Best in Dirt: Park City, UT
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Inge Travis enjoys Spiro Trail’s singletrack. Photo by Scott Markewitz.
Go if You want to walk out the door and step onto a network of 400 miles of high-altitude trails surrounding this glitzy ski town where mink fur coats and cowboy boots are sold in the same store. “Visitors are attracted to Park City because it’s a very active community,” says Carol Potter, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation. “Everyone’s outside all the time having fun.” Located just 30 miles east of Salt Lake City, 7000-foot-high Park City is surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Uinta, Wasatch and Stansbury mountain ranges.
High-end real estate developments are gobbling up valuable land around the pricey resort town of 8000, but recreational trails weave throughout every neighborhood. Or jump on a trail in town and follow it to the surrounding high desert, where cacti and sage mix with shimmering aspen groves and vivid wildflowers.
Race … August’s Jupiter Peak Steeplechase (mountaintrails.org) is a steep 16-miler that ascends 3000 feet to the top of Jupiter Peak, where you can glance at amazing views of the Wasatch Mountains and Park City before making the fast descent. A locals’ favorite is September’s Mid-Mountain Marathon (mountaintrails.org/MMM.htm) for savoring the brilliant burst of fall color. “It’s beautiful when the golden leaves rain down over you as you run through aspen groves and red-maple forests,” says Glen Gerner, owner of Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Running Center shop.
Best Trails … The rocky 26-mile Mid-Mountain Trail (also known as the Epic Trail) starts at Silver Lake at Deer Valley Resort and traverses the mountainsides to The Canyons Resort. Take a mid-run break and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Park City from one of the fine restaurants along the way. The 28-mile (each way) Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail is a decommissioned railroad track lined with fragrant sage, scraggly bitterbrush bushes, juniper and golden sunflowers that stretches from Park City and around Echo Reservoir by Coalville. A tougher challenge is the 25-mile Wasatch Crest Trail that traces the 10,000-foot ridge nicknamed the “Backbone of Utah.” Use caution along this exposed, rocky trail, until you reach the mellow section through Mill Creek Canyon, which leads into Salt Lake City.
Go when … Trails at 6000 feet or lower are runable from April to November. Depending on the winter’s snowfall, trails above 9500 feet are normally accessible by July. With the possibility of 70-degree temperatures in April or snow in June, pack running attire for all conditions.
Best eats … After running in the Tuesday Trail Running Series (mountaintrails.org), scarf peanuts (chuck the shucks on the floor) while awaiting your entrée at O’Shucks Bar & Grill in downtown Park City. For the best organic coffee, locally made ice cream and in-house baked pastries, swing by Main Street’s Java Cow.
Pitstop … White Pine Touring (whitepinetouring.com) has gear and maps and knowledgeable staff. Through the shop, you can rent a yurt (a Mongolian tent) located 30 miles away in an area where trails abound.
Sleep … Stay at the Washington School Inn (washingtonschoolinn.com), one of only a few structures that survived the Great Fire of 1898. The converted building’s limestone walls and original, oversized windows give the inn an “old-school” feeling. Rooms are $140 to $240.
Resources … Mountain Trails Foundation (mountaintrails.org) has maps online and in their office. See Park City Tourism (parkcityinfo.com) for trip-planning tips.