In a busy week around the Juy 4th holiday during which I enjoyed my final turns on the previous winter’s snow (I remind myself that if I’m lucky, more snow is less than three months away), I managed to squeeze in another adventure, this time on the mountain bike. Sadly, I hung up the skis for good (until fall) following a prime ski adventure in the Tetons. However, riding dirt trails takes some of the sting out of the loss of the snow, and the Wasatch Crest Trail is one of my favorite rides. It starts high on the mountain – drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the turnoff for Guardsman Road just beyond the Solitude ski resort, and follow that until the road no longer goes up, and you’re there. There’s a decent sized lot, and a view over the ridge into Park City, and the elevation keeps it cool on the ridge even in the heat of summer. It definitely gets hotter as you descend, of course.
From the Guardsman parking lot, head West on a doubletrack jeep road for a short distance until the singletrack cuts out to the left. From there, the trail is obvious all the way across the ridge to the Spine, past Desolation Lake, and down to the Mill D parking area. There are several ways to approach this ride – thumb up with your bike and ride down, shuttle with two cars, or pedal up and pedal down. I’m not a huge fan of biking on roads personally, so I always skip that option. Since I was riding with Liz, this day it was shuttle time, for the fastest and easiest solution.
The singletrack tends to get ripped up, and the dust layer much deeper, as the summer wears on. In early July, it was near perfect, aside from one very loose, rocky section between the Spine and Desolation Lake. With a cloudless sky and perfectly packed trail, the riding was fast and smooth. We pedaled up Puke Hill, at which point I realized I couldn’t let my bike tune up needs pass by any longer – I was ghost shifting like crazy in the lower gears needed on this ascent, and ended up pushing my bike up the hill. Whoops. Past this climb however, the trail rolls up and down more gently, generally trending downward after a few miles, so the gearing issue was less of a factor.
Further adding to my poor performance of the day, I didn’t ride the Spine cleanly, but instead came off the bike and had to re-mount. Guess I was out of practice on the mountain bike, but I’m not complaining – the skiing had been great on days just earlier in the week! Desolation Lake was pretty from above, visible as the trail cuts along the ridge just above it, and the last four miles from there to the car was progressively hotter and dustier. However, as a bonus, there weren’t many people to dodge, and we made good time down and out to our awaiting shuttle vehicle. With its great ridgeline views over Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake, Park City and much of the Wasatch Range, coupled with its high elevation and a relatively smooth singletrack, it’s easy to see why the Wasatch Crest Trail is a favorite of many mountain bike riders!