), or pop down via Mid Mountain Trail to return to Park City.

Road to Arcylon

Length: 3 miles
Find it: Park at Gorgoza Trailhead (Kilby Road) and ride Millennium Trail east to Gorgoza Park Trail.
Short and oh-so-rippably sweet, this less-populated section of trails makes the most of gravity. Head up Gorgoza Park Trail for 1.2 miles, then take the UP Trail for a mile to the wickedly-fun-for-the-free-ride-inclined, downhill-only Road to Arcylon (and, yes, that is “no lycra” spelled backwards). Ride this loop a few times to up your skill set on the jumps, drops, rocky bits, and speedy—somewhat limited sightlined—turns. Feel free to ride around the tricky parts as needed, but keep in mind that downhillers may be coming on your tail on RTA, so stopping well off to the side is advised.

Payroll via Corvair

Length: 3 miles
Find it: Park in the streetside pullout parking, just above Empire Lodge on Marsac Avenue (Guardsman Pass), and turn onto Mid Mountain Trail on your left as you descend the asphalt.
Enjoy a stint of aspen-lined Mid Mountain downhill before turning uphill onto the classic singletrack of Corvair, where switchbacks meander through tree groves—a mix of deciduous and evergreen. Then, turn left on downhill-only Payroll for a giddy, flowy descent including a rock garden, jump features, and a gully that swoops, roller-coaster-like, to the trail’s end. Then return on Mid Mountain or venture elsewhere in the high-alpine neighborhood. Of note: Consider checking out nearby TG, Team Big Bear, Boulder, Tour de Suds….


Length: 8.8 miles (one way); 17.6 miles (out and back)
Find it: Park on Pine Canyon Rd, Midway, near the campground at Wasatch Mountain State Park, or shuttle up Pine Canyon Rd to the trailhead near the ridge, and make this a downhill ride, or ride up the trail and return via steep road.
An extraordinarily photogenic trail, WOW roams through geological and ecological history, from scrub oak in the valley near the start to high-ridge cedars and views of Timpanogos and Cascade. Though officially outside of Park City limits, WOW (Wasatch Over Wasatch) does skirt Park City–owned Bonanza Flat and will—one day—connect to the greater trail system. Start near the state park campground and follow the undulating terrain as it ascends roughly 2,000 feet in elevation. Though the ride is not technical, the length is significant.

Before you go

Mountain weather is changeable, so layer up. Take altitude into consideration; don’t be afraid to stop for your oxygen-depleted lungs’ sake or to make way for a moose, and bring plenty of water and snacks to avoid bonking. Grab a Mountain Trails Foundation ( map, available at most sports retailers and coffee shops (or online) to plot your route, or download Trailforks or MTB Project apps for real-time GPS guidance. And consider purchasing a copy of Park City’s Prime Cuts 3, the newest edition of the go-to trail guidebook by longtime local riders Paul Boyle, Mark Fischer, and Charlie Sturgis (available at local retailers).

Special thanks to Scott House of White Pine Touring, Charlie Sturgis of Mountain Trails Foundation, Ben Liegert of Snyderville Basin Recreation, Todd Henneman of Storm Cycles, and Chris Erkkila of Deer Valley Resort for sharing trail- and road-riding expertise.

(See individual bike option articles divided by levels of expertise.)

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