Get Out! Enjoy a ride down Wasatch Crest Trail
We recently returned from a giant road trip that included the Loneliest Highway in America, Lake Tahoe and Salt Lake City. Once in Salt Lake, our goal for Saturday was to bike the Wasatch Crest Trail.
While my boyfriend had ridden the trail many times, this would be a first for me, and I was excited to check it out.
The trail is about 20 miles long and is almost all downhill. It starts at Guardsman Pass, reached from Big Cottonwood Canyon, and ends at the bottom of Millcreek Canyon.
Most people do this ride with a shuttle. You can either hire someone to shuttle you and your friends to the top or simply leave one car at the bottom and drive another to the top. We had hired the “Wasatch Crest Shuttle” service, but after a mix-up left us waiting for half an hour with no shuttle, we just created our own. If you use them, just make sure to call and get explicit instructions on where the shuttle picks up passengers.
The ride begins with a nice, twisty singletrack section called Scott’s bypass. This allows you to skip a little bit of the climb to the top. It will dump you out at a doubletrack road commonly known as “Puke Hill.”
The climb isn’t that long, but the trail is covered with loose rock, and flat places to stop are few. If you do stop, you may have trouble getting started again. Once at the top, the views are amazing. You can see Solitude Ski Resort on one side and Park City down below you.
A trail to the right heads down Pinecone Ridge, but your trail, the Wasatch Crest, continues straight across the ridge as a doubletrack for a mile or so before turning to singletrack.
After cruising to another overlook and then traversing a meadow, you’ll head through a section of aspens and climb briefly. More rolling trail follows, leading you to “the spine.” The spine is actually a col and is made of red rock. It’s what’s left from when two glaciers moved toward each other thousands of years ago. Some people can ride it, but most of the people I saw were walking down it.
After the “spine,” go straight unless you want to drop down to Desolation Lake and the Mill D North Fork Trail, which turns left and takes you down to the Big Cottonwood Canyon road. After this point you are on the Great Western Trail for several miles.
After a long downhill, you’ll make a sharp left next to a sign advising riders that on odd-numbered days the Upper Millcreek Canyon Section is closed to bikes. On those days, an alternate ride is to park one car at the Mill D North Fork trail head in Big Cottonwood Canyon and drive the other to Guardsman Pass. Ride the same route above and then turn left onto Mill D and head back to your car.
Our route this day (an even-numbered day) continued down the trail to the Big Water trail. Here we crossed small creeks, rode past giant trees and even got to cross a few bridges. This was one of my favorite sections of the trail.
Soon we found ourselves in the parking lot at the end of the Big Water section. At this point we’d been riding about three hours and still had quite a few miles to go. Prepare accordingly and make sure you have plenty of water and snacks.
We cruised down Millcreek Road and picked up the Millcreek Pipeline trail about five miles later on the right. There is a bathroom here and a small parking area. The trail starts below the bathroom, just off the road on the right.
The Pipeline trail stays high above the canyon floor and offers great views of the changing colors in the fall. There are several exits available. We exited at Church Fork, but you could go further down and exit at Rattlesnake Gulch. Both will spit you out onto Millcreek Road, where you cruise down the road and find yourself across the street from your vehicle.
Remember to check the date and make sure you’re riding on an even-numbered day in order to get the full experience of the Wasatch Crest Trail. This is an amazing collection of downhill trails and shouldn’t be missed.
Head up to Salt Lake for the weekend, enjoy this ride, and then head down to Lone Star Taqueria, 2265 Fort Union Blvd., for fish tacos and an apres’ bike drink.