Mountain biking the Wasatch Crest Trail
The Wasatch Crest Trail is probably the most famous mountain biking route in the Salt Lake area. There are many good reasons for its legendary status, such as an extremely well maintained single track, incredible views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Park City area, open spaces, old-growth forest, alpine lakes, and simple fact that you can ride your bike along the crest of a major mountain range.
The most typical way of riding the Wasatch Crest Trail is to begin at Guardsman Pass (where a shuttle vehicle is left,) and riding toward Salt Lake City. From the pass, the trail climbs up through a pine forest below Brighton Ski Resort. Soon after, riders arrive at Puke Hill, a long, steep and loose ascent that forces many riders to dismount and walk. Luckily, it is the only major climb on the ride as it brings you to the top elevation of the crest at 9,900 feet, where the real fun begins.
From the top of Puke Hill, ride the dirt road west toward the transmission towers. After that, the trail becomes a single track dream that coasts along the ridge while some of the most spectacular views of the Wasatch Mountains fall away to the north and south.
Eventually, the trail turns north toward Mill Creek Canyon where you ride past the ski lifts of The Canyons Ski Resort. The most challenging descent of the ride, The Fin, is located here. The Fin is a spine of jagged rock that only the most experienced (or stupid) riders will attempt. Most people walk this section and for good reason, as a fall would assuredly mean wrecking yourself and your bike.
Once The Fin is cleared, the trail descends into forested terrain filled with wildflowers, aspen groves and pine forest. Eventually, the trail turns into the Great Western Trail, which, as with all upper Mill Creek Canyon trails, can only be ridden on even-numbered days of the month. Continue riding through open meadows and alpine woods to the Big Water Trail where a short, switchbacking descent to Mill Creek Road to the Big Water parking lot for a total of 13 miles. Uou can also leave a shuttle car at the bottom of Mill Creek Canyon, then enjoy a fast ride on the pavement that will bring you to your car at the bottom, or link up with the Pipeline Trail and descend to the road via Rattlesnake Gulch for an even longer 26-mile ride.
There are many other variations to ride the Wasatch Crest Trail. Bikers can descend at Desolation Lake and ride the Mill D North Fork Trail to Big Cottonwood Canyon. People who love to ride uphill can find it by riding the Wasatch Crest Trail in reverse starting at the Big Water Trail, up to the transmission towers, then back down for an epic out-and-back. The Wasatch Crest Trail can also be linked with Park City’s Mid Mountain Trail for a super epic fat-tire day.
Any way you choose to ride it, The Wasatch Crest Trail is a “must do” that local mountain bikers ride at least once every season. The scenery, quality of the trail, various options of descent and the overall experience makes mountain biking the Wasatch Crest Trail a sweet way to spend a summer day in the mountains of Utah.