A rider goes down a trail at High Star Ranch

Beyond Park City’s Singletrack: Exploring Highstar Ranch

Reading Time: 6 minutes
If you follow us here at Jans you know just how proud we are of our hometown’s extensive trail network that is the International Mountain Biking Association’s world’s first Gold Level Ride Center. But outside of Park City’s award-winning trails there are tons of other great rides down in Salt Lake City, out in Heber, and now even in Kamas’ Highstar Ranch.
Two riders descend down a single track
Which line would you choose, inside or outside? Photo: Ross Downard

If you’ve never heard of this small western agricultural town before, here are the five things you should know about Kamas, UT:

  1. Kamas is less than a 30 minute drive from Park City
  2. They are known as the “Gateway to the Uintas”
  3. Utah’s tallest peak is found in the Uintas
  4. The Chevron station in town makes some of the best donuts ever
  5. The new Highstar Ranch development is building some of the most fun trails in the state!

Highstar Ranch isn’t just a bunch of fancy mountain homes, the development also features amenities like the DeJoria Center for concerts and entertainment, equestrian facilities, a stocked fishing pond, the award-winning State Road Restaurant and Tavern, and of course 16 miles of professionally designed single track biking trails. Best of all, you don’t have to move there to enjoy any of that; it’s all open to the public!

These trails were designed by Sagebrush Trails co-owner and trail building wizard, Derek Thomson. Derek grew up in Park City, playing in the dirt, building bike jumps in his parents’ backyard with friends, and riding the local trails long before IMBA crowned Park City king. When Highstar Ranch gave Derek free rein over their trails he blended the award-winning Park City trail style with the fun and playfulness of backyard jumps built with friends.

A rider goes off of a small jump on a single track trail
Derek showing off that he’s just as capable riding as he is building Photo: Ross Downard

It just so happens that my co-worker Paul Boyle is one of those friends that grew up building and riding with Derek. Paul got in touch with Derek and he was more than willing to come and show us around his latest project. Paul, jans.com photographer Ross Downard, and I met up with Derek on a Wednesday night after work and we set off to explore the new trails.

Most of the trails at Highstar are one-way. That means you don’t have to worry if you’re going to get taken out going up, and you can ride as fast as you can going down. The uphills feature fun cross mountain rips through sagebrush, easy switchbacks, and epic views towards Deer Valley, Mount Timpanogos, and Box Elder Peak.

A rider descends a single track trail
A different perspective than what we are used to riding in Park City Photo: Ross Downard

Of course the best part of going up is coming back down, and Derek showed us his latest downhill masterpiece: Oh Snap. This trail truly captures just how fun mountain biking is supposed to be and how it is best shared with your buddies.

We started down the trail and before long Derek told Ross to set up around the corner by the first feature of the trail. As we waited for Ross to get in position, Derek and Paul talked about how you could clear the double jump we stood in front of.

Now when I ride I like to spend probably 80% of my time with both of my tires firmly planted in the dirt. I’ll catch a little air now and then when I’m feeling particularly brave, and hearing those guys talk about clearing something made me a little nervous. I thought “crap. What have I gotten myself into?”

Three images show how big or small you can take a jump on a singetrack
Go as big as you want at Highstar Ranch Photo: Ross Downard

But Derek assured me that I didn’t have to worry, I could roll over everything from top to bottom if I wanted. I trusted my new friend and followed him and Paul down at about 3/4 of their speed after Ross gave us the go ahead. I rolled right over and even popped a little off the second hump. As we hiked back up to do it again I had a new confidence and proudly exclaimed, “Oh I’m for sure going faster this time!”

“Oh I’m for sure going to go faster this time!”

We moved on down the trail stopping and photographing more of the action. Just as Derek said though, I could roll the same features that he and Paul were sending 5 – 7 feet. After the first few hits my confidence was peaking and I was getting both wheels off the ground with some regularity. The trail was just so much fun. In fact there was so much fun stuff to ride and to shoot that Derek several times had to keep us moving as the sun started to set behind the Wasatch Mountains.

A rider goes off a big jump on a single track trail
Two for the price of one special on Oh Snap Photo: Ross Downard
Sky view of two riders on a singe track trail
Trying my best to keep up with Paul Photo: Ross Downard

The whole way down Derek told us about what it was like to hike around and find the features, pointing out a spot and telling us how he only had to adjust one rock here or add some dirt there. There were parts he said that he barely even touched, it was just naturally that fun. The trail had everything you wanted: rock gardens, rollers, big banked berms, drops, jumps, all packed into one epic sweeping bit of singletrack. I can’t state it enough though, none of the features were overly intimidating, even for my first time down. Everything was doable and above all else everything was just fun!

A rider a a cool view on a single track trail
Look! Both wheels off the ground! Photo: Ross Downard

Just how much fun was OH Snap? Let me explain it this way. Photoshoots are not always the most fun. Yeah you ride some sweet stuff and it is really cool showing off the pictures to your family and friends, but you end up riding the same small bit of trail over and over and over again. There is a lot of standing around and waiting as the photographer scouts the shot and checks their lighting. You ride, stop, scout, ride, stop, scout, and repeat on an endless loop. But out here we were having so much fun that we didn’t mind hiking back up and riding the same bit of trail again and again. Often times we went back up just for the fun of it. I bet you’ve never seen three grown men running back up the hill laughing and exchanging high fives as they got ready to send the jumps and drops again and again. It truly was like a bunch of kids walking their bikes back around for the next lap on their homemade dirt jumps.

The Highstar Ranch trails aren’t like the buffed-out singletrack that is so plentiful in Park City. These are purpose-built trails that are meant to challenge you, push you to improve your riding technique, and above all else, put a big smile on your face.

Two riders go off the same jump
How big would you take this step up? Photo: Ross Downard

Oh Snap was so much fun that I checked my bank account to see if I could move to Highstar. I can’t. But like I said earlier, you don’t have to live there to ride their amazing trails, and with it being less than 30 minutes away from us here in Park City, these trails are a legitimate option for the weekend or even an after work special. Be sure to go and check out all of the great amenities at Highstar Ranch, especially the riding.

For more information about Highstar Ranch and their bike trails check out these additional links

Scott Eliot, Production Coordinator, jans.com