View southwest overlooking Solitude Resort and Big Cottonwood
Canyon. September 28,
1998 photo by
The Wasatch Crest Trail runs along the high ridge between Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City,
then descends via Mill Creek Canyon. This is a very popular and well-traveled trail. Because
it's at high altitude, the riding season starts in July. There are many ways to enjoy this
great trail.View from Scott's Bypass trail as you begin the ride at the top of Guardsman Pass. Original
review written in 1998, with periodic updates.
Most riders do the Wasatch Crest as a shuttled ride from the top of Big
Cottonwood Canyon. There are two popular starting points from Guardsman
Road. (See below for more detrails.) The lower trail, the Wasatch Crest
Connector doubletrack, climbs to Scott's Pass. The higher Scott's Bypass
singletrack trail descends from higher on the mountain. The two options converge at Scott's Pass below Puke Hill. The shuttled ride ends with a
pavement rush down Mill Creek Canyon (or more dirt
Creek Upper Pipeline and classic lower Pipeline
on the way down).
Scott's Bypass trail has varied scenery, ranging from open meadows to aspen groves to deep
Climbing the Big Water trail in Mill Creek Canyon. At the top of Mill Creek, we can loop around the Midmountain Trail then climb to the crest for a giant loop ride. Photo 2012.
There are other ways to ride the Crest. Hardbodies can climb from
Mill Creek Canyon's Big Water
trail and ride the Wasatch Crest as a 20-mile out-and-back or as a loop with
(Upper Mill Creek trails are open to bikes only on even-numbered days!) You can also reach
the Crest by climbing
Mill D North Fork
, which hooks in above Desolation Lake.
You can also get there from Park City for an out-and-back or loop. Any climbing route to
can get you to the Wasatch Crest.
Pine Cone Ridge
connects directly to Puke Hill at the south end of the Crest. You can reach Scott's Pass via
the Shadow Lake Trail or connect to Scott's Bypass via Dead Tree (see the
Scott's Bypass Loop
page). You can also reach Guardsman Road
from Deer Valley
Heading toward the top of Guardsman Pass on the Dead Tree Trail, we're looking down at Shadow Lake.
View on the Crest Connector Trail at the northern end of the Midmountain-Wasatch Crest loop.
Hardcore riders combine the Wasatch Crest with the
trail for a long loop. There are
! Most riders do a clockwise loop, descending the Crest. At the northern (lower) end of the
Crest, the Crest Connector connects to the Midmountain Trail just north of Red Pine Lodge of
The Canyons. At the southern end of the Crest, there are several connection routes from Midmountain
of varying difficulty and complexity. The most direct route is
Pine Cone Ridge
You can do a loop on the Cottonwood side. This is a good option on odd-numbered days, when
Mill Creek is closed to bikes. Park at Reynolds Flat and bike uphill on the Big Cottonwood
Road, then Guardsman Road. Hit the Crest, then after The Spine drop down the trail to Desolation
Lake Trail to the Mill D North Fork. (Intersection of the Crest with the Desolation Lake trail
is GPS N 40° 39.508' W 111° 35.756'.)Looking toward the mouth of Big Cottonwood.
The Classic Wasatch Crest ride
The classic Wasatch Crest ride is a 13-mile shuttled ride from Guardsman Road to the Big Water
trailhead in Mill Creek Canyon. (Even-numbered days only!) But there are two favorite "classic"
starting points.You either need a drop-off -- such as a commercial shuttle service -- or you must pedal from
the Bonanza Flat parking about a mile away.(1)Go all the way to the Guardsman Pass parking lot and take Scott's Bypass trail. Scott's Bypass
is 1.4 miles, descending 200 vertical feet (with a bit of climbing in the middle). The singletrack
ends at Scott's Pass above Shadow Lake. Because there's room to unload and turn around, this
is the starting point for the commercial shuttles.
A hairpin turn in the aspens on Scott's Bypass.
No matter which trailhead you select, you've gotta climb Puke Hill from Scott's Pass to the top of the Crest. This rider is about finished.
(2)There's a doubletrack located at a turn in the Guardsman road. The DT climbs uphill 0.8 miles
to Scott's Pass. It's a stiff climb, covering about 450 vertical feet. Note that there is NO
parking allowed here -- drop-off only.
At Scott's Pass, take the doubletrack on your left heading uphill. You're now on the way to
Puke Hill, the final brute climb to the Crest. It's 350 vertical feet in 1/2 mile, with the
steepest part at the highest altitude. The name Puke Hill was not chosen arbitrarily. Take
a break at 9900 feet to enjoy the views.
Looking south from Puke Hill at Brighton Resort.
A rider hits a rolling uphill as he proceeds westbound along the Wasatch Crest.
On the ridge there will be singletrack to your right. That's Pine Cone Ridge. To continue on
the Crest, veer left along the ridge on doubletrack trail. After the second transmission shack,
it converts to single track.
The trail rolls up and down, with fabulous views of the granite peaks southward in Big Cottonwood
and Little Cottonwood canyons on your left. Occasionally, you'll see a bit of the Park City
area to your right.
View north over the Park City ski areas, with I-80 heading east in the valley below. On the right, the peaks of the Uintah Mountains reach the skyline.
There's a fair amount of up-and-down riding as you follow the Wasatch Crest trail west, then north.
Into late summer, the trail is surrounded by sticky geranium, wild flax, paintbrush, daisy,
wild rose, and arnica. Later in the season, currants, rose hips, and elderberry provide color
as the leaves turn yellow.
Until you drop into north Mill Creek Canyon, every inch of the trail has a fabulous view extending
over miles of alpine landscape.
Just before turning north away from Big Cottonwood Canyon, we take a look down the canyon. The Oquirrh Mountains are across the Salt Lake valley in the distance.
This rider is heading toward the easier left line on The Spine, while another biker judiciously packs his bike downhill.
Above Desolation Lake, the sharp fin of rock called The Spine is a challenge for the very best
riders. The ridge is a col, a fin left standing between two glaciers as they ate into the mountain
towards each other (there's a glacial cirque and lake on either side of the fin).
This is a good spot to take a break. Enjoy the views of Desolation Lake. Hike back uphill and
try The Spine again.
Desolation Lake. The Bingham Canyon copper mine can be seen in the distance.
Taking the ballsy line.
Don't be ashamed to walk your bike over this area. Most riders walk -- or stop for on-trail
repairs and bandaging. Want to ride? The line to the far left is suitable for confident upper-intermediate
riders. The apex of the ridge right on top of the spine looks scary, but it's a pretty good
line. The area between them is a trap.
Any way down the spine is scary. Every year it looks gnarlier. The wheel traps and rugged chunk is very
intimidating once you get there and see it in person.
Nathan fully committed...
Keep right at the trail fork just below The Spine (left goes down to Desolation Lake and
Mill D North Fork
). Now motor on toward Mill Creek Canyon, stopping occasionally for the views. This section
of the trail (Mill Creek Canyon) is open to mountain bikers on even days only -- you can bike
the 28th, but not the 29th.
An optional descent is the
trail, found 0.5 miles from the Mill D North Fork
intersection. It's an unmarked trail fork 0.1 miles from the transition
between Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek. This trail is 2 miles and shortens
the overall ride by about a mile.
Another peek south at Solitude Resort's ski slopes.
A rider zooms downhill in upper Mill Creek Canyon.
Assuming you're still descending the Wasatch Crest above Mill Creek, keep to the left at the
intersection with the Crest Connector around 2 miles from the Desolation Lake trail fork. Follow
the trail signs down Mill Creek Canyon to the Lower Big Water Trail. (Alternate: shorter steeper
Pine Road Trail
) The official ride ends in the parking lot in upper Mill Creek Canyon. Coast down the road
to your shuttle vehicle.
A popular option (our personal favorite) is to catch the
Mill Creek Pipeline
at Big Water, then link to the lower Pipeline at Elbow Fork. Ride the Pipeline to
, then run out the bottom of the canyon.
Looking west, around the midpoint of the descent down Mill Creek.
Riding directions, Classic Crest from
0.0 From parking, find DT (north uphill)
N40 36.409 W111 33.291
0.1 Veer L onto ST (Scott's Bypass)
1.4 Drop to Scott's Pass
N40 36.992 W111 33.511
Straight across, uphill on DT
(L = down to road, R = Shadow
1.9 Puke Hill N40 37.264 W111 33.731
Go L (R = Pine Cone Ridge)
5.8 The Spine N40 39.354 W111 35.708
5.9 Keep R (L = Desolation Lake) N40 39.508 W111 35.756 7.7 View on R N40 40.842 W111 36.144
8.3 Keep L (R = Crest Connector) N40 41.219 W111 36.083 9.2 Keep L (R = Red Pine Rd Trail)
N40 41.029 W111 36.901 11.3 Straight N40 40.685 W111 38.486 (L = Dog Lake, R = Little Water)
13 Parking N40 41.082 W111 38.905
Guardsman Road drop-off points:
Leave a shuttle vehicle below the
mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. (Not in the residential areas, please!) Now
drive to Big
Cottonwood Canyon (Wasatch Blvd and 72nd South). Pass Solitude Resort (at
15 miles). Just before you reach Brighton Resort, the road to Guardsman Pass turns off on your
left. At 0.8 miles, you'll see a red metal gate. Exactly one mile later (1.8 miles from
the fork in the road), you'll see a dirt road on the left. GPS N 40° 36.817' W 111°
33.532'. This is the first option to start your ride. Note that parking
along the road is no longer allowed. This is a drop-off only. (There's a second -- closed --
gate about 100 yards up the road. Just pack your bike around the gate and continue.)
Another mile up Guardsman Road, you'll reach the summit. There's a wide area
here at the roadside, but it's not for parking. Again, it's drop-off only. The doubletrack on the north is the trail. Drop off the
doubletrack about 0.1 mile later to start the singletrack Scott's Bypass.
Pine Creek/Bonanza Flat trailhead:
On the Guardsman Road two
miles from Guardsman Pass (and about 1/2 mile west of Empire Pass) turn downhill into the trailhead.
From this trailhead, your options are (1) ride two miles west to Guardsman
Pass and Scott's Bypass trail or (2) take
trail 5 miles to Blazing Saddles to reach Scott's Pass. 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.
Mill Creek trailhead:Get to Foothill Blvd on the east bench of Salt Lake City via I-215. Exit at 39th South. Take
3800 South eastbound into the Canyon. Drive all the way to the top of the canyon. The trail
begins on the south end of the Big Water Trailhead parking area GPS N 40° 40.922' W 111° 34.199'.
(Note: the gate to upper Mill Creek Canyon is open to cars July 1 to November 1. Mountain bikes
are only allowed on upper Mill Creek trails on EVEN numbered days!) The fee to enter Mill Creek
Canyon is $5 per car (2022), payable by charge card on leaving.
Mill D Loop or climb:
Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to
Reynold's Flat and the Mill D North Fork trailhead. Shuttle or ride to the trail head. You can bomb down Mill D
North Fork from Desolation Lake, or make the loop around north Mill Creek Canyon
and catch the Dog Lake trail back to Mill D.
See the Mill
D North Fork page for loop options from Mill D.
Park City epic loops:
For real hammerheads, consider
riding the Wasatch Crest from Park City. Starting spots include Rob's
Trail, The Canyons (Ambush), Park City Mountain Resort (Crescent Mine
Grade, Spiro, Armstrong), Sweeney/Johns, and Deer Valley's Silver Lake
Lodge. Climb to the Wasatch Crest, ride it, then drop back to the Midmountain trail at the fork above
Mill Creek Canyon.
the Wasatch Crest - Midmountain Loop Trail page.
Above: View from the ridgeline at Desolation Lake. That's my old Rockhopper. Desolation Lake
is a glacial lake, with the rounded valley (called a cirque) carved out by the weight of moving
ice. September 28, 1998.