The Charlie's 9K trail contours the higher hillside southwest of Park City. At around 9000 feet
elevation, it is a higher-elevation version of the Midmountain
Trail (at 8000 feet). Two segments have been completed as of fall 2020. It
now runs 5.2 miles from Empire Pass to the Blazing Saddles trail above
Looking east as Bruce pedals through a grove of
stunted fir. Photos and initial trail review September 18, 2019. Updated
for new construction October 10, 2020.
The top elevation of the trail is 9450 feet. There are many
north-facing slopes and tall forest cover that retain snow until early
summer. The expected riding season will be July through September.
While the two ends of the trail have a couple of smooth miles, the
central portion of the trail (between the Apex trail intersection and the
Fat Lip trail fork) has a lot of embedded boulders that raise the tech
level to upper-intermediate.
Riding east on Charlie's 9K as we leave the Shadow
The western side of the trail has significant up-and-down
riding, and is higher in elevation at 9300 feet, compared to 9000 at the
eastern end. When done from east to west, there will be a total of 800
feet of overall climbing. Add 450 feet of total climbing coming the other
way, west to east.
Bouncing through a rougher stretch of trail in the
central portion of Charlie's 9K.
Getting to the trail
Empire Pass: The trail can be reached through the Empire Pass parking
area. Take the doubletrack west past the top of Corvair,
then turn right onto 9K 0.1 miles after leaving the parking area. This is a fairly small parking lot, so on weekends you'll probably need
to find another starting spot.
Bonanza Flat: Most riders will start from the big parking area on the Guardsman Road in
Bonanza Flat, 1/2 mile west of Empire Pass. Go uphill across the road to
the singletrack, which will take you east and uphill 0.7 miles to meet 9K where it
branches away from the ridge doubletrack.
Heading out from the Empire Pass parking area on the
Wasatch Crest: You can drop down to 9K after descending
Puke Hill from the Wasatch Crest or from the
top of Pinecone. The loop 9K to Crest to the connector above upper Mill
Creek, then back via Midmountain is a wonderful monster ride!
Here's the origin of Charlie's 9K on Blazing Saddles,
just above the Shadow Lake trail. The lower trail to the left is 9K.
Charlie's 9K Trail
As the name implies, Charlies 9K trail sticks to an elevation of
around 9000 feet. The terrain is a mix of fir, aspen, and low scrub.
Groves of trees alternate with open grassy areas with wide views.
Fir and aspen alternate with alpine grasses and low
shrubs. The far eastern end has a bit of open scrub terrain for around a
mile, then you'll enter constant forest.
The trail is a machined bench cut and is mostly smooth dirt
for the first mile or two on each end. The first
two miles is an easy technical
ride, and not too tough aerobically considering the elevation. The trail
gets a bit more technical and becomes harder work on the western half.
Mixed aspen and fir forest as we head west from
You can ride the trail as an out-and-back from Empire Pass,
or create a loop ride. The loop rides tend to be difficult either due to
length or technical riding. Beginning riders should do the first section
of trail (to McConkey's Road or just beyond) as an out-and-back. Solid
intermediate riders can go all the way to Shadow Lake, then return in a
loop via Midmountain or come straight back.
Northbound as the trail contours the mountain below
the Empire lift on the trail's eastern side.
The area downhill from 9K is a complex maze of multiple entangled trails, so
if you're doing a loop ride, it's best to carry
a device with a navigation app to help you find your way. Park City has a
nice big trail map, and I highly recommend it, but even that may not be
enough. And because there are so very many Park City trails, I've buried
many of the individual trail descriptions inside loop ride pages on this
website. So this website won't be of much help either!
North slopes tend to have mature forest.
After starting out from Empire Pass, the first connection for 9K comes at the gravel McConkey's
Road at mile 1.8, where the combined Cyn City
and Black Forest
is a 180 downhill to your right. Black Forest is a black-diamond descent to TG2 then to
Cyn City is a machined intermediate DH flow trail that forks
away from Black Forest after 1/4 mile, descending to Midmountain near the
Link intersection. The next fork comes in 0.4 miles as Stiff Upper Lip forks
right, connecting downhill to Fat Lip at McConkey's Road. (McConkey's
Road goes north to Thaynes Road, Webster Road, and Flat
Iron in the Park City Ski Area.)
Here's the trail fork for Black Forest and Cyn City,
seen from the 9K trail as if you were riding west to east (toward Empire
The next trail fork, at mile 2.0 is Stiff Upper Lip, which
will connect via McConkey's Road to Fat Lip northbound.
An eastbound rider has passed the trail fork to Stiff
Upper Lip. As the shape of the fork shows you, riders turning onto Stiff
Upper Lip are arriving from Empire Pass, not from Shadow Lake.
About 1/2 mile after the Stiff Upper Lip trail fork, the
trail starts to climb Pioneer Ridge. You've got around 300 vertical feet
to get up and across. The climbing grade is tolerable on this side of the
ridge, with a fairly smooth trail. Here you'll reach 9K's highest
Once you get onto the other side of Pioneer Ridge, the riding gets
rough due to embedded boulders.
Looking at a tight switchback turn on the eastern
side of Pioneer Ridge.
Two samples of the trail surface on the
western side of Pioneer
Ridge. Here we're in an aspen grove on the switchbacks.
And here we're just traversing through
sparse fir forest. You'll
be crossing some rockslides and other tricky spots.
At mile 3.8, just after climbing up and over Pioneer Ridge,
9K crosses the Apex trail. Uphill, Apex continues as Dead Tree and
connects to the Scott's Bypass trail for a loop ride option. Downhill,
Apex crosses Keystone (for another loop ride option) then ends on Thaynes
Road, where CMG is just downhill to your left.
The lower trail on the left is Apex. We're on the 9K
trail facing east. Apex continues on uphill from this trail crossing.
After the Apex trail crossing, the trail is smoother there
are some nice views. Be sure to check out the old Little Belle mine
tipple, which has been reconstructed from the original structure from
1890. The mine produced lead and silver. (Note: A "tipple" is a
structure where ore is dumped from mine cars or hoist buckets, then poured
into wagons for transport down the mountain. It's also called an "ore
bin" because it stores ore while waiting for wagons to pull up.)
Looking east as the trail skirts the Little Belle ore
9K then contours above the Shadow Lake trail to end on Blazing Saddles
at mile 5.2. Go left uphill to head for Scott's Pass and the Wasatch Crest
or Pinecone. Downhill will take you to the Shadow Lake trail where you can
connect to Keystone.
1. Take 9K east from Empire Pass, Cyn City down, Midmountain southbound then
Tour Des Suds, Boulder, or Team Big Bear for the climb
uphill to Moosebones and back to Empire Pass.
A hard right turn at mile 1.8 of 9K (at McConkey's) takes you
downhill on Cyn City. (An expert alternative is to keep right after 1/4
mile to Black Forest. This expert-level
plunge joins TG2,
coming in from your right. (Resist the temptation to take TG2 south for a
loop. It gets hike-a-bike steep.) Descend to Midmountain, then turn right
to head back for a loop. You can start at the Midmountain Trail parking on
Empire Pass road if you want to do the climbing first.
In a meadow above Shadow Lake as we turn around on an
2. Take 9K all the way to Blazing Saddles. Descend to Shadow Lake then
connect to Keystone. As Keystone ends, continue on Fat Lip then climb
Stiff Upper Lip back to 9K for a lariat ride. Or drop Black Forest or Cyn
Midmountain (as above) on your way back for a truly worthy workout.
View east from the 9K trail.
Very nice trail. It's a great out-and-back ride for conditioned
intermediate riders. Or it can be a fun piece of
bigger rides spanning the mountain between Deer Valley and the Park City
Ski Area. The rocky central section and higher elevation make the full
ride for upper-intermediate riders, but the first two miles on the eastern
end are suitable for experienced beginners.
A fun log ride, just before the trail hits McConkey's.
Loop from Empire Pass,
descending Black Forest, back via Midmountain and Corvair...
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Empire Pass: As you enter Park City, follow the signs for Deer Valley and Guardsman
Road. Get on Bonanza Drive heading south uphill. At the roundabout, turn
toward Empire Canyon (SR 224). Stay on that road for about 3.5 miles. Go
through the roundabout in front of Empire Canyon Lodge and head uphill on
224. When the road reaches Empire Pass, turn right into the parking area
at the top of the mountain. The 9K trail is reached via a short connector
on the ridgeline.
Pine Creek/Bonanza Flat trailhead: On the Guardsman Road about 1/2 mile west of Empire
Pass, turn downhill into the trailhead. The connector to the 9K trail is
across the road from parking. It's around 0.7 miles up to the 9K trail,
which you'll find on the opposite side of a doubletrack on the ridge. Midmountain Trail parking on Empire Pass Road: When driving
up Empire Canyon as above there's parking just uphill from the Midmountain
Trail. Just after the road makes a turn to the right, there's parking on the left side of
the road. Park here if you'll start your ride on the Midmountain Trail,
then coast down to the trail, which is just above the turn in the road.
Toilet at Empire Pass and Guardsman Road trailheads.