With the pause in the 2020 professional cycling season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, the top international and domestic road bike racers will not be gracing the routes of the greater Park City area, at least not in competition with each other. The Tour of Utah had been canceled back in the spring, but hopefully, we will see the pain and pageantry of top-level pro cycling back in 2021.
Interestingly enough, road cycling remains a relatively safe (as far as we know) outdoor activity when taking the right precautions such as maintaining small group sizes and having a mask handy. Many elite cyclists have called Park City their temporary home base to continue training in the event that iconic events like the Tour De France resume at rescheduled dates later in the fall. You can ride some of the same routes, many of them having marquee segments from legendary Tour of Utah stages, just imagine the roads are lined with cowbell-ringing flag -waving fans, and enjoy 5 of the best road rides in the Park City area.
Local cyclist Thomas Cooke has been riding the roads, bike paths, gravel paths, and singletrack trails in and around the Park City area for almost 30 years. He even raced the Tour of Utah back in the early days before it became a UCI international event, and has provided insight to course designers over the years.
1. Wednesday Night Worlds Kamas Ride
Locals call it either the Wednesday Night Worlds or the Dickie Bobbie ride, which may be some distorted reference to Will Ferrell’s character in the movie Talladega Nights, but whether you ride it alone or in a group, this is the most classic road loop around, offering a few signature climbs such as the Jordanelle Overlook SR-248 climb and Brown’s Canyon, as well as a smooth dirt road section known as Democrat Alley. Fast-paced riders can tackle this approximately 35-mile loop in under two hours. The recorded Strava route in the link above starts and finishes from the Highland Drive trailhead just off of Route 40 in Silver Summit, but you could easily start the same route from Quinn’s Junction (ice rink and ball field parking), or if riding from town, ride out the historic Rail Trail and pick up the route when the Rail Trail intersects with Landfill Road.
2. T$’s Basin Royale Plus or Minus Route
This 2-to-2 and a half hour, sub-35 mile ride is a local favorite, because it is mostly on paved bike paths, features scenic views of the legendary Park City White Barn, climbs up then descends iconic Royal Street, then has the big finish of winding back through Old Ranch Road. Think of this as the basic sandwich, as you can add or subtract things based on your available taste. Don’t feel up for the Royal Street climb? Then skip that section as you near the top of Deer Valley Drive. Want to add double meat? Then do the Royal Street climb and instead of coming back down Royal Street, continue up Empire Canyon to the Montage roundabout, or for a triple pattie, keep going all the way to the top of Guardsman Pass (these options are not on the recorded Strava route, but with a little creative Googling, you can figure it out. Start and finish anywhere in the Kimball Junction/Redstone area. The recorded Strava route in the link here starts and finishes just behind the Basin Recreation Field House.
3. Donner Party
If you are looking for a long day in the saddle, the Donner Party ride takes you all the way from Park City to Coalville via the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail, then around Echo reservoir, up and over another climb featured in a Tour of Utah stage ominously called the Hogsback, then meanders along East Canyon reservoir before returning to Park City via the Jeremy Ranch dirt road. This is a hybrid road/gravel ride best suited for at least 28c road tires if you are riding skinnier racing tires (but seriously, who does that anymore?), you either want to sit this one out or look on the map to replace some of the gravel sections, which in many cases is easily done. From late May through September, all of the gravel sections on this ride smooth out and can be handled on a standard road bike, but wider gravel tires are just that much better. Even at a brisk pace, this 58-mile ride as mapped out here (Strava Link) will take anywhere from 3 hrs 30 minutes to 4 hours in the saddle, so be prepared for a big day. Water and snacks can be found in Coalville and/or at the East Canyon Resort general store which you will see on your right after you pass the reservoir. The recorded Strava route in the link above starts and finishes at the Trailside Bike Park and adjacent school area, where there is plenty of parking if you need it.
4. T$’s Classic Town Loop
Everyone needs an easy “town loop” now and again. Our town loop just happens to be mellow, scenic, and awesome. This version starts and finishes in the Redstone area, using the pedestrian underpass that gets you under busy HWY 224 at Kimball Junction, then leads you on a tour through Park City Mountain’s Canyons area, before the Millennium Trail pops you onto White Pine Canyon. After a quick descent back towards 224, you will jump back on the Millennium Trail just after St. Mary’s catholic church, and follow this beautiful ribbon of pavement past the historic White Barn, and onward into city limits. Circumnavigate the Park City Municipal Golf Course, and you will tour through the Park Meadows neighborhood before returning to the paved 224 bike path. After passing the White Barn, you’ll cruise on a few very smooth sections of gravel towards Willow Creek Park, before finishing up where you started, on the Redstone side of HWY 224.
5. Add a Bonus UOP climb to the Classic Town Loop
It’s hard not to notice the ski jumps looming high and above when you start or finish a ride anywhere near Kimball Junction. Come on, you know you want to ride up there! Add this 15-20 minute addition at the end of your town loop and you will be rewarded with an additional 500+ vertical feet of climbing. Heck, you can go even further than the Utah Olympic Park Visitor’s Center, the home of the Alf Engen Ski Museum, and climb all the way up to the start of the Olympic bobsled track. With so much Olympic energy buzzing around this place, it’s hard not to feel like a god or goddess as you mash on your pedals up or carve the swooping switchbacks on the way down. If you take anything away from Ride #5 here, it should be this: there are a lot of spurs and additions to the core loops that will keep you pedaling in the surrounding area without leaving the greater Park City area, but for longer adventures, leaving the area is pretty fun too.