In the shoulder season, Park City trails are unpredictable, and a few unknowing turns can lead to muddy feet and paws. Here are our go-to hikes, in spite of tumultuous weather.
Hit the asphalt
During a torrential downpour or after several days of rain, one way to guarantee mud-free excursions is to walk on a paved trail.
The paved 2.2-mile Farm Trail leads through pastures filled with grazing horses or cows. To access the Farm Trail, use the parking lot across Hwy 224 from the McPolin Barn, and head through the underpass.
Another paved option is Poison Creek Trail, which meanders along the edge of City Park and leads to lower Main Street. Park at the Rail Trail parking lot (by White Pine Touring) and briefly follow the Rail Trail south through the Deer Valley Dr underpass to Poison Creek, a 1.2-mile trail with a gradual uphill slope. When it intersects with lower Main Street, extend the walk for another 1.4 miles by continuing up the Snow Park Trail.
Find the well-drained terrain
A day or two after a heavy rain, the fastest drying trails are in areas with full sun exposure.
Rademan Ridge is often the first trail to dry in the Round Valley system. The path is wide, so usually, there are well-drained, sandy sections, and it is easy to avoid puddles or mud. To hike Rademan Ridge, park at the Cove Trail Head. The first 0.3 miles are steep and rocky, then the trail evens out and the next mile is relatively flat with expansive views of the resorts.
Bad Apple Trail Head accesses an array of sunny, south-facing Glenwild trails. From the trailhead, ascend half a mile up Bad Apple Trail, then continue up another mile on Fink Again. To extend your outing, go either direction on 24-7.
When the trails are mostly dry, and grey skies threaten a drizzle, not a downpour, hiking with forest coverage is a great option. The canopy of leaves and branches will prevent you and the earth from getting too wet.
Empire Link Trail wanders through aspen and pine forests. To hike Empire Link, drive up Daly Ave until it ends at a trailhead parking lot. From the dirt road (Daly Ave), turn up Ontario Ridge for 0.3 miles, then continue up DTS Ontario Bypass for 0.5 miles until it connects with Empire Link. From DTS Ontario Bypass, Empire Link is an additional 2.1 miles. If the threat of rain lifts (and you feel confident about walking back to the car exposed to the elements), about halfway into Empire Link head down the dirt road, Daly Grind, which leads back to the trailhead.
Of course, there is no guarantee that a trail will be mud-free. Practice good eco-ethics and be prepared to turn around if a trail goes from dry to muddy. As Mountain Trails Foundation puts it, "If it is sticking to your heels or wheels, turn around." Maps and trail conditions updates at mountaintrails.org and basinrecreation.org.