Farewell to fall: Mountain biking in Park City, Utah

Park City mountain biking
Fall colors over 400 miles of trails. Eric Porter, sailing. Photo: Stephen Lloyd
Fall: While it might not be the most instinctive time to hit the trails, it’s kind of actually the best. The bugs are dead, the masses have returned from whence they came and flights and accommodations are less expensive than during peak holiday travel periods.

And when it comes to pairing an epic trail system with some downright glorious fall colors (and rare solitude), Park City, Utah, might be unbeatable. Here, on the eve of December, we celebrate a look back at all that’s great about riding before the snow really flies.

Pro mountain biker Eric Porter moved to Park City from Durango, Colorado, nine years ago and loved the local trail network — which has grown to an astounding 400-plus well-signed miles — so much that he’s put down permanent roots and is now taking his 5-year-old son out to explore on two wheels with him. We drank a little espresso one sunny fall afternoon to find out what’s good when it comes to rolling around in the dirt in this silver-mining town turned mountain bike mecca.

Park City mountain biking
Eric Porter breezes through golden aspens on Wasatch Crest Trail, Scott's Bypass. Photo: Stephen Lloyd
“I think it's a combination of the access and the variety of trails,” says Porter of why Park City has become so coveted for mountain biking. “I think it's the closest to an airport — 30 minutes away — and you can ride everything from your condo. Just cross-country climbing to big shuttles for big epic rides still in the same area, finishing with the bus system to just bring you right back and even shuttle you to the [Canyons] ski resort bike park and the community bike park.” All busses are equipped with bike racks — and free. Genius.

Park City is one of the only towns in the country to have earned the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Gold Level designation. The area offers a rich diversity of riding, from classic cross-country epics to machine-groomed downhill resort lines, locally maintained pump tracks and skills parks — even enduro. Bring yo’ kids, bring yo’ wife: Seriously, there’s an experience for everyone.

Park City mountain biking
Eric Porter nails a bermed boardwalk at Trailside Park. Photo: Stephen Lloyd
For pump-track skills fun, head to Trailside Park. The combo trail zone/skills park is part of the municipal recreation system, surrounded by traditional ball fields and a skatepark (and free for everyone). “There's something for the whole family to do and everybody's satisfied from a pro rider to a first timer,” says Porter. “That’s also city recreation, so they pay some of the best riders in town that are also good builders to build that and maintain it.”

Park City mountain biking
Eric Porter takes a breather on Powerline Trail to check out the silver-mining roots of Park City. Photo: Stephen Lloyd
For singletrack, options are endless. (Some of Porter’s favorites? Pine Cone, Armstrong Trail, Dead Tree and Apex.) Some even feature a historical bent, as some of the trails crisscross through abandoned mines. “This whole thing is Swiss cheese, really,” laugh Porter. “There was a lot of mining here, so before they had these ski lifts, it was actually ski tunnels. They used the mining cars, and, as late as the ’60s, you’d go straight into the hillside and then up 1,700 feet up through a mine-shaft elevator.” Now you can ride right through the ruins.

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Downhill enthusiasts can get their gravity fix at Canyons Bike Park, which offers beginner to pro-level groomed trails as well as on-site rentals, from pads to pedals. “It's only 30 bucks a day to ride there,” says Porter, “and the trails are good enough that it's worth paying that to go ride those. Big Drum Trail is pretty fun.”

Even if the first flurries have flown, this community’s got you covered. “There’s tons of trails that are coming groomed and ready to go for fat biking, too,” explains Porter. “So if you're into that, you can really ride year-round if you don't want to switch over to cross-country skiing for that type of workout. A lot of people commute on fat bikes now who work on Main Street, and around town on the bike paths.”

Ready to ride? Pay a visit to Jans to reserve the bikes, then book an excursion (three- or five-hour tours) with White Pine Touring to take the map-reading out of the equation.

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