White Pine Touring guide fat bikes at Bonanza Flat in Park City, UT.

Off the Beaten Path: Three Chairlift-Free Adventures in Park City

Reading Time: 6 minutes


The stark transition from the big city buzz of Salt Lake City to the smaller ski town hum of Park City can be enough for some folks seeking an escape from a metropolitan lifestyle, but the arrival of snowfall often brings with it crowds of excited resort-goers ready to start their ski season. If you want to avoid the powder panic, or just prefer not to ski in super deep snow, now is the time to get off the beaten bath and discover something different! To help get you started, here are three chairlift-free adventures to experience in Park City whether you’re staying for the weekend or a quick three-day staycation. 

Day 1: Ski Touring at Park City Mountain Resort

If you’re a seasoned backcountry enthusiast or an intermediate skier seeking a new and fun way to break a sweat, spending an evening earning your turns at Park City Mountain Resort is a great way to experience the quieter side of the Wasatch Back. Park City Mountain Resort allows skiers to skin up a designated route between 6:00 pm and 8:30 am. Think of it as hiking, but with the awesome reward of skiing down on empty, freshly groomed runs! And if you’re interested in getting started backcountry skiing, skinning uphill at the resort is a safe and controlled introduction to what you’ll experience beyond the ropes. 

Backcountry equipment can be overwhelming if you’re new to the game. We recommend renting gear for your first uphill adventure, just to see if you like it before investing in a full setup. White Pine Touring in Park City rents alpine touring skis (with bindings), boots, and climbing skins. The skis are typically much lighter than your traditional resort setup, and the bindings can switch between “walk” and “ski” modes. Touring boots are also fitted with an uphill and downhill mode. They have great range of motion, are lightweight, and are generally less stiff than standard alpine boots. This makes them comfortable to walk in, but still efficient and powerful when you’re ready for the descent. Most importantly, they have tech toe and heel inserts  so you can snap into the pins of your touring bindings—the rental folks at White Pine Touring are great about teaching you how everything works. You can even reserve your Alpine Touring rentals ahead of time at White Pine Touring Backcountry Rentals!

Once you have all your hardgoods, it’s time to dress for the part. Layers are your best friends when it comes to any ski touring adventure. Throw on some moisture-wicking baselayers, an insulating piece like a puffy or fleece midlayer, and finally, an outer shell jacket and pants. You’re inevitably going to heat up once you start moving, so bring a backpack to carry your layers and follow the “Be Bold, Start Cold” rule. Oh, and don’t forget plenty of water, snacks, and a headlamp!

Two skiers skin uphill at night with Park City, UT lights in the distance
Two skiers skin up a moonlit hill in Park City, UT

When you and your friends have all your gear, park at the First Time lift at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, strap on your skins, and start heading up the Homerun trail. You’re allowed to skin up as far as the Angle Station—a perfect spot to layer up, enjoy a snack, and stow your skins for the fun run down. Plan your uphill ride on a full moon for the ultimate moonlit excursion or go in the morning to time your summit with the sunrise. Either way, you’ll be hooked and want to do it all over again the next day!

Day 2: Winter Fat Biking on Bonanza Flat

Park City is world-renowned for its summer single track mountain bike trails, but what some folks forget is that a lot of those trails are still accessible in the winter—you just need the right equipment! Round Valley is the more popular fat biking zone, with plenty of accessible beginner through advanced trails to satisfy any rider. Unfortunately, the riders that flock to Round Valley can make it busy on the weekends. If you’re seeking some quiet solitude in a safe, wilderness-like setting, check out the Bonanza Flat Recreation Area!

Bonanza Flat is a popular outdoor rec spot in the summer, but it receives far less visitors in the winter months once Empire Pass closes. You can still access Bonanza Flat in the winter, but you have to get up there on your own power. 

Winter fat bikers rides past a trail sign on Bonanza Flat in Park City, UT
Fat biker rides past a Bonanza Flat trail sign on a bluebird day.

During the winter, Marsac Ave. closes just above the Montage Hotel at the Mid-Mountain Trailhead. This is a great place to park—if you get to the trailhead early. Spots fill up quickly on the weekends! *Secret Local Tip: An even better option is to take the free Park City bus up to the Montage Hotel and start your ride from there! The bike racks on the local buses won’t fit the extra-large tires on your fat bike, but you’re allowed to bring it on the bus with you.* 

Start your ride from the road closure and head up toward the top of Empire Pass. I won’t lie to you—this climb is not easy, and there is absolutely no shame in walking your bike on the super steep parts. But trust me when I say it is worth the short-lived pain! Once you’ve reached the top of Empire Pass, continue down the road towards a large parking lot on the left side. You’ve reached the pure fat bike bliss that is Bonanza Flat! Miles of groomed single track with flowy aspen grove sections and totally schralpable berms await—you just have to work a little bit harder to get to them!

Day 3: Historic Snowshoe Hike Through Daly Canyon

Slow down and strap on your snowshoes for your last day in Park City. Daly Canyon is one of my favorite places to snowshoe in the winter—it’s close to downtown yet surprisingly quiet. You get the illusion of being deep in the woodsy backcountry, but the occasional overhead chairlift and old mine shaft gently reminds you that you’re not far from a historic ski town. 

Three hikers on snowshoes walk along creek in Daly Canyon near Park City, UT
Snowshoers hike along a creek winding through Daly Canyon in Park City, UT

Start your hike at the top of Daly Avenue where you’ll see a gate. As you meander further up into the canyon, you’ll pass several trails that branch off the road and weave through the woods. Empire Link to Ontario Ridge Road is a fun and easy 3.5-mile loop that offers stunning views along an enchanting, tree-covered trail. Hike up the main canyon road until you reach a crossroad, at which you’ll take a right turn. The road will curve to the right shortly after, but you’ll want to keep heading straight up a steep road called Daly Grind. Continue up that path and keep an eye out on your left for the Empire Link trail. You’ll see a glimpse of the Lady Morgan lift just before you turn left onto Empire Link. Wind through the woods for just over a mile, after which you can choose to head back down to your car via Ontario Bypass and Ontario Ridge Road or detour up the Tour De Suds trail for a fun added climb. 

The snow around you absorbs sound as you move along the trail, the only noise being the crunch of each step you take. You’ll take in the views of the canyon, and the colorful houses of Old Town that pepper the base of the mountains, and return from this quiet walk in the woods refreshed and fulfilled.

Regardless of your activity level or risk tolerance, you’ll always be able to find something in Park City that takes you outside. Whether you’re on skis, snowshoes, or two wheels, the terrain is endless and the opportunity to adventure outdoors goes far beyond the limits of a chairlift.

By: Olivia Reed, Content Writer

Additional Links:

Guided Snowshoe Tours in Park City

Bonanza Flat Winter Recreation Area

Ski Resort Uphill Policies in Park City

Backcountry Ski Rentals in Park City