Though land conservation has been a local priority since the early ’90s, in recent years Park City’s purse strings have loosened significantly when it comes to open-space purchases. Just last year, a $25 million voter-approved bond for Bonanza Flat’s $38 million price tag was out-splurged by the $48 million Treasure Hill/Armstrong Snow Ranch Pastures purchase. Now, these aspen- and wildflower-bedecked swaths of land serve multiple purposes: protecting wildlife habitat, view corridors, and watersheds while increasing recreational opportunities. Though trail building is still in the works, here’s the latest on taking a walk or ride amid these gorgeous, unspoiled landscapes.
Location: Guardsman Pass
Of note: Beware the early-season mosquitoes, and snow can be present into July.
New trail: Bloods Lake (completed 2018)
Access via: The new Bloods Lake Trailhead, not the view area/mountain bike shuttle drop-off at the top of Guardsman Pass
Thanks to minimal elevation gain, this view-laden, three-mile out-and-back trail is suitable for all ages. Traverse aspen groves and meadows on the south- and east-facing slopes, then meander through evergreens on the north-facing slopes until you reach the trail’s namesake lake. Keep an eye out for the rare clustered lady’s slipper (a member of the orchid family), the flammulated owl, and moose. Dogs are not permitted within 1,000 feet of Bloods Lake (the drinking water source for the on-site Girl Scout camp); however, a new, one-mile trail to nearby Lackawaxen Lake is under construction.
Also check out: The new Io Trail, a couple of miles of vertical singletrack out of the east side of Bloods Lake Trailhead, which links to double track and ultimately Jupiter Peak.
In-the-works trail: 9K Trail (working name; expected completion fall 2020)
Access via: Bonanza Flat Trailhead
From the trailhead, a brief connector leads to this lofty, mountainous trail, which is currently an abbreviated out-and-back hike or ride leading through meadows, aspens, and conifers. For now, the trail ends at a junction at Black Forest Trail, a gnarly, black-diamond downhill trail (Of note: A grant is in the works for a future intermediate-level alternative). Ultimately, the 9K Trail will increase loop options, serving as another artery (think Mid Mountain Trail, roughly 1,000 feet higher) and leading riders over to the Wasatch Crest Trail from Empire Pass, bypassing Guardsman.
Coming soon: A to-be-named multipurpose trail (expected opening summer 2021)
Access via: Bonanza Flat Trailhead
Started last summer, this in-the-works directional (one-way for bikes) counterclockwise loop is designed to weave adventurers through the conservation area with the additional purpose of mitigating wildlife impacts. According to Wendy Fisher of Utah Open Lands, human trail use (allowed July 1 through October 1) will help preserve aspen grove health—particularly protecting tender shoots—by moving the robust elk population through the property and preventing the animals from “eating themselves out of house and home.”
A word on Bonanza Flat access
The main trailheads are Bloods Lake and Bonanza Flat. Guardsman Pass View Area is perfect for mountain bike shuttle drop-off for accessing the Wasatch Crest Trail; and six parking spaces are available for jaunts to Clayton Peak and 10420 hikes. Mid Mountain Trailhead (with 25 parking spots, located near the Montage) is yet another way to access the conservation area. Empire Pass View Area also has limited parking.
Location: Old Town Park City
New trail: Treasure Hill (completed 2019)
Access via: Trailhead on the corner of Lowell and Empire Avenues; Main Street access via new Sixth Street stairs (slated for completion this summer) and just above Town Lift Plaza
Nab spectacular Old Town views and get a quick taste of alpine singletrack—or launch into a web of trails—via this directional trail (uphill only for bikes) out of the Lowell Avenue trailhead. The roughly half-mile, gradual climb leads to a quick loop, Sweeney Switchbacks, which in turn delivers access to small concentric loops or a vast network of popular Old Town trails. Be sure to study Mountain Trails Foundation’s map to piece together trails all the way to Mid Mountain, traversing groves of Gambel oak, aspens, conifers, and ski-run meadows.
Armstrong Snow Ranch Pastures
This 19-acre conservation easement neighbors a 16-acre working ranch (often frequented by grazing cows) and Park City Golf Course. Though no trails are in the works for summertime access, a snowshoe trail is planned for the hillside of the pastoral Thaynes Canyon property this winter, as well as extended Nordic grooming for cross-country skiing (roughly three kilometers) on the easement and a section of the golf course.
For up-to-date maps and information regarding the Park City area’s 400-plus miles of current and up-and-coming trails visit mountaintrails.org