Top Summer Hikes in Park City

Jul 16, 2019
By: Suzi Iverson

If you’re looking for a little sparkle in your life, don’t go down Park City’s silver mines. Those closed long ago. Sure, there’s glitz to be found in storefronts on Main Street, but a shimmer on an alpine lake is free, and the shaky glint of the sun through aspen leaves is the type of soul-bursting beauty Utah is all about. Park City hiking trails have all that pizzazz and more — Would you like a gondola or chairlift ride with that hike, madam?

Park City loves its superlatives: It has the largest ski resort (Park City Mountain Resort) and the biggest independent film festival (Sundance) in the country. It produced more athletes on the 2018 U.S. Winter Olympics team than any other city (eight). (Next time you need a fun fact for a cocktail party, you’re welcome.) It should come as no surprise, then, that Park City tries to show everybody up during warmer weather, too.

Summer in Park City is a nightmare for anyone with indecisionitis. You can zing along a zip-line, fly down an alpine slide, let your kid brave a ropes course, watch ski jumpers practice at Utah Olympic Park, explore the art galleries on Main Street, relax in a brewery or shop your shoe leather off in the outlet malls.

The real question is why you’d bother with any of the above when you could be taking spectacular, wildflower-laced hikes through some of earth’s finest creations. The answer is, of course, because you have whiners in your group and you have to bribe them with the promise of an alpine slide and/or a stop at the brewery if they go hiking with you.

You may have to know so-and-so’s sister-in-law to get a reservation at such-and-such restaurant during Sundance, but premier views of Mother Nature are remarkably _in_clusive — all you need to see the best parts of Park City is a willingness to hoof it.

So lace up your hiking boots, slip on your flip-flops or put the knobby tires on your wheelchair. And when you’re filthy and exhausted, track your muddy boots into a five-star restaurant and leave a sweaty back print in their fancy leather chair. Tell them we sent you.

Fall

OUR FAVORITE HIKES IN PARK CITY

ARMSTRONG/SPIRO LOOP

  • Difficulty Moderate
  • Distance 6.1 miles
  • Elevation +1,095 feet
  • Pet-friendly Yes
  • Seasonality April to September
  • Perfect for arborists, ornithologists, slow and steady wins the race-ers

This loop trail has a steady, fairly gentle incline with switchbacks, which makes it great for trail runners and people with delicate knees or a baby on their back. It’s shaded by aspens and lots of other trees so unlock your inner arborist and watch the fireworks pop in late September. Birders like this trail too — don’t forget your binoculars! — and watch for the historic mine site along the way. It’s open to bikers so go ahead and invite that one friend who can’t tolerate moving slowly enough to actually appreciate the fall foliage. Tell them to meet you at Silver Star Cafe. And let them pay. You earned it.

LOFTY LAKE LOOP

  • Difficulty Easy/Moderate
  • Distance 4.4 miles
  • Elevation +961 feet
  • Pet-friendly Yes
  • Seasonality June – September
  • Perfect for secret skinny-dippersYou don’t have to swim naked in ice-cold mountain lakes to enjoy this hike. You could also use one of the pools to cool off your Diet Coke along the way. Either way, Lofty Lakes is a great option for anyone looking for a wildflower-drenched summer day trip that everyone in the family can manage (even if one kid has to be carried and grandma needs a hand up in a couple of spots).

This hike will remind you why the Uinta Mountains are so popular: They’re beautiful (but that’s old news by now), the fishing is great (try for trout in Kamas and Scout Lakes), and, if you like to brag about summiting peaks, this route takes you over a shallow saddle between Lofty and Scout Peaks letting you easily make it up both.

Anti-authoritarian types will appreciate the choice of doing this loop either clockwise or counterclockwise from the Pass Lake Trailhead. Going counter-clockwise lets you to do the steepest part of the trail first, passing Scout Lake and admiring the views from Lofty and Scout Peaks. After that the trail levels out and meanders past alpine lakes and meadows of wildflowers. Pack a hammock and some bug spray and relax a while.

BALD MOUNTAIN

  • Difficulty Moderate/Strenuous
  • Distance 5 miles round trip
  • Elevation +1,145 feet
  • Pet-friendly Yes
  • Seasonality April to September
  • Perfect for people with early-stage Everest aspirationsSome days you feel like giving the chairlift a break. Some days you come home and say, “Honey, I summited a peak today. What did you do?” (Some days you’re looking to pick a fight.)

Bald Mountain is perfect for this plot because it’s one of the easiest mountains in Utah to climb. The trailhead is located on Bald Mountain Pass. Views are impressive from there and become even more spectacular as you approach the peak — look for Mirror Lake and other towering peaks of the Uintas.

You’ll climb this mountain in just over two miles and return the way you came. There are steep, rocky sections, but families with young children manage it, so you can, too. This trail is located above the treeline, which means there’s no shade, which means — as with every other outdoor adventure in the Beehive State — you should pack more water than you think you could possibly drink.

FANTASY RIDGE

  • Difficulty Strenuous
  • Distance 6.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation +1,900 feet
  • Pet-friendly Nope (no pets allowed on gondola)
  • Seasonality April to September
  • Perfect for hiking purists

This impressive hike falls in the “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it” category. Your quest begins at Park City Mountain’s Canyons Village, where you’ll take the gondola up to Red Pine Lodge. Follow the Tombstone trail along a creek and through the forest where it turns into Fantasy Ridge. Use the rope to scramble up the rocks of the shark-fin ridge and enjoy a little burst of adrenaline and a 360˚view of Park City, the Uinta Mountains, Desolation Lake and Salt Lake Valley. The trail ends at the Ninety-nine 90 chairlift, Park City Mountain’s highest point (9,990 feet up).

Hiking Fantasy Ridge in summer will allow you to escape the heat of the valley and revel in the wildflowers, but if you visit in autumn you might hear elk bugling. This can sound either hauntingly beautiful or like a small child with a whistle [*eye begins to twitch*] depending on your perspective.

Many of the trails at Park City Mountain are open to mountain bikers in the summer but Fantasy Ridge is for hikers only. If you don’t like sharing, Deer Valley Village also has a few hikers-only designated trails.

MID MOUNTAIN TRAIL

  • Difficulty Strenuous
  • Distance 11.2 miles round trip
  • Elevation +2,713 feet Pet-friendly Yes
  • Seasonality June to September
  • Perfect for triathletes

If you wake up one morning and feel like a good long run/walk/bike ride through a forest (that isn’t too far from the city), consider the Mid Mountain trail, nicknamed the “Eight Thousand Foot Trail.” This singletrack route from Park City Mountain Resort to Canyons Village follows the mountain contour at about 8,000 feet. Sections are rocky and the trail can extend up to 22 miles depending on which trailheads you use. This trail is popular with runners as well as bikers and is home to the Mid Mountain Marathon every September.

DID YOU KNOW?

Park City’s first ski resort was called Treasure Mountain in a nod to the area’s silver mining past.

You can ride in a real bobsled at Utah Olympic Park. (But no, they won’t let you drive.)

There’s a museum in the basement of the courthouse in the Summit County seat of Coalville, just in case you need a hiking bribe for a non-alpine-sliding, non-drinking, history-buff travel partner.

Park City is the home of the National Ability Center, which hosts adaptive outdoors and sport programs for people of all abilities and their families — including hiking adventures.

Learn more about Park City at utah.com/visit-park-city

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