Epic Road Cycling: Guardsmans Pass – Park City, UT

A view from the upper slopes of Pine Canyon Road, at an elevation of about 9,500 ft, near Park City, Utah

As the only IMBA Gold-Level ride center in the US, Park City is a mecca for mountain biking. The body can only take so many days in a row of off-road pounding however; sometimes a road ride is a welcome break from the dirt. Fortunately, the road riding opportunities in the area are fantastic as well. My favorite route by far, is up Pine Canyon Road to Guardsmans pass. Consistently rated as the toughest climb in Utah, it’s a can’t miss ride for any serious road cyclist visiting Park City.

I started the ride on River Road in Midway, just south of Park City. River Road takes you straight to Pine Canyon Road, which zig-zags nearly 4,000 vertical feet up a canyon to Guardsmans pass, with an average gradient of 8.4%.

Straight up and then straight back down. The climb is well worth the descent. It's

The elevation profile is straight up and then straight back down. The climb is well worth the descent. It’s “cowabunga” all the way down.

The views from the base of Pine Canyon road are nothing to scoff at.

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The Wasatch Range as seen from the base of Pine Canyon Road in Midway, UT.

Along the lower slopes of the climb, the looming mountain ridges are an awe inspiring reminder of the constant fight against gravity.

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A view of Bald Mountain from the lower slopes of Pine Canyon Road.

Every pedal stroke towards Guardsmans pass is rewarded with a more well defined view of the rugged mountain peaks.

A view of Clayton Peak from the middle slopes of Pine Canyon Road.

A view of Clayton Peak from the middle slopes of Pine Canyon Road.

When you reach Guardsmans pass, muster up just a bit more strength to ride the dirt road to the top of the Jupiter ski lift. The views are well worth the few extra minutes of climbing.

A view of Mt. Wolverine and the Honeycomb Cliffs from the top of Jupiter lift, just above Guardsmans pass.

A view of Mt. Wolverine and the Honeycomb Cliffs from the top of Jupiter lift, just above Guardsmans pass.

The 8-10% inclines, numerous pot-holes and breaking bumps in the road, and tight switchbacks make for a hairy descent. Ride within your limits to keep it rubber side down.

I interrupted the adrenaline rush of the descent in this one spot to let my brakes cool a bit and take in this marvelous view of the valley below.

I interrupted the adrenaline rush of the descent in this one spot to let my brakes cool a bit and take in this marvelous view of the valley below.

I’ve been voraciously exploring the mountain biking, trail running, and road biking in Park City for a few weeks now, and I still haven’t seen it all. I’ll be heading to Colorado for the Xterra Mountain Championship soon, where I’ll lay it all out in hopes of a repeat podium performance, and then finally head back home to North Carolina.

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