Bus Laps for Trail Riders - Free 1,000 Descents in Park City

Bus Laps for Trail Riders – Free 1,000′ Descents in Park City

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There are people with giant calves, efficient lungs, and impressive Strava times who ride 21-pound hardtail XC bikes in full spandex. These people use terms like “pain cave” and “chamois butter” and get high on endorphins.

We are not those people. We have functional calves, damaged lungs, and ride trail bikes in whatever baggies currently smell the least offensive. Long climbs are tolerated, not enjoyed, and when talking about fun rides we are referring specifically to the way down.

But thanks to a very unique public transportation system here in Park City, the pure joy of a long flowing singletrack descent is attainable for us mere endurance-mortals.

Bus Laps to the Rescue

All summer, from June 6 to September 1, the town of Park City runs free, bike-friendly transit buses 1,000 feet up into the mountains of Deer Valley. The Empire Pass route (Purple), and the Silver Lake Village route (Orange), run every 30 minutes from 7:43am to 5:40pm and are the answer for mountain bikers who aren’t too proud to bum a lift with their bike. With a bike rack on the front, and a common understanding that you’ll all work together to cram as many bikes inside as possible, these are the shuttles that make “bus laps” possible.

And while the Orange and Purple bus routes are most often associated with a crew rocking long-travel rigs and full-face helmets, they are also an incredibly versatile option for trail riders. Whether you’re just getting to town and adapting to the altitude, a little under the weather after a late night out, or simply in need of a quick adrenaline shot, some fast and flowing singletrack on your trail bike is the answer.

Bike-friendly free public bus in Park City
A typical weekend scene on the Orange Bus.

So to help fill you in on the sort-of-well-kept secret of trail bike bus laps here in Park City, a few of us from Jans headed out last week to “refresh our memory” of one of our favorite laps. We hope it serves as a starting point for those of you looking to try some bus laps for yourself.

Empire Pass to Mid Mountain and Empire Link

Ride Route:

2014 Mountain Trails Summer Map
2014 Summer Trail Map courtesy of Mountain Trails Foundation

For this lap you’ll hop on the Purple bus headed to Empire Pass. Departing from the Old Town Transit Center the Purple climbs 1,300 feet up Marsac Avenue to the Empire Canyon Lodge bus stop. Pedal to the backside of the lodge and head straight up the hill on the steep, but short, climb up the service road directly in front of you.

After 100 yards or so, the road turns right onto the Mid Mountain trail. Make sure to watch for signs keeping you on Mid Mountain while you navigate a few trail and service road crossings. The first ½ mile is mostly flat with occasional moderate climbs while you work your way up to 8,500 feet. When you get to the crossing under Deer Valley’s Lady Morgan Express chairlift, take a minute to catch your breath, check out the view, and drop that seat post – from here it’s all downhill.

Entering the woods on the Mid Mountain trail
Mid Mountain begins one of its fastest sections.

Entering the shady pines on the other side of the chairlift, Mid Mountain begins one of its fastest and smoothest sections. With tons of natural rollers, berms, and G-outs, this mile of Mid Mountain is perfectly graded and requires limited time on the brakes.

Rollers and natural berms on the Mid Mountain trail
Natural rollers and berms provide some flow on Mid Mountain.

After a few tight switchbacks – the first you’ll encounter – keep your eye out for Empire Link on your right. This mile-long descent through the aspens is slightly tighter than Mid Mountain, but still offers the same flowing grade and natural features that trail bikes thrive on. It’s also the best way to set yourself up to conveniently get back to the Transit Center.

Mountain biking on Empire Link trail
Empire Link winding through the aspens above Daly Grind.

After Empire Link funnels you out onto the Daly Grind service road, hang a left and make your way down the canyon. With some loose gravel to contend with, Daly Grind isn’t the best spot to open it up too aggressively. But with plenty of small hits on the side, and an optional techy section through the remnants of the old Judge Mine site, it’s also not your typically boring double track.

Once back to the pavement of Daly Ave, you can kick back and relax while coasting down to the top of Main Street. If you’re feeling brave, stop by O’Shucks for a quick drink and then roll back down to the Transit Center for another lap.

Riding down Main Street to the Transit Center
Rolling down Main Street and back to the Transit Center for another lap.

Additional Trail Bike Bus Laps

Orange Bus to Fourpoint, Deer Crest, Pipeline

After getting off the Orange bus at the Silver Lake Village stop, ride north on Fourpoint until it meets up with Deer Crest shortly after crossing over the NCS downhill trail. Follow Deer Crest to Pipeline – this section gets a little confusing, but if you watch out for trail markers and keep it pointed downhill toward The St. Regis hotel, you’ll end up where you need to be. With 1,000 feet of singletrack descent spread over two miles, this ride is quick, flowing, and will have you back to the Transit Center in time to catch the next bus.

Purple Bus to Mid Mountain, Jenni’s, CMG

For this ride, start exactly as you would for the Mid Mountain – Empire Link bus lap. However, when you get to the junction with Empire Link, continue on Mid Mountain until you reach Mid Mountain Connect. Follow this down to the top of the Town Lift chairlift and look for Jenni’s trail on your left. Ride Jenni’s to Crescent Mine Grade (CMG) and all the way down to the base of Park City Mountain Resort. This ride stretches 1,500 feet of vertical descent over 5 ½ miles, while still setting you up for a quick road-pedal back to the bus.

Mountain bike purists might condemn these rides as cheating. And we’ll be the first to admit they are slightly excessive in their avoidance of uphill pedaling. A healthy climb is always a rewarding source of exercise, and there’s a time and place for pushing yourself physically. But if you’re like us, and don’t start every day of your life firing on all cylinders, than ignore the scoffs of the spandex crowd and wheel your bike onto the bus with your head held high.

Lazy? Comparatively, yes. But on days when you don’t feel like fighting gravity, let the bus handle the rough stuff. By the time the fight is over, gravity and you will be good friends again.

For your own copy of the Mountain Trails Foundation 2014 Summer Trail Map, stop by the Jans at Park Avenue or White Pine Touring bike shops in Park City. A donation of $5 is suggested, with all proceeds going back to the Park City trail system.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Related Links:
Mountain Trails Foundation Interactive Trail Map
Park City Transit Bus Routes & Schedules
Park City Transit Bus Maps & Timetables