Thru-Hiking Park City, Utah’s Wasatch Crest Trail

Bicycle touring is a lot like backpacking… except that on a bike trip the weight of your gear is placed on your bicycle instead of your body.

After a recent short two-day backpacking trip near my home in Park City, Utah, I’ve been reminded of just how nice it can be to travel with a bike.

Here’s the deal: I moved to Park City, Utah in early 2006 and since that time have wanted to hike the Wasatch Crest Trail from one end to the other. Over the years I’ve just never made the time to hike the trail, but a few days ago I decided just to go for it. No training. No planning. Nothing. I just woke up one morning and threw my camping gear and some food and water into a backpack and took off for the trail at the northern end of town. The goal was to walk for two-days straight – covering a distance of approximately 30 miles on a trail that runs from one side of Park City to the other.

Before I even hit the trail I knew that it was going to be a long and sweaty hike. It was more than 90 degrees outside, I was carrying about 5 liters of water (because I knew it would be at least two days before I would have a chance to refill my water bottles) and I was carrying a lot of unnecessary gear (i.e. SLR camera, two reading books, way too much food, etc.). Nevertheless, I pushed on.

The first part of the hike was the worst. It was all uphill for hours on end.

I started hiking in the part of town known as Pinebrook, which sits at an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet. Several hours later, I was at an elevation near 10,000 feet… and I was standing on top of The Canyons Ski Resort – the same ski resort that I skied at all winter long.

During the first part of the hike, I didn’t see a soul. But as soon as I reached the trail that lead through The Canyons, I was instantly bombarded with a stream of mountain bikers. Unlike myself (I had walked up to the top of the mountain), the mountain bikers were riding up the mountain on the ski resort’s gondola. After hiking for so many hours, I hated seeing those mountain bikers zipping around with such ease. They made me wish I has traveling by bike and not on foot. They were so incredibly fast… and I was so incredibly slow.

By the time I reached the top of The Canyons my hips were getting really sore. The weight of my pack was taking a toll on my body and my feet were getting really sore. But I pressed on and just kept walking.

Once I reached the top of The Canyons Ski Resort, the trail turned left and ran for several miles along the ridge-line, thus it’s name – the Wasatch CREST trail. Hiking at the top of the mountain was so much better than hiking to its peak… and the views were a whole lot better as well. To my left I could see all of Park City – my home! And to the right I could see Salt Lake City and the numerous ski resorts that run down the other side of the mountain.

I hiked for another couple hours along the Crest trail before it started to get dark. At around 8PM, I decided it was time to find a place to spend the night, and knew that I needed to find a place that was flat so I could lay out my tent and get a good night’s sleep.

Luckily, I was able to hike up just a short distance from the trail and instantly find a flat spot at the very top of the mountain. On one side of the tent was Park City and on the other side was Salt Lake City. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to camp.

After setting up my tent, I changed my clothes, ate some food and then rolled inside my sleeping bag and instantly fell asleep.

Then, at around 11 PM, I woke up. My legs were cramping and they had woken me from my slumber. I tried stretching them out, massaging them, and doing everything I could to get them out of my mind, but the pain was really bothering me and I couldn’t get back to sleep for several hours. So I just laid there in my tent, listening to the wind blow up the mountain and doing everything in my power to go back to sleep.

I did eventually get back to sleep (thank goodness) and woke the next morning around 8 AM.

I quickly packed up my tent, threw on my backpack and strolled back down the mountain to the trail.

For several more hours I hiked along the ridge-line, but quickly realized that I wasn’t going to make it all the way to the southern end of the trail. It was just too hot outside and I didn’t have enough water. By the time I reached Park City Mountain Resort, I knew that my hike was nearly over. I had half a water bottle left and knew that that would only last me another hour or two. So, I had to make a decision. I could continue hiking along the Wasatch Crest Trail for a few more miles and finish the hike as intended, but risk running out water and getting myself into serious trouble… or I could quit now and hike down through Park City Mountain Resort and be back in town in about two hours time.

Well, I decided that with the heat the way it was and my water being so low, it would be best if I simply hiked down the mountain right away. So that’s exactly what I did.

I hiked down one of the trails that runs through Park City Mountain Resort, past a bunch of the old silver mining buildings that remain there, and eventually returned to downtown Park City.

Once in town, I jumped on the city bus and rode it all the way back to my condo. Once there, I instantly took off my shoes (boy were they sore) and took a long, cold shower. I then collapsed on the couch and spent the entire evening watching movies.

In the end, the hike as a whole was a good one. It was something I had wanted to do for a very long time and I was glad that I finally had a chance to do it. Plus, I got to experience an incredible night of camping, perched on a mountain top at nearly 10,000 feet elevation with views of Utah you would not believe.

My only mistake was that I packed too much gear and too little water. If I were to hike trail again, I’d do it in a single day, wear better shoes, and pack nothing but my camera and a whole lot of water.

More photos from my 2-day hiking trip on the Wasatch Crest Trail have been posted below:


0 thoughts on “Thru-Hiking Park City, Utah’s Wasatch Crest Trail

  1. Ryder says:

    there should be a bike-and-hike pannier backpack hybrid for biking to a destination, stashing the bike, and hiking.

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