Roughs in the Diamond

Park City is undeniably a world-wide mecca of mountain biking. With over 400 miles of singletrack and the honor of being the first IMBA Gold Ride Center on the planet, there’s a trail for every taste and experience level. People travel for miles to ride famed routes like Mid Mountain Trail, Wasatch Crest, Spiro, Flying Dog, and the gravity trails at Deer Valley. Buff singletrack, sweeping berms, jumps and rollers, and epic views are what mountain bikers expect these days, and Park City delivers.

But Park City’s fame comes at a cost – crowds, and lots of them. That’s why it’s sometimes nice to steer away from the marquee trails and escape to lesser-traveled environs. Park City has plenty of those as well. Think old school, hand cut paths with loose rock, and overgrowth. These are the rides that will rattle your teeth and bloody your knuckles. There’s no flow, no berms, and best of all, few people. If Park City is a diamond, then these trails are the roughs.

Princess Di

Princess Di is a classic backwater trail. The path is narrow. There are no berms. Sections can be loose and rocky. But that’s what makes the ride so fun. The trail is located in the Promontory neighborhood on the east side of Highway 40. 

This is a solitary trail and a lonesome ride. There is no network here. Just one singletrack that wraps around a mountainside. The 14-mile ride begins with an ascent up paved bike paths through the Promontory neighborhood. At the top, the singletrack begins with a few descending switchbacks before it climbs steeply, crossing dry drainages as it goes. The switchbacks are tight and can be loose, especially if it hasn’t rained in a while. 

Beyond some cool rock formations, the trail traverses across the east side of the mountain with sweeping views of Rockport Reservoir. A final climb lets you pedal through a burned-out forest. A wildfire years ago left behind charred ghost trees. A few switchbacks up through the blackened woods brings you to the top of a ridge. From here, a boisterous descent to the North Promontory entrance above I-80 ends the ride. You can walk your bike through a tunnel that goes underneath the interstate to ride the Rail Trail back to Promontory. But it’s probably best to do this ride as a shuttle.

Spin Cycle 

I’ve mountain biked in Park City for 18 years before ever rolling tires down Spin Cycle at Deer Valley. Sure I’d heard of it, but there are so many other options nearby that are, quite frankly, easier to get to. And I think that’s what gives Spin Cycle its charm. 

Unlike newer gravity trails in the resort’s bike park, this descent is a bit more 1980’s. The trail begins in open meadows along wide switchbacks that crisscross ski runs. It then enters a large aspen grove before dropping down a natural halfpipe in a tight gully. Seemingly never-ending turns and curves get tighter and tighter as the trail crisscrosses over a tiny stream. Just when you can’t take much more of the fun, Spin Cycle spits you out at a garage with a neighboring, rusty washing machine that’s the trail’s namesake.

Unlike most of Deer Valley’s downhill-only trails, you can’t get to Spin Cycle from a chairlift. To borrow a skiing phrase, you have to earn your turns with a 6-mile loop. Finding the entrance to Spin Cycle is not easy. There are a few ways to access it from the Snow Park Lodge using multiple trails, then navigating through the Deer Crest neighborhood just to get to the trailhead. Maybe that’s what keeps the crowds away. That, or the fact that you have to ride back uphill through Deer Valley to return to your car. 

Mormon Pioneer Trail

Are you more interested in history lessons than riding bikes? Then the Mormon Pioneer Trail is for you. This path traces the route that Mormon pioneers traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Their route was 1,300 miles in length and took 3-4 months to complete. In the present day, we get to go mountain biking on it.

The best section of the Mormon Pioneer Trail is from Affleck Park in Mountain Dell Canyon to the summit of Big Mountain Pass. This 7.3-mile out-and-back is nothing like what you’ll find in Park City’s popular zones. Berms? Zero. Turns? Not many. What this ride does have is bombing straightaways and little else.

From Affleck Park, expect to pedal up a straightforward but steep ascent through the canyon bottom. This is followed by switchbacks that climb to Big Mountain Pass. At the top, you’ll be treated to one of the most gorgeous and sweeping views in the Wasatch Mountains. Turn around and burn out your brakes on that straight and scary-fast descent. This trail is also done as a shuttle ride. 

South Canyon

If one trail was the red-headed step-child of Park City, then it would be South Canyon. So why ride this under-the-radar singletrack? Because while everyone is dodging each other on the crowded trails at the resorts, you can assuredly find solitude here.

The South Canyon loop starts at the Star Pointe Rail Trail trailhead on Promontory. From there you pedal south on the Rail Trail to the Roc Mon trail. This is an overgrown trail that is difficult to find. It switchbacks up to the actual South Canyon Trail which traverses south then east. This seemingly unmaintained trail is rocky, with a few technical challenges suitable for intermediate riders. It ends at the Black Rock Ridge condo complex. Turn around and ride it South Canyon Trail back to Promontory for a 9-mile ride that won’t have another soul on it.

Iron Bill & Legacy Loop

The Utah Olympic Park has some great trails that many mountain bikers love to ride. I particularly enjoy the Yeti’s to Moose Puddle loop. But for some reason the Legacy Loop and Iron Bill are a bit overlooked. Let’s start with Iron Bill. It’s a steep climb that connects the park to the RTS loop below. The only people I see climbing it are lost tourists or hikers who accidentally wandered onto it from the Utah Olympic Park. Maybe riders stay away because categorizes it as an expert trail. Sure it’s a bit steep with techy, rocky corners. But the climb is totally doable. 

The Legacy Loop that connects to upper Iron Bill is, in all honesty, not worth the climb. These narrow trails are overgrown, with scrub oak branches that double as handlebar grabbers. It’s kind of neat to pedal to the soundtrack of vacationers screaming in terror on the zipline, but that’s about the only redeeming quality.

Descending Iron Bill, well, that’s what you came for. Assuming you came for chunky rock gardens, not many fast straightaways, and feeble attempts at creating berms. My favorite is the two rotting pallets used on one particular corner. Clean those rickety features and you’ve got A-type fun right there.


So why ride any of these trails? Because sometimes we need to get away from “flow” and challenge ourselves on something nasty. It keeps us honest and reminds us of how spoiled we all are being able to ride on such a huge and incredible system like we have in Park City. So pull out your Mountain Trails Foundation map, log onto Trailforks, and plan a ride on singletrack that you’ve never heard of. You’ll probably come home with scraped elbows, banged up shins, or maybe a broken rib or two, and you’ll be better for it.

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