The Great Utah Gravel Debacle: Summit County
It’s impossible to deny that gravel bikes are gaining popularity, and quickly. Is it due to the practicality of having a multi-faceted bike? Is it because the United States produces and consumes more gravel than any other country? Perhaps it's a culmination of everything condensed into a desire to explore more than what a standard road has to offer. Whatever it might be, it seems that the gravel bike, or all-road bike, is here to stay to consume the United States’s vast swaths of baby rocks and varying surfaces. We’ve covered a bit about riding in the Salt Lake City area, showing that there’s plenty of ways to utilize an all-road bike. But in Summit County, home to the world-renowned Park City and it’s incredible network of mountain biking trails and scenic mountain passes? Why would anyone stray away from anything but a mountain bike or road bike? Once again, it’s all about engagement; a gravel bike is the best way to experience a taste of everything the area has to offer on the same ride. With that said, we’ve compiled three of our favorite gravel bike rides in Summit County alone. Each encourages riders to be adventurous, and experience a different flavor of terrain, all on the same ride. The Park City Loop (GPX/TCX file found HERE) Some might complain about a general lack of climbing, but this ride is mad rewarding for a loop that can be done in an hour and a half. Truly a great choice for some sort of gravel bike, as a hardtail mountain bike feels slow on the road, and a road bike is overmatched on the dirt. Based off of the Jamey Driscroll’s Asend Nutrition All-Road ride. Starting from our Contender shop, this ride takes you through the pretty farm roads of Snyderville to the northern end of highway 80, and back down through silver quinns trail. A tiny bit chunkier than pure dirt or gravel, but nothing like the Rambler trail descent in our Lauf x Contender Group ride. Silver Quinns Trail covers the eastern portion of Round Valley and continues down to Park City and back up to the shop. If we could do this ride every day, we would. It’s that good.
Jeremy Ranch Road to Echo Lake (GPX/TCX file found HERE)
This is perhaps one of the most well-known rides around when it comes to mixed-terrain, but it’s certainly not something to be done without some sort of preparation. Plenty of climbing, but there’s nothing particularly steep. Be prepared for some serious dustiness going down Jeremy Ranch Road and through Echo Frontage Road.
The roads are long and straight forward. Again, leaving from Contender Park City, take the local bike path past Kimball Junction and along the highway. This will lead you to Jeremy Ranch Golf Course, where soon after the road turns to dirt. Highway 65, aka East Canyon Road, descends into the smooth dirt of Henefer Frontage Road. You'll pass Echo Dam (not a bad place to take a mid-ride break), and ride back into Park City on the dirt rail trail.
This is one of the most famous all-road or gravel bike rides around, and for good reason. It's a long ride, but doesn't feature much climbing for how long the ride is. A road bike could do this ride, but you'll likely be much happier (and comfortable) on something with a wider tire.
Tollgate Canyon (GPX/TCX file found HERE)
UPDATE: be careful of fire! But when there isn't fire, you'll find lower temperatures here than in other places.
An interesting choice, if only because nobody really thinks about it. Found between Coalville and Wanship, traffic is fairly minimal considering that this is technically a residential area. The ride itself is pretty, lined with pine, and is an excellent way to get out of the heat. More than anything, this is a fun change of pace from the usual rides in Park City.
The loop can start anywhere you'd like, and if you're coming from Park City, the rail trail is a fun way to get to the Tollgate Canyon. From the start of tollgate, riders can take either the Princess Di loop (link found here, ideal on a mountain bike), or Tollgate Canyon Road, which is paved. Plenty of ascending (and descending) hairpins that make this area far more fun than it has any right to be. From here, take the trail down Left Fork Alexander Canyon, past the distillery, and down to the rail trail. Take Tollgate Canyon Road up the mountain for a few miles (careful for downhill traffic), and by Nordic Loop you'll hit a combo of dirt and pavement. Follow the tracking, or get lost and find cool vistas
The dirt roads can get washboard-y, so if you haven't dropped the pressure on your tires, now's the time. While it is somewhat a residential area, the views are fantastic, and the roads are mostly unused. Though the climb and initial dirt roads are tame, you'll want something with a wider tire the deeper you go. There are private roads the further up you go, so tread lightly.
There's so much to explore in Summit County, and so much to find just off of the Park City Rail Trail. Bring along your spirit of adventure, and you're sure to find something new and remarkable. Places like Rockport Reservoir have plenty off-the-beaten path rides with plenty to see and even more to do. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, take pictures, and share your discoveries with us all.