Tread-setting in Park City
- Posted On
- Apr 08, 2010
- Northern Utah
The skinny (and fat) on biking the town
By Jane Gendron
Fat tires, skinny tires, Burley tires, tricycle tires… all have a place in Park City. With close to 400 miles of trails, this mountain resort town has a little something for everyone in the tread-setting crowd. From an extensive system of moderate-to-downright grueling singletrack to training wheel-friendly, hard-surface pathways, the town's ever growing network of trails makes for plenty of non-motorized, two-wheelin' fun as well as easy access to summer's happenings.
Hitting the singletrack
Backcountry trails, which weave through the area's three ski resorts, open space and privately owned land, have long been a playground for mountain bikers. Relatively mellow loops like "Lost Prospector" and Round Valley's intertwining trails help novice bikers get their legs, while trails such as "Spiro" and the 26-mile "Mid-Mountain Trail" cater to more advanced riders. Within the Park City area, hundreds of miles of purpose-built trails (i.e., not just old Jeep tracks) criss-cross the mountain landscape.
Mountain Trails Foundation, the non-profit that serves as steward of the vast network, creates an updated trail map every summer that can be picked up at virtually any local shop in exchange for a modest donation. Though executive director Carol Potter says "my garage is my trailhead," the crowded trailhead parking lots would imply that not all riders are inclined to two-wheel through town… but, that may all be about to change.
Thanks to a $15 million "walkability" bond, Park City is in the midst of reworking the town's "walkable" and "bikeable" routes. To date there are 21-miles of hard-surface routes. The kid-friendly "Farm Trail" behind McPolin Barn or the Park City to Quinn's Junction stretch of the Rail Trail, as well as 31 miles of soft surface trails gives novice riders and those seeking safe connector routes a head start in the cruising arena.
According to Heinrich Deters, Park City Municipal Trails Coordinator, "several WALC (Walking and Biking Liaison Committee) projects are in the works; the lengthy list of improvements range from sidewalks in Park Meadows and paving sections of the McLeod Creek Trail to underpasses on busy Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard." Ultimately, the incorporation of pathways and safe crossings will transform the neighborhood trails into carefully connected loops that will also serve as a spine system for road cyclists and mountain bikers. "As the projects come to fruition, cyclists and pedestrians can better access loops, neighborhoods, county roads and backcountry trails safely and efficiently" states Deters.
Families already have their pick of short stretches of level, paved paths that separate riders from vehicles. Soon, these paths will become big loops. Deters envisions what he calls the "green loop," a series of connected trails starting at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge, leading down Poison Creek Trail (which skirts the hairy section of Deer Valley Dr. paralleling Old Town and City Park), under the soon-to-be-constructed Bonanza Drive tunnel, along the Rail Trail to Quinn's Junction and ultimately connecting to Silver Summit. Though separate from the WALC efforts, the Silver Summit connector is already in the works.
Another lengthy cruiser for families begins at the Farm Trail, then meanders through the tunnel (under Hwy. 224), along McLeod Creek and Willow Creek Park trails and ultimately out to Redstone Shopping Center, where the promise of an ice cream reward may help little legs with the pedaling effort. Both of these routes have hard-surface and soft-surface trails that keep bikers off the main drags.
Similarly, road cyclists can take paved paths, such as the beginning section of the Rail Trail, to avoid vehicular traffic until reaching the less-congested county roads like the Brown's Canyon-Oakley-Kamas-Park City loop or the gorgeous Mirror Lake Highway. And by using Poison Creek Trail, road cyclists avoid Deer Valley Drive when accessing the heart-pumping Royal Street climb.
As Deters puts it, "Our walking and biking investment is an investment in our community and our environment."
Of course, if time or energy does not allow for navigating the in-town pathways, several trailheads have parking spaces and most can be accessed by the free city bus system; all of the buses are outfitted with bike racks in the summer months.
Places to go, people to see
Though not every ride needs an end point, Park City's summer events calendar is chock-full of bike-friendly destinations – all of which won't cost a penny (unless you can't resist the Utah peaches at the farmers' markets). A sampling of stops worth making along the trail:
Free summer concerts. Every Wednesday, local and regional bands take to the stunning outdoor amphitheater at Deer Valley Resort from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturdays, The Canyons hosts live outdoor music from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Acoustic singer-songwriters and smaller groups of musicians also perform on Saturdays and Sundays at Old Town's Miners Park from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Newpark Town Center, located adjacent to the Swaner Nature Preserve, has a free Thursday Night Concert Series in July and August as well as September Sessions, a free weekend concert series in the month of September. Silver Star also hosts free Thursday evening concerts, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on its slope-side deck. Occasionally, a free outdoor concert may be bumped by another event, such as a wine festival or symphony performance, so check out the Mountain Town Music calendar before packing a cooler and heading for the shows at Deer Valley, Main Street and The Canyons. www.mountaintownmusic.org. For Newpark concert information, visit www.newparktowncenter.com. For Silver Star bike and concert information, visit www.silverstarskiandsport.com or call 645-7827.
Take in some farm-fresh treats, local tunes and meet a farmer or artisan at one of two local farmers' markets. On Wednesdays, a sea of farm stalls fills the lower parking lot of The Canyons Resort from noon to 6 p.m. On Fridays, produce and homegrown goodies fill The Yard (on Kearns Blvd.). www.parkcityfarmersmarket.com. Cycling note: Be sure to stick to sidewalks and separate bike trails for as much as the Kearns and Hwy. 224 routes as possible and cross at traffic lights.
Make some music by testing out a giant xylophone-type, sculpture-instrument at the Sound Gardens along Poison Creek and McLeod Creek Trails. The funky instruments are located south of the Skate Park in City Park and close to Temple Har Shalom on McLeod Creek Trail.
Channel that free-to-be-you-and-me self at the Park Silly Sunday Market. This "zero-waste," festival-like market has a constantly changing assortment of artisans, farmers and entertainers – from veggie stands and beer gardens to wandering opera singers and rock bands. The market encourages cyclists by offering a free bike valet (run by Mountain Trails Foundation volunteers). Park Silly Sunday Market fills lower Main Street on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Feel like an Olympian as you ride the steep climb to Utah Olympic Park. The hairpin turns lead past free-range cattle and offer superb views as the road gains altitude. Site of the 2002 bobsled, luge, skeleton and ski jumping events, the 400-acre Utah Olympic Park has two free museums worth checking out (once you've caught your breath): the interactive Alf Engen Ski Museum and the 2002 Eccles Winter Olympic Museum. Take a self-guided tour or tag along with an expert. If you're lucky, your visit will coincide with athlete training, as Olympians and hopefuls soar off aerial jumps into the 400-gallon splash pool. An entry fee is required on Saturdays only, when aerialists put on a freestyle show; fees are also required for the park's rides (zip lines, alpine slide and bobsled). www.olyparks.com. Cycling note: This will be a challenging ascent, particularly for riders unaccustomed to the altitude. You will be riding alongside cars on the entry road, so stay close to the shoulder.
Discover Park City's past. Pop into the recently remodeled Park City History Museum on Main Street and ask for a self-guided walking tour of Main Street and Park Avenue. For a fee ($10 for adults), you can check out the interactive exhibits in the museum, take a guided historic tour ($5) or sign up for "Hike through History with Hal" (if you choose to become a member of the historical society). www.parkcityhistory.org
Yes, there is such a thing as a free ride. Several local bike shops offer group outings – both mountain biking and road rides – at no charge. Just show up, bring plenty of water, your wheels (or cash for rentals) and be ready to hit the trail:
19 Sports (located at The Canyons) offers several free group rides throughout the summer months. On Wednesdays, a women-only road ride concentrates on an array of skills from pace lining to pack-riding. Typically, cyclists split into a couple of groups and set off from the base of the resort for an hour-long loop ride. On Tuesdays and Thursdays owner Rod Riley (or one of his bike expert colleagues) leads an intermediate to advanced road ride. On the mountain biking front, 19 Sports riders lead a free, Saturday morning two-hour ride through The Canyons. 435-649-1901
From June through mid-Sept., Cole Sport (located at 1615 Park Ave.) hosts a social, road biking ride on Monday evenings. Cyclists meet and depart from the Park Ave. shop. 435-649-4806.
Mountain bikers can join Jans Mountain Outfitters (1600 Park Ave.) for Tuesday evening rides, which cater to experienced cyclists. The rides (often three-hour outings) start in early May and continue through Labor Day. 435-649-4949
For the happy-go-lucky crowd, Silver Star Ski & Sport (1825 Three Kings Dr.) offers "Cruiserpalooza" on Thursday evenings at approximately 5:15 p.m. The relaxing, 45-minute, all-skill-level ride starts at the shop and casually makes its way to the McPolin Barn and back in time for Silver Star's free outdoor concert, held from 6 to 9 pm. Expect a greeting from the shop's mascot, Vidalia the bulldog, and be sure to stick around for some tunes and perhaps a bite at neighboring Silver Star Café. 435-645-7827
On the last Thursday of each month (May through Sept.), White Pine Touring (1790 Bonanza Dr.) offers a free employee-led, mountain bike tour for all skill levels. Riders meet at the shop, split into groups and set off for approximately two hours – just enough time to build up an appetite for the post-ride (also free) barbecue. 435-649-8710
Hitting the hay after a fun-filled day
Lodging deals are ripe for the picking during Park City's warm months.
"I've seen summer lodging deals reach as much as 50% off winter pricing," says Park City Chamber/Bureau communications coordinator Stephanie Nitsch. Jeff Bennett, president of Park City Area Lodging Association, concurs, explaining that the association's members often work with the chamber to promote lodging packages of "exceptional value."
Whether booking a condo for a month or a hotel room for a long weekend, be sure to ask about discounted rates and package deals when making reservations. Check out "hot deals" on the chamber Web site, www.parkcityinfo.com.