Mountain biking Team Big Bear and the Bowhunter Loop
Deer Valley is mostly known for lift-serviced, downhill mountain biking, and rightfully so considering the amount of flow trails and man-made features that litter the tracks weaving through ski runs at Silver Lake. But there are more typical cross-country offerings at DV akin to the singletrack at PCMR. The excellent lariat-style loop of Team Big Bear, Flagstaff, Ruby Road, and Bowhunter provides a challenging uphill filled with technical singletrack, classic Park City aspen groves, and overstuffed views of the Wasatch Front and Back.
The ride begins at the Silver Lake base area at Deer Valley. Go right on a dirt road from the Sterling Express lift and watch for the singletrack on the left just after going beneath an underpass. This is the start of the Mid Mountain Trail and will take you to Team Big Bear. For now, enjoy the nice warm up your legs will get while traversing this hugely popular trail.
After about a mile-and-a-half, you’ll see the sign for Team Big Bear on the left. Take this fork uphill where it switches back almost immediately. This is where your day is going to get steep and a bit more technical. Team Big Bear is basically a switchbacking slog through a giant stand of aspen trees complete with tight corners, and a requirement to navigate roots, rocks and narrow spaces between aspen trunks. However, the serious business of ascending the trail is made lighter by the furry creatures living in wooden houses nailed to the trees. It’s a veritable raccoon village, likely built for the amusement of children skiing by in the winter.
Before long, the trail ends up at a dirt road, where it is tempting to get off course. Stay straight and you’ll see where the singletrack continues. After almost 3 miles, you’ll reach the fork for the Flagstaff Trail. There are many different routes you can take here in order to reach the top. It’s best to have the Park City area trail map on hand for navigation, but even then, it can get confusing. Basically, follow the signage as best you can, and when in doubt, go up. But if you stay on Flagstaff, or the newer Ruby Road trail, you’ll pretty much end up at the saddle between Flagstaff and Bald Mountains.
You’ll really know you’re close when you exit the pine trees and enter a wide valley filled with brush and wildflowers. Many downhill-specific trails flow through here, and you’ll see the saddle up ahead. Ride to the saddle while keeping left and look for a faint trail in the sage brush that heads toward a sub-peak of Bald Mountain. This is the Bowhunter Loop.
Bowhunter is a highlight of the Deer Valley trail complex, not so much because the trail is awesome, but because of the views you are rewarded with. The trail is not well used, as evidenced by some overgrown spots and brush that scrapes on your bike frame as you ride by. But when you reach the backside of the mountain, the panorama opens wide. The entire Wasatch Back spreads out, with views of Jordanelle Reservoir sparkling below and the Uinta Mountains keeping watch on the horizon. It’s a good spot for a food break before continuing on and completing the loop. Overall, this ride is a 10 1/2 mile loop with around 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
As far as descents go, coming back down the way you came is pretty top notch. You can follow your path back to the car via Flagstaff and Team Big Bear, which is a rollicking good time with some fast, flowing sections followed by technical, tight switchbacks and closely-spaced aspen trees. Or, since you’re in the neighborhood, you can choose one of many downhill-only trails that are the haunt of armor and full-face helmet clad rabble rousers. If you’re so inclined, you can join these lift-serviced types and jump off man made features, cruise through perfectly banked turns, and test your balancing skills on wooden bridges, teeter totters and log obstacles. All trails here eventually end at the base of Silver Lake, where you started.
If you have the time (and the legs) for an even longer ride, you can drive to the top of Prospector Avenue in Park City, park, then ride up the Prospector Trail until you reach the start of Tour Des Suds, which connects with the Mid Mountain Trail very near where you join Team Big Bear. This longer start to the ride from town adds almost 2 miles one-way, but it is a steep 2 miles with sections of loose rock and dirt.
So, yes, not all mountain biking at Deer Valley is of the lift-served, knee-and-elbow-pad sort. A spin on Team Big Bear to the Flagstaff and Bowhunter loops is proof that there’s plenty of room for all types of two-wheeled, geared travel at Silver Lake. But it is easy to get lost or confused, so again, be sure to bring a trail map, available at all Park City bike shops. You can also map your ride at the the Mountain Trails Foundation.