If you want to know anything about Park City’s past you must understand the steep history of its mining roots. While you are skiing/snowboarding, walking around town, or exploring Park City’s trails you’ll probably come across many old mining relics. Park City was once the center of one of the top three metal mining districts in the state during Utah's mining boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it is one of the major metal mining communities that has survived to the present day. Mining created a melting pot of people from various backgrounds who headed west for the opportunity to build a future, and our history sets our community apart from some of the other modern mountain resorts in the U.S. Our mining heritage is widely celebrated with the preservation of relics in places like Old Town and across our mountain’s ski resorts.
The discovery of the rich Ontario mine initiated efforts to mine lode ores and acted as the catalyst for Park City’s rapid growth and reputation as a great silver mining area. By 1879, the Ontario mine was flourishing. Houses were springing up near the mine and lower down the canyon – now Old Town Park City. Mining operations continued to develop in the late 1880s and early 1890s with the Silver King Mining Company quickly gaining recognition among the local silver and lead mines. Park City boomed until its expansion was decisively halted by a devastating fire on June 19, 1898. By the 1920s, Park City was rebuilt completely but with mining on the decline by the 1950s, the city nearly became a ghost town. Skiing came to Park City in the late 40s, but the city did not recover until the 1970s when economic growth finally came.
The houses of Old Town are the largest and best-preserved group of residential buildings in a metal mining town in Utah. As such, they provide the most complete documentation of the residential character of mining towns of that period, including their settlement patterns, building materials, construction techniques, and socio-economic make-up. The residences also represent the state's largest collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century frame houses and contribute to our understanding of a significant aspect of Park City's economic growth and architectural development as a mining community. One of the most loved areas of Park City, our historic Main Street, also represents the best remaining mining town business district in the state.
This self-guided walking tour will take you on an exciting and educational adventure of Park City’s mining history. You’ll get to see a handful of our standing and preserved historical sites and landmarks, spend time outside with your family and friends, get some exercise, and experience some old-world Park City that has shaped who we are today!
- What: Self Guided Walking Tour of Historic Park City Mining Sites and Landmarks
- Where: Start at the McPolin Barn
- When: The entire walking tour is 4.2 miles and takes an hour and 30 minutes without stopping, but we suggest you take your time, enjoy the sights, and grab some food and beverages along the way. So it could actually take a half day or full day of exploration.
- Who: A fun way to experience Park City for everyone!
McPolin Barn and Farm House
Park at the Farm Trailhead and take the tunnel under 224 to the Mcpolin Barn. The McPolin White Barn is the iconic structure that welcomes all visitors to Park City. In 1886, the Harrison McLane family homesteaded the 160 acres surrounding the White Barn. They and a handful of other families made their living in agriculture while the rest of Park City was neck-deep in the mining industry. Not much is known about the McLanes, other than they raised cattle for a couple of decades before selling the farm to Dan and Isabelle McPolin. It was the McPolins who built the barn you see today. They built it from wood salvaged from the mines and fitted the timbers together without the use of nails – an art that is all but lost to history. After Dan & Isabelle passed away, Patrick and Grace McPolin inherited the operation in 1923. They converted it into a dairy and provided milk to the whole area for nearly four decades.
The McPolin House next to the barn, was relocated to its current location in the 1920s. Prior to being a farmhouse, the charming structure served as a mine office. Park City purchased the farm in 1990 and refurbished all areas of the farm.
McPolin Barn → Silver King Consolidated Spiro Tunnel Complex
The longest part of your journey at 40 minutes and 1.9 miles, you’ll stroll down the bike path past the Making Tracks US Olympics 2002 Memorial taking a right at the Park City Golf Course and then a left onto Three Kings Drive where you will come to the Silver Star Area which is home to the Silver King Consolidated Spiro Tunnel Complex. The Coal Hopp/Boiler Plant Structure will greet you at the entrance and you’ll notice the restored Sawmill Building, Machine Shop Building, and Foundry Building now housing modern businesses.
These structures, along with other mine-related buildings in the area convey a sense of mining activities in the early twentieth century. The buildings are generally associated with the mature mining era because of their date of construction and are associated with the Silver King Coalition Mine Company. Physical evidence of the mature mining era includes the utilitarian materials and construction methods of wood framing and use of pressed metal.
The crown jewel of this area is the new refurbished Spiro Tunnel. The tunnel was constructed between 1916 and 1924, and actually produced no ore but allowed underground access to the mining potentials of the surrounding claims. The portal is built directly into the hillside and consists of iron I-beams and large timbers supporting a simple shed roof. A section of the original rail track extends approximately 30 feet from the tunnel entrance out into the newly paved parking area. Stone retaining walls that flank the entrance were added as part of the rehabilitation and development of the site.
The Spiro ended up being notable for having a “skier subway” in the mid-1960s, the earliest days of the town’s Treasure Mountain Resort, “when the gondola wouldn’t run due to the winds, skiers could take a modified mining car—one of which is in the lower level of the Park City Museum—and then tuck the skis in and then go on a journey to the base of the Thaynes shaft, and then take the shaft up to the bottom of the Thaynes Chair and get up the mountain that way. It was quite an arduous journey, about 45 minutes”
The Spiro Tunnel continues to be crucial for modern-day Park City as it is a key source of our drinking water. The tunnel provides between 25% and 30% of the total water produced by the municipal system. A portion is drinking water used across Park City while some of the other water is used for snowmaking purposes on the Park City side of Park City Mountain Resort as well as for irrigation at the Park City Golf Club and the Park Meadows Country Club golf course.
If you are feeling a bit parched and are in need of an energy boost stop into the Silver Star Cafe for a quick bite!
Spiro Tunnel Complex → Miner’s Hospital Community Center
Choose your own adventure here - if you would like to stay on pavement continue on Three Kings Drive or if you’d like to put your feet on some dirt take the Silver Spur Trai on Park City Mountain.
21 Mins 1.1 miles via Three Kings Drive: take a left on Silver King, right on Park Ave till you get to City Park.
27 Mins 1.3 miles via Silver Spur Trail: Take the Silver Spur Trail until you get to Jenn’s Trail where you will turn left onto Jenni's. You will then find yourself on Park City Mountain hiking down to the parking lot (if it happens to be a Wednesday you’ll come across the Park City Farmer’s Market). Turn left toward Lowell Ave then turn right onto Silver King Dr which turns into 15th St, turn right onto Park Ave and find yourself at City Park and the Miners Hospital Community Center.
The Miners Hospital was built for the sum of $5,000 raised by local businessmen and the Western Federation of Miners. Six thousand miners were treated for “Miners Consumption”, or silicosis. In the first year of the hospital. The Miner’s Hospital had served the community’s medical needs from 1904 until the mid-50’s when it became obsolete and was shut down. In the 1970s, the building was a boarding house, a youth hostel, and later a city library.
Miner’s Hospital → Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Freight House (820 Park Ave Now Harvest)
Head up Park Ave for about 0.5 miles which should take you about 11 Minutes to 820 Park Ave, and grab a cup of coffee at Harvest. Sit on their deck and marvel at the silhouette of this once freight building that was part of Old Town’s history for 115 years.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) was one of two railroads that served Park City in the 20th century. The Union Pacific Railroad was already serving Park City via a Wanship and Silver Creek Canyon branch (you’ll see remnants of that train station later in our walking tour). In 1898, the D&RG constructed a stately Queen Anne style station at 820 Park Ave which also included a freight house. By the 1940s, several factors compelled the D&RG to abandon its Park City branch. These included the UP’s continued strength, competitive pressures from motor vehicles, declining fortunes in the local mining industry, difficult grades up Parley’s Canyon, and the state’s desire to improve the roadway between Salt Lake and Park City. The original passenger station was dismantled in 1940, but the freight building was able to evade the same fate. Though its connection to the railroad is no longer obvious, the building is now known as Harvest, a popular eatery within walking distance of the Town Lift.
Harvest → High West Saloon and Distillery
Across the street, from Harvest, you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the Quit N' Time ski run and in front of High West’s Old Town location housed in two historic buildings. The Saloon is in an old Livery Stable built sometime around 1907. Horses that pulled carts of ore out of the mines were kept there. In fact, the horseshoe seen in the High West logo was a horseshoe found while renovating the livery. The livery would later become the National Garage. When a building across the street went down in flames, the heat was so intense that it peeled other layers of paint from the building. The National Garage sign boasts a layered patina look that High West has preserved. Whisky lovers and hungry patrons can enjoy a beverage or a delicious meal at the world’s only ski-in-ski-out gastro distillery. A favorite amongst locals and tourists alike.
Now connected to the National Garage sits the stately Victorian-style Ellsworth J. Beggs House. E.J. Beggs was a master carpenter who built his home in 1914. At the time, it was one of only two Victorian homes in town. The Pyramid House is one of the three most common house types built in Park City during the mining era. The physical evidence from the period that defines this as a typical Park City mining era house are the simple methods of construction, the use of non-beveled wood siding, the plan type, the simple roof form, the informal landscaping, the restrained ornamentation, and the plain finishes convey a sense of life in a western mining town of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
High West Saloon and Distillery → Silver King Aerial Tramway
Standing outside High West you’ll notice some pretty interesting towers next to the Town Ski Lift. These are part of the Silver King Aerial Tramway and are some of the most visible relics of Park City’s mining heritage. In 1901 the Silver King Coalition Mine developed and engineered the aerial tramway, replacing horse-drawn wagons and sleds to transport ore. The final product consisted of 39 towers and 80 ore buckets, each with the capacity to carry roughly 800 pounds of ore, coal, (and sometimes miners) one mile from the mines to the terminal building on Park Avenue - a great technological advancement for the mining industry. The tramway ceased operations in 1951 along with the closing of the Silver King Mine.
Silver King Aerial Tramway → Washington School (Now the Washington School House Hotel)
As you walk up Park Avenue from the Tramway to the Washington School House Hotel, about 6 mins .2 mile, take your time … and notice all the historic buildings and homes that you pass along your way. You’ll see a lot of buildings with ribbons in acknowledgment of their historic standing. Park Ave is a great street to appreciate the historic architecture of Park City and the beautiful mountain scenery that encompasses our town.
As Park City quickly became one of the leading and most profitable mining areas in the world, there was an increase in population and prosperity which affected Park City’s development from settlement, to a camp, and finally a town. With the influx of new families, education became of particular importance. The Washington School was constructed in 1889 at an estimated cost of $13,000. The limestone used in its construction was quarried at Peoa, approximately 10 miles to the northeast. The building originally contained three rooms, each 30 by 30 feet, and was the first of three schools constructed in Park City during the late 1880s and early 1890s, and is the only one still standing. It is also one of the several remaining buildings which survived the Great Fire of June 19, 1898. Now a chic boutique hotel, The Washington School House Hotel is a great place to stay close to Historic Main Street.
Washington School House Hotel → St. John's Swedish Lutheran Church (323 Park Ave)
As you head up Park Avenue a bit further about 5 mins and .2 miles, continuing to take in the historic and natural scenery you’ll come across St. John's Swedish Lutheran Church at 323 Park Avenue. Constructed in October 1907, this Church is significant as one of the few remaining historic church buildings in Park City. In a state settled and dominated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church), Park City was an anomaly. Because of the expediency of the settlement and the various backgrounds of the people who inhabited Park City, the Mormon church had little influence in the community. This provided the opportunity for different faiths, including the Lutherans, to establish churches in a city where a single religion did not play a major role in the development of the community. The Church has been converted into a private residence.
St. John's Swedish Lutheran Church → Miner’s Park Statue
Now we’ll be making our way over to Historic Main Street which will take you about 4 mins and .2 miles. Built on an upslope of a canyon that dead-ends into trees and hiking paths, a surveyor's mistake turned into a pretty picturesque little town. To get to Main Street, walk southeast on Park Ave and then turn left to head down a hidden stairway where you will then turn left onto Main. Continue down Main, noticing the historic buildings around you, like 305 Main, that housed the First National Bank and the Silver King Mining Co. As you meander past Park City’s historic relics head to a small park dedicated to the miners who established our town. The famous Miner Statue is there to welcome visitors to Park City and where you can take a break from our walking tour. You might even be able to listen to some live music from local talent that is often playing throughout the summer months.
Miner’s Park Statue → No Name Saloon
From Miner’s Park make your way to one of the most iconic buildings on Main Street, The No Name Saloon! Built in 1905 by the M. S. Ashiem Mercantile Company on property adjacent to its thriving, landmark store, the design features are unique to Park City during the mining era with its Spanish colonial revival design, decorative Queen Ann brickwork, and an interior ceiling composed of a series of barrel vaults. This building is also unique to Park City for its Mission-style elements, as it was one of the few brick commercial buildings on Main Street in its day. Until 1911 the building was occupied by the Utah Independent Telephone Company. From then on the building housed Utah Power & Light Company offices, a bowling alley, and a liquor store, before establishing The Alamo Saloon, and now the No Name. If you haven’t eaten lunch yet stop in for their famous Buffalo Burger and a beer.
No Name Saloon → Park City’s First City Hall, now The Park City Museum
Continue your stroll down Main Street to the Park City Museum. The museum is housed in the town’s first City Hall, constructed in 1885. The original cost to build City Hall was $6,400! At that time, Park City’s Main Street was boomtown central and many buildings were being built. City Hall was home to the police and fire department as well as the Territorial Jail where most of its inmates were held here for relatively minor crimes such as fighting and drunkenness. Some were held for robbery, moonshining during prohibition, and gambling after it was outlawed. The fire of 1898 destroyed much of the building and others on Main Street. In an effort to prevent future fire catastrophes, a Whistle Tower was built in 1901 to warn residents of fire in the area. In 1905, the whistle was replaced by an electric siren and sounded each night at 10:00 p.m. to warn youngsters of curfew. This tradition continues signaling to Old Town visitors and residents that it is 10 o’clock. If you have some time, take a detour and explore the Park City Museum and its wide collection of Park City artifacts that are on display including the Kimball Brothers stagecoach that operated between Salt Lake City and Park City from 1872 to 1890. Exhibits also celebrate the town’s emergence as a world-class ski resort hosting the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Park City Museum → Union Pacific Train Station (660 Main Street)
To finish off our historic mining walking tour, we’ll wander all the way to the foot of downtown Main Street to 660 Main, about a 3-minute walk, which used to be the Union Pacific Train Depot. Of Park City’s once vibrant and essential railroad infrastructure, The Union Pacific Train Depot is a lone survivor. The Union Pacific Railroad completed its section of the transcontinental railroad in Northern Utah, as ore started rolling out of the Park City mines in 1869. The Union Pacific seized the opportunity to build a spur line to Park City in 1880, which was used to remove ore and supply coal to fuel the Park City mining operations. This structure was completed in 1886 and was home to the UP station agent until it was closed in 1976 - serving Park City for more than 100 years. The 27-mile Park City Railroad Branch was abandoned in 1989 and converted to the Rail Trail bike path. The old depot sat unused for years and was later purchased by an individual who restored the building, becoming an upscale restaurant and later, an art gallery.
- Bring water
- Bring sunscreen
- Bring your wallet
- Wear comfortable walking shoes
- Have Google Maps or your other favorite mapping app downloaded onto your phone
We hope you enjoyed this walking tour of Park City’s mining history and that you have a deeper understanding of our roots and why our mining heritage is so special to this town. To get back to your car at the Farm Trailhead hop on a free bus from the Old Town Transit Center using the 101 Greenline or grab an Uber or Lyft.