Words by Hannah Attenburrow
Combining mountain biking with mountains of delicious food, TWC contributor, Hannah Attenburrow tests out the off-road possibilities from Park City, Utah; the World’s First Gold Standard Mountain Bike destination.
Too many layers. Standing in the car park only 10 minutes earlier I was cooled by the morning breeze. Now, this smallest of inclines was drying my throat and causing my heart rate to bounce along nicely above 150 beats per minute (bpm), Clearly, 24 hours earlier in the UK, I forgot to pack my fitness!
This was my first experience biking outside of Europe and so far the difference was there are no snow-capped mountains cooling the land, no pine trees or mountain breeze to cool my body and make this hill seem bearable. Here, the dry earth and sun-baked rocks give no shelter from the heat, even in September. The vast expanse of desert sapped my energy and made keeping up with my guides from White Pine Touring challenging.
High Star Ranch was the start of this trail system with over 16 miles of singletrack dotted into the landscape. This was the first mountain biking playground I visited in Utah and it did not disappoint.
The hard clay packed earth showed no sign of the previous day’s rain, or of other biker's tracks. To protect the trails, mountain bikers don’t ride in the rain so as to preserve the surface making for smooth riding from start to finish. Well defined corners, rock gardens and the odd tree branch was thrown in for added excitement as you glide back down to the valley floor.
Back at the ranch, The State Road Tavern is the perfect pit stop for hungry bikers serving up gigantic American burgers, Mexican tacos and salads. All washed down with a variety of over 20 beers or a handcrafted cocktail.
Back to Park City – A silver lining and Golden future
The slow up in mining made way for skiing and with government assistance and the new ski resort Treasure Mountain Resort opened in the 1960's. Since then, Park City has seen a growth in a number of cultural interests including Olympic game participation and popular film festivals. Park City today is a vibrant place with many restaurants dotted between historic buildings and museums. On the odd rainy day, there are plenty of indoor activities like ice skating, The Kimball Art Center and Paint Fusion to keep you occupied.
Taking the Town chairlift from just off Main Street, the cool air at 2100m altitude refreshed my dusty face and invigorated my senses. Beautiful trees shimmered below the slow moving chair. From the top, the blue flow trail snaked its way through Aspen forests with their silver trunks and green leaves juxtaposed against the old mining buildings, adding to the interest of the ride.
Top Tip - These trails are multi-directional which is worth bearing in mind when you’re riding them, up always has right of way.
At points in the trail, we stopped to look around and take in the history of the area. It was incredible to think that so many people had lived and lost their lives right under where we were now biking. The massive mining structures still stood intact like ghost towns, little wooden shacks with peeling wallpaper stood proudly at the side of the trail giving a glimpse into life in a miner’s camp.
We descended the blue trail which was really well made and just like beginner trails in the UK, it would be perfect for young riders and beginner cyclists as their first taste of singletrack flow trails.
Oh, what a night...
That night we were in for a treat! With an invite to the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour, where five of America’s greatest chef’s, including Seth Adams owner of Riverhorse, demonstrated their cooking prowess serving up stunning courses full of flavour and fun. Each course was a celebration of local produce and was accompanied by wine from Parallel Wines.
In 1995, the Riverhorse became Utah's first restaurant to receive the prestigious DiRōNA Award, dedicated to “excellence in dining," and it has received the honour every year since.
We certainly left feeling we had tasted delicious, healthful food and ready for a good ride the next day.
Deer Valley - A trail at every turn
With six peaks and three lift systems, the choice was a little overwhelming. Where should we start!? Lines of bikers dressed in full-face helmets, colourful jerseys and knee pads blend together in one mass of colour and conversation as they wait eagerly in line for their next adrenaline fuelled opportunity to make shapes down the mountain.
Eager to get going we, myself and Scott, my Deer Valley mountain bike guide, joined the line before pushing our bikes into the gondola. On the way up we scoped out trails and picked out lines. Having limited experience of taking my bike on a chairlift and being in the mindset of, to earn the downhill you need to pedal up, I was starting to see the appeal of this uplift service.
On the way up we agreed to ease into the day gently by taking the green beginner trail named, Holly Roller to the bottom of the mountain. This 4-mile singletrack was wide and flat constructed to give easy lines from berm to berm and we flew down seamlessly. With small features and table tops, it offers the opportunity to practise your skills on solid, grip giving red earth.
Joining another line of smiling faces, beginner and advanced bikers alike enjoy the vast trail system over 70 miles long, which offers something for everyone.
Back at the top our next route was Nail Driver (all trails are named after mining activities) a blue trail with the biggest berms I have ever see. It was like dropping into a giant’s washing machine as you flow from one high berm to another. Dancing down the mountain our open trail descended further into a mass of Aspen tress.
Did you know: Aspen trees are a single organism, therefore all connected through the root structure - neat huh!
My Santa Cruz bike was taking every rock and root in its stride as we crossed paths with another trail called Tsunami, a black diamond grade trail, where teenagers were launching themselves and their downhill machines 15 ft in the air. A little too much air for me!
We crossed beneath them and onto a route called Twist and Shout, which was to become my favourite trail of the day. This technical singletrack was narrow and, as the name suggests, it twisted its way through the forest. Around each corner came a new challenge whether that was a rock garden or a rooty corner to navigate. This trail demanded my full attention and gave an exciting ride as I negotiated each obstacle sometimes, with a little whoop or shout as I successfully piloted my bike to the end of the trail.
Finally, pumped with adrenaline and exciting stories to tell, we met up with the rest of the group at the luxurious Stein Eriksen Lodge for a buffet lunch like no other. The American’s certainly know how to do good food!
Utah, is certainly a good destination to aim for if you are looking for a wide variety of riding and great hospitality. Park City caters for all abilities and is dedicated to support the development of new riders. This was evident from my next pit stop at the, Trail Side Bike Park where, as a coach, I was impressed with the range of opportunities available.
With three different graded flow trails, a dirt jump area with 3 different height jumps, a natural trail with rock garden and board rides and a pump track this mountain biking oasis catered for everyone from the little 2-year-olds being pushed along by eager parents on the pump track to the budding 15-year-old dirt jumper nailing his technique and all this with free parking!
Standing at the top of the 5 minute climb we surveyed the sprawling desert with its vast green/ grey sage bush. It wasn’t the most colourful of landscapes but what it lacked in colour it made up for in its vast beauty.
In five days I had ridden some great singletrack, which I rate as some of the best I have ridden. The hospitality was excellent and I had, had the opportunity to meet and ride with some truly passionate mountain bikers. The Park City area has a huge amount to offer with over 450 miles of trail system and I could see why it is rated gold standard by IMBA.
What you need to know...
Wasatch State Park: https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain/
Uinta National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/uwcnf
A little luxury:
Marriots Summit Watch https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/slcvi-marriotts-summit-watch/
Where to eat:
The No Name Saloon - for cheap eats and drinks
High West Distillery - for a little bit of history
Riverhorse On Main - for your last night blow out
Firewood, for good food - wine and atmosphere
A direct flight from Heathrow on Delta to Salt Lake City puts you a 40-minute drive from Park City, there are tons of rental car agencies at Salt Lake Airport and you can get bike racks for your hire car too.
All busses in Park City are bike friendly.
In Park City, you will find millions of places to rent bikes, climbing equipment and snow equipment for the winter. I used White Pine Touring as they offer hire bikes and professional guides who can take you to the best spots for walking and biking. They do family group trips as well as days for groups. Park City mountain bike trails are open from May to September.
- Deer Valley is super busy on the weekends so go here mid-week, Park City lift queues were shorter.
- If you’re looking for somewhere quiet with no uplift High Star Ranch is a great place (you will need a car or guide to get there)
- The Uinta Mountains are stunning and well worth a hike around the Lofty Lakes when/if you fancy an off-bike day
- On a rainy day head for the Kimball Art Centre or Museum and then maybe a spot of ice skating
- Trails are looked after by The Mountain Trails Foundation
- September is a great month to ride in Utah it is slightly cooler but the colours of the Aspen trees changing from green to amber and red is stunning. (sadly we missed the change on this trip)
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