Park City Mountain Biking Review: Utah MTB Holiday in the US

May 01, 2024 BY Luke Rees

As a teen I loved the British rave group Utah Saints. So when invited to the the US for a Utah MTB holiday review I knew Something Good was going to happen. Off I flew to Salt Lake City, with my playlist full of Utah Saints tracks, to conduct a Park City mountain biking review. What I discovered is that if you want to mountain bike, Park City is the place to be.

Park City Mountain Biking Review during Utah MTB Holiday

I regularly ride local trails in Sussex, and head to the Alps most summers to do hit downhill trails. So I am a very experienced mountain biker. That said I am not hugely into bike parks. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy it, but I am not comfortable with big air or big consequence features.

I prefer natural single track with smaller hand built features that complement nature, rather than huge gravity defying hits. Technical riding is where I am happiest and I enjoy a bit of leg work to earn my turns. With all that in mind, Park City pushed me way out of my comfort zone in every style of riding!

I arrived direct from London into Salt Lake City early in the evening and had a transfer with Canyon Transportation to a lovely Park City Lodging apartment. I was wacked after a day of travel and the time difference, so after a quick meal went to bed.

EBike Park City Town Tour

Located at around 7,000 Feet (2,100m) Park City is a high altitude resort that reaches 10,000 feet (3,050m) at Juniper Peak. While lung busting ascents would be on the cards, we began with an easy introduction to biking in Utah. I was booked on a PC eBikes tour of the area to acclimatise and find out more about the city.

review of Park City eBike tour

We learned about the local history including how Park City originally grew from mining silver, lead and the New Gold Dream. The tour visited the main sites, such as abandoned gold mines, interesting cemeteries, the traditional McPolin Farm, the main street, an incredible skate park and various art installations.

The tour was on Cyrusher twist and go fat tyre eBike. So they were not just pedal assist like we have in the UK, but more like a moped so you can speed along without pedalling. They were incredibly quick, very stable and fun to ride!

Park City is a wealthy town with a population of under 10,000. But the parking lot of the local high school had more luxury vehicles than you see in my home town in a year. So it is no surprise that the affluent area supports the arts with impressive murals, Banksy pieces and sculptures all over the place.

The only thing that impressed me more that the art was the expansive sport facilities. It was not just flash cars that out numbered my home town, but football (soccer) pitches. Considering footy is the English national sport the quantity and quality of pitches in Park City puts us to shame.

Art depicting the mining in Park City

In the early evening I met up with the rest of the crew for this Utah MTB holiday in High West Saloon – the local whiskey distillery. It’s has a great bar with excellent cocktails – I thoroughly recommend the Old Fashioned.

Park City Mountain Biking Review: Lost Prospector

After being kitted out with a top of the range Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Expert by White Pine Touring we set off in the morning to explore local trails. First up in the Utah MTB holiday in Park City was the Lost Prospector area in the hills behind the bike store.

Now I am fairly fit and regularly ride the very hilly South Downs National Park in the UK. However, I was not prepared for the altitude. That first climb was brutally tough as I struggled to get enough air, and it wasn’t even that steep. But then I live close to sea level and we began at 7,000 feet (2,100m).

The reward from the top was a fun undulating single track along a ridge. It was the kind of riding I love, natural with rocks and roots the main obstacles. The odd step down, or up, and plenty of flow with a little pedal power to maintain speed.

View of Park City from Lost Prospector during Utah MTB Holiday review

This was followed by a cool downhill section. We were given the choice of relatively easy blue or more hardcore black diamond named SOS. Naturally we went with the latter and it got serious very quickly. Steep, rocky, technical, with lots of loose stones and fast – it is a short but fun ride.

Review of Utah MTB Holiday: Clark Ranch

From here we headed to Clark Ranch which was a 15-20 minute ride on Park City’s excellent network of cycle paths. Trails here are have been built with electric mountain bikes in mind, where as eBikes are not allowed in the Lost Prospector area.

With a pedal power bike Lower Sparky, which is mainly flat, was relatively slow and hard work without huge reward. But on an eBike you’d travel much faster and the long sweeping corners through the high alpine desert would be great fun. Upper Sparky was another uphill slog with me struggling for breath, although we did it twice so it wasn’t that bad!

The reward was downhill trails called Family Truckster and Cousin Eddy. Both were a lot of fun, with jump lines, banked corners and gorgeously sculptured trails. Unlike SOS, neither were over quickly, it felt like the gradient was perfect to maintain speed without hanging onto the brakes. I’d happily session them!

Clark Ranch trails during Park City Mountain Biking Review in Utah

Not quite done for the day we went to the Round Valley area for a non-direct route back to the bike store. This was an easy ride with a little uphill and a fun but non-technical single track back into the town.

Fly Fishing Experience

After lunch it was time for a change of pace on this Utah mountain biking holiday. We met up with guides from JANS for a spot of fly fishing. They kitted us out in waders and we hit a stream hoping to catch some rainbow trout.

It probably wasn’t the most successful fishing group they have ever led. I only caught two fish, but that was more than all the others added together. However, the experience was fun and relaxing.

I had never been fly fishing before, but fished as a kid and still go a couple of times a year with my father and my children for multi-generational fun. Standing in a stream flicking the fly back and forth and using the current was a lovely way to end the day and a type of fishing I’d like to do more of.

Fly fishing for rainbow trout with JANS in Park City, Utah

Park City MTB Review: Uintas/Slate Creek

The next day we drove out to the Uintas, a range of mountains east of Park City, to explore Slate Creek from the Yellow Pine Trailhead. Now I had found the climbing tough the day before but this was far harder. We ‘only’ climbed 1,300 feet (400m), and the problem wasn’t the amount of vertical but that the altitude was over 8,200 feet (2,500m).

The climb was beautiful and during my frequent stops to catch my breath I enjoyed the stunning views. It was a hot day, but thankfully a lot of the climb was in the shade. During the climb there were long flat sections and a few downhills to give the legs a break.

Near the summit the trail changed to a hugely fun undulating section through dark trees. This was not too technical, but had enough challenge to keep it interesting and with great flow it was a lot of fun.

And then it was onto the downhill. We took the new left hand loop that had recently opened for a stunning descent. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but it was fast and flowing with some technical sections. Expect gorgeously sculpted banked, sweeping corners with little hits through woods and beautiful meadows all accompanied by stunning views.

Mountain biking in Uintas at Yellow Pine Trail Head during Park City MTB Holiday review in Utah

Review of Deer Valley Downhill MTB

For the next two days we rode in Deer Valley, a sister resort to Park City. The two ski areas sit side by side and you could easily cross between them, although that is not allowed without a valid lift pass for both resorts during winter.

In the summer Deer Valley is home to the 60 miles of lift accessible downhill bike park style riding, which links up with the 400 miles of Park City single track. So we got kitted out in full face helmets and armour to hit some serious trails.

Most of the riding is split across the Silver Creek and Bald Mountain areas and accessed by three modified chairlifts that can carry bikes. After a couple of tester runs, for the guide to check we could handle downhill mountain biking, we progressed to more and more challenging trails.

Freeride Downhill MTB in Deer Valley

Interestingly Deer Valley breaks its bike park into freeride (wider and man made) and technical (narrower and more natural) trails. In contrast, freeride mountain biking in Europe usually means getting away from the wider managed trails, often onto narrow technical single track that you won’t find on the maps.

Green trail in Deer Valley Bike Park, Utah

We started with the freeride trails on the easy flowing green (beginner) Holy Roller. It’s a lovely flowing trail without any surprises or technical bits, but it’s still fun even for an experienced rider. We then progressed onto blues like Super G and Nail Driver and from there onto black diamond trails.

Surprisingly the jump lines Tidal Wave and Tsunami were among my favourite freeride trails during this Utah MTB holiday review. As I said at the start I am not really into airtime, but the Deer Valley trails makes jumping easy to love. With table top after table top, I progressed from rolling over them to little jumps to clearing the flat tops.

The sheer volume of similar kickers – around 35 on one descent – builds your confidence enabling small improvements. The instructor helped, providing useful tips. Just knowing that they Believe In Me meant I progressed more with jumps in these two days than I have in years of mountain biking.

The black trail Undertow is pretty much the only freeride trail back to the base. It is a fast and flowing route with some big hits. But there were no compulsory gap jumps meaning you can roll any features. Personally I’d classify it, and most of the black diamonds, as no tougher than red MTB trails in Europe.

Freeride mountain biking in Deer Valley Utah

Technical Downhill MTB in Deer Valley

Of course I had to give the technical trails a go as this is more my kind of riding. In Europe these would be classified as single track, or natural trails. Many were the original ‘skidder’ routes that local riders created, which we’d call freeride in Europe! These days they are lift accessed managed downhill trails.

What you call trails makes little difference, just make sure you progress slowly taking in easier options before progressing up to the double black diamond technical trails. The Deer Valley map even suggests the order in which to tackle their trails.

Despite considering myself a technical rider, some of the technical trails in Deer Valley out teched me! I walked some sections and crashed on Fire Swamp and Thieves Forest, both times going over the bars on drop downs into technical sections. Fortunately, both times I missed the rocks and landed on soft loamy soil and leaf mulch!

I love technical trails and have ridden some very challenging stuff in Europe, but Deer Valley combines tech with steepness. You get similar in Europe, but normally with more of a break between tough sections to regather your wits!

Technical mountain biking trails in Deer Valley, Utah

NCS was the toughest trail I rode in Deer Valley. At points it was more challenging than I could handle with big step downs into rocky corners. So I swallowed my pride walked parts. But those I rode were a lot of fun and very difficult.

During this Park City mountain biking review I enjoyed the technical trails, but surprised myself by liking the freeride more. I felt fine on the black diamonds, but the double black diamonds were often more than I could handle. This ties in with the European ratings where I ride reds (US black diamond) but not all blacks (US double black).

Park City MTB Trails Review

During my second day in Deer Valley I decided to ride home via the Mid Mountain Trail. But again I took Too Much To Swallow

My impression from conversations and the map was it would be relatively easy, mostly flat and downhill. Of course it wasn’t, the were some long uphill sections. This time I was less hampered by the 8,000 ft altitude and more – ironically – by tired legs from two days of downhill riding.

Mining relic on Mid-Mountain trail from Deer Valley to Park City

But the Mid Mountain Trail is stunning. You ride through beautiful woodland, alpine meadows all with stunning views and the odd mining relic chucked in for good measure. Once I made it to Park City I followed a combination of Jenni’s Trail, Loose Moose and CMG back into the village for a combo of natural single track and bike park style trails.

Downhill MTB in Park City

For the final day of this review of Utah mountain biking holiday in Park City we drove up Guardsman Road to Empire Pass at around 9,000 ft (2,700 m). From here you’d have thought it is down hill all the way to Park City. We did plenty of downhill riding, but chose to get in more laps and more scenery, both of which took extra pedal power.

The views from the top are stunning and the trails are different to those in Deer Valley. First up they were a little more mellow, not technical or freeride, but mostly single track that has been improved by hand with some natural and manmade bike park features, but nothing too hardcore.

In my view we saved some of the best to last. This area can only be reached via pedal power or vehicular uplift, so the volume of riders is much lower. We hardly saw any other mountain bikers so had trails like Cyn City, Candle, Keystone, Apex, Mojave and Spiro almost to ourselves.

Shadow Lake during Park city MTB holiday review in Utah

One of the most scenic parts of the ride was the Shadow Lake circuit. Now it took some leg work to get there from the mid mountain, and then more to go around it, but this reflective lake in the wild is beautiful. The almost entirely downhill trails from there back to the village were a fitting end to this Utah MTB holiday in Park City.

Review of Park City Lodging

Park City Lodging have a lot of accommodation in the area. I stayed in the fabulous Lowell building, to be precise I was in apartment 204.

It is a two bed, two bathroom unit with a gorgeous open plan kitchen, living room and dining area with a lovely fire. The king size bed was not only huge but very comfortable, and the showers, spa bath and kitchen facilities were all first class.

It is one of the nicest places I have stayed in years and it would comfortably sleep eight if in a ski resort in Europe! The official capacity is five and as a solo traveller I had so much space I was tempted to sublet or hold a Utah Saints inspired rave…

Review of Park City Lodging Lowell Apartments

Downstairs is a pool, gym and a hot tub. While the pool area didn’t have the greatest of views it was still a lovely place to relax for a while in the late summer sunshine. And a hot tub always does the job on aching muscles.

Park City Review: Food, Drink and Entertainment

The Park City main street is a thriving hub of shops, bars and restaurants. There is also a museum, I did not visit but I heard it is good, and art galleries. On the whole it is fairly upmarket, but doesn’t only cater to those with deep pockets.

We ate out many times on this trip and the food was very good everywhere we went, with lots of fresh, local ingredients and generally healthier food than I’d expect in the US. I don’t eat meat every meal, and can confirm there are fabulous options in most venues for vegetarians and vegans.

Here are my comments about the places I ate:

Tacos at Dos Olas during visit to Park City

  • Silver Star Café: Great lunch spot for outdoor dining with amazing views and very tasty fish tacos.
  • Pine Cone Ridge: Upmarket dining with excellent cocktails. The scallops were incredible and the steaks, and cauliflower steak veggie option, looked exceptional.
  • Salt Box: A relatively cheap place with healthy and balanced lunches. The shrimp ramen was excellent and everyone was very happy with their meals.
  • Dos Olas: A lovely Mexican in the Pendry area with a great vibe and heated outside seating. We shared a range of starters and tacos – all was so good I massively over ate!
  • Hearth and Hill: If I was thinking ‘American food’ this would be it. Hearty options with a good range of huge burgers with all the trimmings and superb salads for those who haven’t been riding all day.
  • Twisted Fern: Another lovely venue. Feels upmarket but the prices are not ridiculous. I had a lovely elk dish as it’s nice to try something new.
  • Stein Eriksen Lodge: A great venue in Deer Valley with a variety of restaurants. We ate lunch outdoors on a lovely veranda at the 7880 Club. There were burgers and sandwiches aplenty and I had a tasty tofu Thai curry.
  • Shabu: I love Asian food and this did not disappoint. It is a cosy venue with cool art and amazing dishes. We had a range of delicious starters and the Bibimbap main was incredible.
  • The Brass Tag: A classy Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining. Their home made filled pasta was very good and they also serve pizzas, salads and much more. They mainly local ingredients.

No Name Saloon in Park City, Utah

If you fancy a drink in the evening then the No Name Saloon is the place to go. This bar is split over three floors each with a different feel. I loved the open air rooftop patio bar that overlooks the main street. There was a great vibe in the No Name with tourists and locals of all ages having a good time.

Park City MTB Holiday Review in Utah: Conclusion

When it comes to mountain biking in Park City you are probably thinking, but What Can You Do For Me? There is good riding all over the world, so why would you fly from Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, to Utah?

The difference is that Park City is all about MTB, it’s not just a secondary activity you do between ski seasons. People here bike year round, trails are maintained, improved and new ones being built all the time. And all of this is funded by the local taxes from the tourist trade.

It is a far cry from some European resorts. While they are building excellent bike parks in the Alps the goal is to generate summer visitors. Here the locals are mountain bikers, and many live in the area not because it is a ski resort in winter but because of the riding they can do year round.

Mountain biking in Uintas at Yellow Pine Trail Head during Utah MTB Holiday review

And what riding it is! I have been lucky to ride the Morzine/Les Gets bike park a few times. And while very good, arguably the best in Europe, Park City is better. I Want You to think of your favourite trail, now improve it, and multiply that by many trails covering all different styles of mountain biking. That’s what Park City offers riders.

It’s not that every trail is better than elsewhere, but collectively MTB in Park City is the best I have experienced. This isn’t to detract from riding elsewhere, all MTB is fun and there are exceptional trails all over the world.

But in Park City mountain biking is a key part of the community, elsewhere only part of the community are into MTB for part of the year. So if you want to live and breathe mountain biking, Park City is the place to be.

I hope you found this Park City mountain biking review interesting and useful, and I apologise for all the Utah Saints references. If you’d like to book a Utah MTB holiday in Park City then check out these websites to book and for more information: www.visitparkcity.com and www.mountainbikingparkcity.com

 
Deer Valley Resort, Park City, Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City, Uinta Mountains, United States, Utah, Wasatch Mountains
eBiking, Fishing, Mountain Biking, Multi Activity
All Mountain, DH (Downhill), Freeride, Single Track, XC (Cross Country)
Travel Articles
 

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