Between thickets of pine trees, sagebrush, and rock are the caramel dirt roads of the Park City trail system. Trails that lead the town to tip and summit to lake, winding through wildflowers, climbing past Aspens, skipping over snowmelt creeks, and gliding across grassy ski runs. Trails that bloom as winter fades, flowering with a new season of sport in a town that seems to call hikers and bikers with the same volume and enthusiasm it does skiers and snowboarders, saying boldly, with her red tulips and blue skies, I’ve changed, again, and maybe, for the better.
Boasting over 400 miles of trail, from novice to expert, this mountain town, well known for being home to the largest ski resort in the country, doesn’t just melt away when the lifts close. Each trail is groomed and maintained, ready to support the summer season of hikers and mountain bikers who call these unearthed pathways home for half the year. And, if you’re curious what environmental magician keeps the trails clear and clean year after year, well, we’ve got the dirt there too.
Mountain Trails Foundation
For 28 years, the Mountain Trails Foundation has been grooming and building new trails throughout Summit County. Today, they service over 150miles of Park City’s trail system and continue to develop and carve new trails each year. “We started when people were building pirate trails on private land,” says Lora Smith, Resource and Development Director for MTF, “Charlie Sturgis, our Executive Director, he’s who worked with the landowners to get permits to build legitimate trails people could hike and bike.”
But to those of us who find using the trails less of a mystery than building one ourselves, MTF isn’t burying the answer, “It’s much like a construction site with dangers and hard hats,” says Smith, “We have a seven-man seasonal crew, three work year-round led by a foreman who all work 40 hours a week.” The team uses topographical maps to align with the current trail system, taking into account direction and trail use, whether it would be a hike, bike, or multiuse route. They then present their plans to city stakeholders and take multiple site walks with the crew and landowners, measuring inclines and ensuring the trail will have proper drainage. From there, the clearing begins, removing debris and vegetation, making way for the excavator to dig the main path, finishing by hand, and then taking it for a test drive before opening to the public. This year, the MTF will continue their work at Bonanza Flat, including the extension of the Bloods Lake Trail toward Lake Lackawaxen and the Bonanza Loop trail, which will be mountain bike-friendly.
In 1999 the Snyderville Basin Recreation District was formed and funded to develop the trails and recreation department, just as Park City begin to grow. “There was more of a demand for recreation outside of Park City proper,” says Brian Hanton, Director for Basin Rec, “Trails have always been a driver for the community as a whole.” Today, Basin rec services over 170 miles of Park City’s trail system, both natural and hard-surfaced trails, clearing debris and maintaining their surfaces. “It’s one of the most fun jobs in our district,” says Hanton, “They can pedal, or we have e-bikes that help to get the crews up into the higher places. They carry backpacks, chainsaws, clippers, and shovels. They work hard, and they’re out there 8-10 hours a day.” A big job for a not so big crew. Today, Basin Rec employs four full-time trail hands and hire seasonal staff in the summer to keep up with the increased usage and number of trails available to both locals and visitors. “They’re there every day servicing the trails in the summer,” says Hanton, “We like to maintain the quality that the community is used to. We know people come from all over to ride our trails. We like to make it inviting for them and our community as well.”
So, the next time you hike to lunch, descend down some single track, traverse the Wasatch or explore the interconnected network of Round Valley, give a nod to the teams who quite literally paved the way.
Beginner Mountain Bike Trails
- Trailside Park- 1-mile starter course
- Matt’s Flat – Double Track with mild inclines and descents
- Downward Dog- Great flowy downhill
Intermediate Mountain Bike Trails
- Lost Prospector- Cross Country ride
- Jenny’s Trail- Steady Climb
- Rusty Shovel- Great Downhill
Advanced Mountain Bike Trails
- Johns- Rated intermediate, but challenging with tight turns and roots
- Armstrong- Endurance Ride
- Mid-Mountain- Intermediate, but advanced if you tackle the whole thing in a day!
Just for Fun
- The Rail Trail- 30 miles of multi-use, much of it paved
- Bloods Lake – Hike Only
- Run-a-Muk – 1-mile hike only enclosed off-leash dog trail