July 28, 2012
The Wasatch Crest mountain bike trail is a classic. It starts at the top of Guardsman’s Pass at almost 9300′ elevation. Our ride ended at Mill D, at 7200′. The trail provides fast cruising as well as challenging climbs (especially at that altitude) and a few rocky/technical sections. But perhaps the best aspect of the ride is the spectacular views of the Wasatch mountains, including Brighton, Solitude, Park City, and The Canyons ski resorts.
Perhaps the most common way to ride the Crest trail starts at Guardsman’s Pass and drops down into Millcreek Canyon. Now there are other options, including trail access from the Park City side.
We didn’t have time to ride to Millcreek and back, so we took the Desolation Lake trail down to Mill D. The total ride is just over 10 miles long. We had to climb about 850′ in vertical elevation – most of which is at “Puke Hill”. But we were rewarded with about 3200′ of descent.
The blue GPS track in the map below shows our route.
An elevation profile is shown at the bottom of the map. As you can see, the trail is a fairly steady descent from Guardsman’s Pass to Scott’s Pass. This section is known as “Scott’s Bypass”. It has a few tight switchbacks and some exposed roots, but is otherwise a pretty fun ride. If you find this portion overly challenging, it would be advisable to exit the ride (on the yellow route) and return to the Guardsman’s Pass road. This lower entry/exit point used to be the primary access to the trail prior to the construction of Scott’s Bypass.
Just beyond Scott’s Pass is Puke Hill. I used to ride as far up as I could, and then just about puke, and be exhausted for the rest of the ride. Now I just get off and take my time walking up the hill, saving my energy for the fun trail beyond the hill.
Once you make the top of this climb, the trail pretty much traverses the mountain side just below the ridge line. Most of this portion is fun. There are a few rocky stretches, and a few climbs.
Just before you reach the Desolation Lake trail you come to “the spine”. This is a very rocky section that only expert riders attempt. I find it challenging just to walk down.
From here we turned left and headed down the Desolation Lake trail. As you can see from the elevation profile, the trail is much steeper from here to the Mill D trail head. You definitely want good brakes for this ride.
Both the Desolation trail and the Mill D trail have several rocky stretches that I chose to walk through. But the technical sections are short enough, that the walk doesn’t seriously impact the enjoyment of the ride.
Our group (Dee, Barry, Isaac, Marcy, Wade, and Hannah) took about 3 hours to complete the ride. Better riders (like Wade) can do it much quicker.
Due to its length, the altitude, the remoteness, and the technical sections, this is not a trail for beginners. Intermediate riders that can handle the distance and are up for a challenge should enjoy the ride.
Be aware that much of the trail is out in the open near the ridge line – not a good place to be in a thunderstorm. In 2011 we started on this trail at about 2:00 PM in clear weather, and got caught in a thunderstorm and hale storm. It was not a good place to be. During the summer months it is usually better to ride in the morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.
Also be aware that bicycles are not allowed in upper Millcreek on odd numbered dates.