In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve heard that Park City, Utah is IMBA’s only designated gold-level ride center. And if you haven’t heard this before… well, for starters, you should check out our list of the Top 10 Mountain Bike Destinations in North America. Yeah, Park City is on there.
Park City was founded by Mormon settlers in the early 1800s as the valley was good for grazing, but the community really became established with the discovery of silver, gold, and lead ore in the mid-1800s. This lead to a major mining boom, with many mines being established in the mountains surrounding Park City. The major output of these mines was silver, and silver mining remained the main industry in Park City for close to a hundred years. “However, the city nearly became a ghost town by the end of the 1950s because of a drop in the price of silver,” according to Wikipedia.
Over the following years, Park City began to develop its tourism industry as a downhill ski and snowboard destination, and it’s now home to three major ski resorts: Deer Valley, The Canyons, and Park City Mountain Resort. Park City was the actual site of most of the snow-oriented events when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 2002.
However, the local government realized that Park City was largely abandoned during the summer months. So they decided to start building trails.
Fast forward a decade and a half or so, and today Park City, a town of 7,000 year-round residents, is driven by tourism. According to Wikipedia, Park City draws over 3 million visitors annually, with 1,600,000 visiting in the winter and 1,400,000 visiting in the summer. And chances are that most of those 1.4 million summer visitors are coming to partake of one of the top mountain bike destinations in North America, and possibly the world.
While Park City’s economy used to be funded by silver, their newest natural resource, singletrack gold, is proving to be even more profitable. But how rich is this gold? How many karats, say, is Park City’s singletrack? Let’s take a look.
Many destinations claim to have hundreds of miles of trails, and likewise Park City currently boasts over 400 miles of mountain bike trails, and growing. So what sets Park City apart?
Well, I’ve visited many towns that claim 500+ miles of trails, but many of those “trails” include doubletrack 4×4 trails, motorcycle trails, and even gravel roads. Park City’s 400 miles of mountain bike trails, on the other hand, are non-motorized, multi-use singletrack trails. If you start adding in the singletrack trails that are shared with motorcycles, 4×4 trails, and gravel roads, this 400-mile number expands exponentially!
Most of the trails in close proximity to Park City begin right downtown and are located on private ski resort land or city land. While the neighboring national forest is home to miles and miles of singletrack, Park City doesn’t even care to count most of those trails… why bother, with so many fantastic trails close to town?
Within those 400 miles of trails, Park City offers so much more than simply cross country mountain biking. The Canyons and Deer Valley both offer lift-served downhill mountain biking, and while Park City Mountain Resort also runs their lifts for mountain bikers, they don’t offer downhill-specific terrain as of yet. Rumor has it that PCMR is planning DH-specific trails, but they’ve been “planning” this for a couple of years now.
However, you don’t have to buy a lift ticket to get your adrenaline fix. The city-funded Trailside Bike Park currently boasts an intermediate flow-style trail, an advanced flow trail which is already in the works and should be completed by spring of 2014, an all-mountain trail complete with rocks and other obstacles already being built, a pumptrack, and a bridge skill area. There’s a second pumptrack in Park City located in a city park, and a third located at the Park City dirt jumps. In addition to the pumptrack, the dirt jump lines at this public, city-funded park are absolutely off the chain! More on that in a later article.
But what truly sets Park City’s trails apart is the interconnectivity. According to Scott House, communications, events, and social media director and guide extraordinaire for Jans and White Pine Touring, “anywhere you stay, any lodging establishment, you should be able to pedal to a singletrack trail in one quarter mile.” And once you’re on that singletrack, you can get anywhere. You can ride seamlessly between all three ski resorts and public city land without even knowing that you’re crossing land boundaries.
If you’re camped all the way down at Jordanelle State Park outside of town, you can ride singletrack all the way into town. Once in town, you can climb all the way up to the Wasatch Crest Trail on the mountain tops, and then drop back into The Canyons Resort, or turn the other way and descend all the way down to Salt Lake City. Once in Salt Lake, you could feasibly pick up the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and ride to Provo or Ogden, but of course by then we’re talking about a multi-day adventure. The possibilities are nearly endless.
As we well know, and as maddslacker aptly put it, “trails alone do not a destination make.” Well, for those of you who are already longing to travel to Park City, the town thankfully offers an immense array of amenities.
Park City is home to over 140 restaurants, ranging in price from reasonable to sell-your-first-born-child-for-a-steak. Every single one I visited had delicious food… stay tuned for more later.
While Utah is often stereotyped as having a poor beer scene, that stereotype is quickly being disproven, especially in Park City. Pro tip: while the beer on tap is 3.5, you can get full-strength local Utah brews in the bottle at any restaurant or liquor store. Those local beers include some 9-10% ABV double IPA bruisers that will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful.
There are all levels of lodging options available in Park City, ranging from reasonable to I-don’t-pay-that-much-for-rent-in-a-month-and-I’m-paying-it-for-one-night. Thankfully for us dirt fiends, lodging prices are much more affordable in the summer than they are in the winter.
If you have a group of buddies who are willing to pile in, a great way to save some change is to grab an in-town condo. In addition to being able to cram a bunch of dudes into a small space for no additional cost, you’ll also have a living room to hang out in, and a full-blown kitchen if you want to cook meals–another great way to save money. While some 3-bedroom condos can run over $1,000 per night during the ski season, during the summer mountain biking season you’re looking at roughly $300 per night for a three-bedroom condo. Split that three ways (or even 6 ways), and you’re in business!
Finally, there’s a bike shop on just about every corner in Park City, including several Jans locations and White Pine Touring. While basically all of the shops offer mountain bike rentals, White Pine also offers guided rides, just in case you don’t feel like spending all day scratching your head and staring at a map.
If you’re really looking to save money and simplify your life, check out this package deal from Park City Lodging, which, starting at $211 per person, gives you:
- $205 off a 3-night stay
- 2 free full-day lift pass vouchers
There are also other options available, with some combos including bike and helmet rentals and a guided tour from White Pine Touring.
This post is just the tip of the Park City iceberg. As I found out first-hand, Park City can be an overwhelming place… in a good way. Now that you have your introduction to the wonder that is Park City, check out the next three installments in this four-part series for the full scoop, and to help all the puzzle pieces fall into place.
Many thanks to Park City Lodging and Jans/White Pine Touring for making this trip possible!