When it comes to Park City, there’s not shortage of trails to ride. From PCMR to Canyons, Round Valley to Deer Valley, UOP to Glenwild, and everything in between. But there’s one ride that everyone knows, and if they haven’t ridden it, it’s on their bucket list. Whether you shuttle to the top of Guardsman Pass or earn it from Park City or the Big Cottonwood side, it doesn’t matter. The ride I’m talking about is the Wasatch Crest Trail, or the Crest as we mostly call it.
I’ve ridden this trail 3 times now, once shuttled and twice ridden up from the Park City side, and it gets better every time. The trail itself, is only 6 miles long, which nothing spectacular as far as long rides go. But where this trail is located is what is truly incredible about it, and make it worth truly worth every second. The trail sits above 9,500′ on the ridgeline of the Wasatch back. Once up on the Crest, you are gifted with panoramic views of the entire Wasatch Range towards the west and the vast mountains and hills of Park City to the east. Nothing but open trails in front of you.
On Sunday, my buddies Kyle and Pete and I headed off from Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), with our bikes pointed uphill with the goal of riding up to the top of the Crest trail. From the PCMR base, we headed up the long climb of Armstrong, followed by what felt like an even longer climb up Pinecone. The first few miles felt great, and we were moving at a pretty good pace. By mile 7 or so, the climbing was starting to wear on our legs (and minds to be honest). The sun was hot, and we were sweating harder than ever before. After thousands of pedals on our cranks, we finally climbed our way out of the woods and onto the Crest. All in total, the climb is over 9 miles long and goes up 3,000ish feet. Not bad for the “start” of a ride.
Once on the Crest, you start out on a double-track, with the massive Big Cottonwood Canyon dropping off to the left. Eventually, you reach the singletrack and the fun begins. Ripping around flowing trails in some of the prettiest place in Utah. After the only climb on the Crest has you gasping for air (not including Puke Hill if you shuttle it), it’s nothing but fun ahead. Most notably, the Spine!
The Spine is the most infamous technical section, in my opinion, in Utah. If you say the spine, no one asks which trail you’re talking about, because everyone knows. The Spine is a section of jagged, sharp red rock on the saddle between summits of Desolation Peak and Square Top. Despite being relatively wide, 15′ across, the stakes and consequences are quite high if you fail to ride it successfully. There is a steep, double black diamond ski pitch on either side for reference. It’s not a shear cliff drop-off, but it would put you in the hospital if you took the tumble. To date, I’ve only cleaned the true Spine section once. There is a ride around on the left for the faint of heart.
To clean the Spine, you need to hit it head on. Carrying your speed, jumping over steeper rocks, trying to find the smoothest line. But smooth is a relative term. Unfortunately, on Sunday, I did not clean it. My tire got stopped in it’s tracks and forced me to get off the pedals. Then, I foolishly tried to remount and ride, making it about 3 feet before getting stone-walled and ending up flipping over the bars with feet still stuck in the Pedals. I slammed into the rock, luckily taking the brunt of the force on my hands, almost breaking my hand in the process.
Pete also took a tumble on the Spine as well. These were not the last time our bikes (and bodies) hit the dirt on this ride. The second technical section is a rock garden feels never ending. Chunky, loose, and gnarly. This lead to another spill.
Trying to go Point to Point, we decided to forgo the normal descent down into Canyons. Instead, we wanted to stick to the singletrack and end up back at my Condo. This meant heading down the Ridge Connector, onto Mid Mountain, and traversing across Olympic to reach the trails by Utah Olympic Park. Once we reached the top of the Olympic hill, we descended down ever switchbacking Moose Puddle, then onto OMH before taking the Millenium Trail to the Condo.
26 Miles. 5 total hours of riding. 4,150ft of climbing. 3 falls over the bars (for me). And one helluva epic ride!
If you’re itching to ride this trail, and can’t wait to get on your bike, but you’re still stuck at work… hopefully this video of my first Crest ride can hold you over.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.