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Mill Creek Reverse Crest Loop

This is a big loop of beautiful riding, reserved for strong conditioned riders. It's 30.5 miles long with 4300 vertical feet of climbing. While the description is for a "backwards" ride of the Wasatch Crest, you can do the loop in the other direction.

View across Big Cottonwood Canyon from the Wasatch Crest. The lake is Silver Lake between Solitude and Brighton. Ride and photos July 12, 2012.

First, go ride the Wasatch Crest in the usual (downhill, south to north) direction. Then consider this loop. I've chosen to tackle the Wasatch Crest backwards for this ride because it's interesting and it gets most of the tough climbing out of the way early in the ride. I also like the views better from this direction.

View uphill as we climb Mill Creek Canyon. The forest is a mix of aspen and fir.

You can enter the loop from other trailheads besides Mill Creek. Note: Upper Mill Creek trails are open to bikes only on even-numbered days!

For example, on the Salt Lake side there's Mill D North Fork, Guardsman Road, and Guardsman Pass.

We're at the top of Mill Creek, looking east over the area north of Park City.

In Park City, you can climb to the Midmountain-Wasatch Crest Loop via Rob's, Ambush, Holly's, Armstrong, Spiro, Crescent Mine Grade, Sweeneys/Johns, Gravedigger/Johns99, Empire Link, Tour des Suds, Deer Valley -- and a bunch of others I didn't think of.

We've reached the Wasatch Crest. This view is looking south as we begin to see the mountains above the Cottonwood canyons.

To start your ride in Mill Creek Canyon, consider parking in Salt Lake (not in residential areas please) to pedal up the canyon. This will add 2000 vertical feet of pavement climbing over 8 miles, and will bring your ride to a hero 6300 vertical and 47.5 miles. Consider a diversion onto the Mill Creek Pipeline trail on the way down.

There are several viewpoints as the trail hugs the edge of the ridge. Between the two fir trees, there's another viewpoint looking east over Park City.

Assuming you don't plan to pedal the canyon, drive up to the lower Big Water trailhead. There's paved parking at the upper trailhead and overflow parking a bit down the road. There are bathrooms at both trailheads.

We've reached the border between the Mill Creek drainage (where dogs are allowed) and Big Cottonwood.

At the lower trailhead, find the Big Water trail right in the middle of the parking strip. Follow Big Water uphill, keeping straight at the Dog Lake intersections. Further up the canyon, keep straight as Red Pine Road Trail comes in on your left.

Looking up The Spine. You can probably clean this. I failed several times.

At the top of the ridge, veer to the right toward what looks like old doubletrack. (On your right, the singletrack is the Crest Connector. You'll be coming back via that trail. Stop now and take a look if you like.)

Desolation Lake below The Spine.

Climb steadily up the ridge. The slope will level out, and suddenly there are beautiful views everywhere. There will be a couple of view turnouts on your left. About mile 6, you'll hit a steep rocky section. It's rideable (barely), but not if it's torn up and loose from downhillers. This will introduce you to the most technical stretch of trail, about 1/2 mile long.

Looking back at The Spine. The rider is trying the left line where I tried to climb up, and is just about to roll over the outcrop that stopped me.

The trail now descends into a saddle where the Desolation Lake (Mill D North Fork) trail joins on your right. Make your way up The Spine. I tried to clean it uphill using the right-most line, but I couldn't quite make it over one nasty outcrop.

Views, never ending. Looking west toward the canyon mouth, we see a bit of the copper mine across the valley.

After The Spine, the trail undulates through meadows with constant views of the peaks. Just before the radio towers, you'll also have views into the Park City area. The trail will merge onto doubletrack. Keep heading southeast.

Approaching another viewpoint. Everything looks so fresh and new riding this direction!

At mile 10, you'll arrive at the top of Puke Hill. The doubletrack to the right drops down to Scott's Pass. That's the route that put the Puke in Puke Hill. We won't go there. Take a break and cheer the riders coming up from below.

Stopping to let a rider going the "correct direction" come uphill. 

Now head straight (left) on to the singletrack left of the ridgeline (see the photo below). That's Pinecone Ridge. It will connect you directly to the Midmountain Trail.

We're at the top of Puke Hill looking southeast toward Brighton.

This is the view looking east from the ridge top. We'll head left to the singletrack of Pinecone Ridge.

Descend 4 miles down Pinecone Ridge. Keep straight as you join Midmountain. Follow Midmountain north about 2/3 mile.

Trail view as we fly down Pine Cone Ridge. Watch your sight lines and yield to uphill riders.

After a set of switchbacks, keep straight as Armstrong joins on your right. Continue north, then west on Midmountain.

Midmountain looking north, just past the intersection with Armstrong.

After a short stretch on Midmountain, the next trail fork is the Ironman Trail. Fork left on Ironman, leaving Midmountain temporarily.

Looking downhill at Kearns Blvd in Park City.

Ironman climbs uphill on rocky steep sun-exposed slope. There will be some occasional shade as you gain 200 vertical feet.

We're at the Ironman trail fork. Go left.

The trail will skirt Iron Pass to the south, where you'll have some views of gazillion-dollar homes going in at The Colony.

Trail view on Ironman after crossing the ridge.

After crossing the pass, you'll descend a bit and arrive at another trail intersection. The signs here are confusing! First, understand that no matter which way you go, you'll be going to the Midmountain. But NONE of these trails ARE the Midmountain. So just ignore any sign with "Midmountain" and an arrow.

Looking north at The Colony. We'll be crossing that road below us in a few minutes.

You have just ended Ironman. Straight ahead (right) is Goldfinger going to Midmountain out at the point overlooking The Canyons. The left fork takes you down the other half of Goldfinger through many switchbacks, where you'll join Midmountain. OK, fork left.

Trail fork as lower Goldfinger joins Midmountain, seen from Midmountain uphill. We're going straight on the lower trail (where the bike leans against the tree).

At the bottom of the switchbacks, turn left onto Midmountain. (If you took a wrong turn and are already on Midmountain, keep straight and downhill.) Descend on Midmountain to The Colony.

The trail will cross several creeks.

Cross a couple of roads as you continue northbound on Midmountain. When you reach The Canyons, keep straight on the uphill side of the Red Pine Lodge and find the continuing Midmountain Trail on the edge of the doubletrack near the DH trail.


Continue north on Midmountain, passing the fishing pond. The trail will enter a scrub area and continue climbing. When the trail hits a ridgeline road, veer left on the road, then immediately find the trail on your right. (The trail will also join a doubletrack road for about 1/4 mile for a climb, then exit on the right.)

From the Crest Connector, we're looking back at the I-80 interchange to Park City.

At mile 24.7, you'll come to a singletrack fork. Go left and uphill on the Crest Connector. You've now left the Midmountain Trail. The Crest Connector will climb up and over the ridge to join the top of Mill Creek Canyon.

On Crest Connector, we've crossed the first ridge. The second ridge holds the Wasatch Crest and Mill Creek Canyon trail intersection.

At the trail fork in the meadow, keep right. You've now rejoined the Mill Creek Canyon trail. Drop downhill back to parking.

Finally heading downhill in Mill Creek Canyon.

Mill Creek Canyon Wasatch Crest Loop using Pine Cone Ridge, Midmountain and Ironman
From lower Big Water parking, Mill Creek Canyon
0.0   ST south side, middle of parking
        N40 41.083 W111 38.906
1.6   Keep straight (Big Water)
        N40 40.683 W111 38.486
3.4   Keep R (L = Red Pine Rd Tr)
4.6   Curve R (L = Crest Connector)
        N40 41.224 W111 36.081
6.9   Keep straight (R = Mill D)
        N40 39.694 W111 35.957
7.0   The Spine N40 39.633 W111 35.852
11.0 Puke Hill N40 37.281 W111 33.723
        L on singletrack Pinecone Ridge
15.0 Keep L onto Midmountain
        N40 38.822 W111 32.299
15.6 Keep L (R = Armstrong)
        N40 39.123 W111 32.280
16.0 L onto Ironman N40 39.328 W111 32.308
17.9 L on Goldfinger (R = to MidMtn)
        N40 39.543 W111 33.147
19.0 L on Midmountain N40 39.643 W111 33.355
22.1 Keep straight through Red Pine Lodge area
        N40 40.675 W111 34.659
22.9 L on DT, then R on ST
        N40 40.954 W111 34.720
24.7 L uphill on Crest Connector
        N40 41.482 W111 35.125
26.0 R to descend Mill Creek Canyon
        N40 41.224 W111 36.081
30.5 Back at parking
Getting there: 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. Mill Creek user fee is $3 per car as of 2009. Drive all the way to the top of the canyon (about 8 miles). The trail begins on the south end of the Big Water Trailhead parking area GPS N 40 40.922' W 111 38.914'. (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!)
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page guide Mill Creek Epic Crest-Midmountain Loop
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Mill Creek "Reverse Crest" Loop course as above  
     Tracks including Mill D N, Dog Lake GPX
     Multi-track Park City loop rides
     The Ultimate FileGPX Inter-canyon Connections Parleys to Provo  
Medium-res topo:  View  High-res Park City connections:   High-Res
Lodging, camping, shops:
       Links to northern SLC resources
       Links to Cottonwood canyon resources