Wasatch Crest Trail Mountain Biking
The Top Of A Mountain Bikers Bucket List
At the top of Utah’s Wasatch mountains sits one of the most iconic mountain bike trails in the west, the Wasatch Crest Trail. As almost any experienced mountain biker will say, Utah is home to spectacular mountain biking.
Its unique landscapes and adventurous population has led to the construction and maintenance of unmatched trails throughout the state. In the south you will find beautiful red rock, the home of the Red Bull Rampage. In the north you will find something even more beautiful.
Northern Utah is known for the greatest snow on earth, the winters here are absolutely incredible; however, a local secret here is that summers are even better!
These glacier carved mountains provide dramatic views that you won’t find anywhere else.
The best way to experience these views is from the Wasatch crest trail, which takes riders on an unparalleled journey through the tops of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Millcreek Canyon in northern Utah.
What is the Wasatch Crest Trail?
The Wasatch Crest trail is an intermediate/advanced mountain bike trail that takes riders along the top of some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in Utah. This trail begins near the top of Guardsman Pass in Park City. As you begin, you can enjoy winding single-track trails that give you your first look at some of the beautiful fauna and foliage in the area. This portion of the trail is about 1.5 miles and is relatively easy, so don’t be fooled by the gentle ups and downs in this section. This is a great spot to relax and adjust to your bike because you will be coming up on the biggest ascent of your ride.
The Wasatch Crest trail is an intermediate/advanced mountain bike trail that takes riders along the top of some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in Utah.
This trail begins near the top of Guardsman Pass in Park City. As you begin, you can enjoy winding single-track trails that give you your first look at some of the beautiful fauna and foliage in the area.
This portion of the trail is about 1.5 miles and is relatively easy, so don’t be fooled by the gentle ups and downs in this section.
This is a great spot to relax and adjust to your bike because you will be coming up on the biggest ascent of your ride.
Accurately named Puke Hill, this stretch of dirt road puts even the most fit riders to the test. It boasts an elevation gain of 350 feet in under half a mile!
This brutal stretch features a couple false summits, so don’t get too excited until you reach the crest.
A lot of riders will dismount and walk a portion of this trail, so don’t be discouraged, it is well worth the riding yet to come.
When you reach the crest, take a moment to catch your breath and take in the magnificent views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City.
Now you are ready to enjoy the rest of the Wasatch crest trail!
The next portion of your ride will consist of small hills, exciting corners, and jaw dropping views.
The granite mountain tops provide a unique backdrop for the vibrant colors that fill the canyon. We recommend you make this ride at least twice, once in the spring to experience the wildflowers in full bloom, and again in the fall to see the leaves turn to beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow.
When you arrive at the red hills it means you are coming close to the crux of the trail.
Rough jagged protruding rocks mark the beginning of the spine. This short section takes riders over a difficult rocky section with steep drop offs on either side. It is not for the faint of heart. Rideable lines can be found in the center and on the left side of the spine. The center section is slightly smoother, but arguably more difficult taking into account the mental strength required to ride so close to the edge. There is no shame in walking your bike through this section, and if you choose to opt out, there is still plenty of amazing riding left for you to enjoy.
After completing the spine, there are multiple options for your descent back to civilization. You can head down to Lake Desolation which will take you directly to the Mill D Fork trail. You can continue on this trail until it throws you out into Big Cottonwood Canyon. Another option is to ride down onto the pipeline trail which takes you out through Millcreek Canyon. This option is only available on even-numbered days so plan ahead if you plan to choose this option. There are also various trails that take you back down into Park City. Your descent will be determined largely on where you decided to begin your ascent. Wherever you end up, make sure to take a moment to celebrate your completion of this bucket list mountain bike trail.
How do I get to the Wasatch Crest Trail?
There are a few parking spots available at the beginning of the trail in guardsman pass; however, these spots fill up extremely quickly and parking is not permitted on the road. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking there and then finding a way back up the canyon at the end of your ride, there are a couple of other options available for you to choose from.
The most popular method is by shuttle. Big Rack shuttle is a great option that runs all summer long. Shuttle services run from the base of Millcreek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Park City.
This option provides riders with a lot of different options for their descent, and adds some convenience to the end of your ride because you end up in your own vehicle.
Shuttle services in the canyon are very affordable and make trip planning a breeze.
Another one of our favorite options is to park at the Brighton Ski Resort. From there you can ride up to the trailhead, ride along the Wasatch Crest Trail, and then end up a short way down the canyon when you exit from the Mill D Trail. This is a great option on Odd-numbered days when the shuttle from the Millcreek Canyon is not running. The downside to this option is that it requires another ascent at the end of your ride to make it back up the last stretch of the canyon.
There are a number of other spots where you can begin and end your ride. While planning your trip it is important to decide how far you plan to go. This can be a very strenuous trail, so be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
What should I bring?
Depending on where you decide to begin and end, the Wasatch crest trail can range from 12 to 30 miles in length. Riders on the Mill D Fork generally complete the ride in about 2 hours, and riders who opt for Millcreek Canyon generally finish the ride between 3 and 4 hours. Being on the trail for extended periods of time can be very difficult which is why it is extremely important to plan ahead. Bring plenty of water because it can be strenuous and a lot of the ride takes place at almost 10,000 feet above sea level! We also recommend bringing a couple snacks, sunscreen, a repair kit, a helmet, and pads. There are no restrooms on the trail either, so we recommend using one of the bathrooms in the area before you begin your ride.
It is also very crucial to remember to check the weather before you begin your ride. Due to the length of the ride, weather conditions can change during your ride and it is important to bring the necessary equipment. If it looks like there is a chance of rain, it is definitely worth a little extra weight. I’ve been caught in a rainstorm at the top of the mountain one too many times to not bring a jacket on my next ride. Riders generally use this trail until mid October. This time frame varies depending on when snow begins to stick in the canyon. If riding is still available in late fall we recommend bringing heavier jackets as it can get very cold at the higher altitudes in the canyon.
Stay With Us
Now that you’re an expert on the Wasatch Crest Trail, the only thing missing is for you to ride it! This truly is one of the most incredible trails in Utah, and it’s well worth the time and effort to complete it. If you are looking to make it a weekend, check out the Brighton Vacation Rentals for a place to stay close to the trail.