a lone mountain biker descends a trail in north salt lake

Trail Development in Northern Utah

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Here at Jans, we often tout the trail network in Park City. Our little mountain town has been laying singletrack down since the 1980s, and there are now over 400 miles of natural-surface trails—and by some counts, much, much more. Classic trails like Armstrong, Jenny’s, the Wasatch Crest, and even the Deer Valley bike park remain popular among locals and visiting riders alike. But within about 70 miles around the compass of Park City, we’ve seen an explosion of trail development in the last few years—especially in the Salt Lake Valley.

From as far north as Ogden and south to Spanish Fork, hundreds of miles of new trails are either already built or in some form of development. On the west sides of the Salt Lake and Utah valleys, along the foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains, the cities of Herriman and Eagle Mountain have both been steadily adding to their own trail networks. And the well-established Corner Canyon and Draper Cycle Park along the Wasatch Front are riding hot spots with more trails being built. Davis County, which includes Antelope Island, Clearfield, Bountiful, and Layton claims 500 miles of multi-use trails or paths. In short, a major uptick in trail development is happening in Northern Utah right now. It’s hard to estimate or count at the moment, but hundreds of miles of natural-surface and paved, non-motorized trails are now in the area.

Benefits of Trails

It has long been established that adding multi-use paved and natural surface trails to a community has numerous positive effects. Home values rise, making them easier to sell, and children and adults are healthier by providing affordable means to outdoor exercise. Various trail connections throughout the communities encourage non-motorized transportation, which reduces pollution and results in cleaner air. Trails and paths are also usually tied to more open spaces and wildlife habitat. All these benefits help lift a community and encourage people to get outside and enjoy being with their families and neighbors outdoors.

Three mountain bikers having a discussion on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Salt Lake City, UT
Lots of planning and proposals go into developing trails in Northern Utah

From the Experts

I was able to talk to two experts in the trail development world. Both are experienced riders and diggers that are now focused on trail development in Utah. Eric Porter, a professional mountain biker, is the driving force behind the Wasatch Trails Foundation (WTF) and recently completed the first phase of the Pine Canyon Bike Park in Midway, UT. He notes the park was “made possible by the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant and consists of a pump track and two flow trails, green and blue level, and is the first of its kind in Wasatch County. Our next grant is for a three-mile connector trail to the middle of the Wasatch Over Wasatch, called Maple Grove, it will allow access to the mid point of the trail for smaller loops as well as medical access.” Midway also just passed an open space bond to secure more land for preservation. No doubt, some of this space will include trail development.

Derek Thomson, owner of Apex Trails, has left his mark on just about every section of trail in Northern Utah. He’s built trails in Park City and the nearby towns of Kamas, Heber, and Midway, south in Provo, west in Herriman, north in Kaysville and Ogden, the Salt Lake City foothills, and more. Needless to say, he’s been busy. But while he’s excited about the number of trail miles being put in, he’s more excited about the type of trails being built in these communities.

One of his more recent trail-building projects was Fruit Loops, a small bike park in Fruit Heights, Utah. It’s a directional bike park, meaning one uphill-only trail serves three downhill-only trails. Directional trails are very convenient in high-traffic areas, as they service a lot of hikers and mountain bikers without feeling too crowded or busy. The downhill-specific trails in the area vary in difficulty, and they are well-signed so beginner riders are able to easily avoid terrain they aren’t comfortable riding. These directional trails also reduce conflicts that can arise from users riding too fast down popular “uphill” trails.

Derek noted another positive component of all the recent trail development is that it’s partly being driven by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). High school mountain bike teams are booming in popularity. No longer a club or fringe sport, youth competitive cycling is becoming increasingly popular and communities throughout the country are embracing these programs. To help put it in perspective, there are 24 teams just within the Northern Region of the Utah NICA league! This is massive. And each of these teams need a place to ride and train. Bike parks like what Derek built in Fruit Heights are perfect for building endurance and working on skills in an inclusive environment for all riders.

Three mountain bikers ascend the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Salt Lake City, UT
More trails means more opportunities for riding and hiking in Northern Utah

Being based in Park City, we often focus on local groups like the Mountain Trails Foundation or Basin Recreation and their efforts to advocate for, build, and maintain trails, but Trails Utah is one of the driving forces behind a lot of the trail development throughout Northern Utah. Derek noted that they worked directly with the Herriman Trails Committee to develop new loops and directional downhill trails. Trails Utah, in conjunction with other trail groups and municipalities, is doing great things right now. Needless to say, the future is bright for mountain biking in Northern Utah, and we can’t wait to see the sport and trail network grow in the coming years.

Paul Boyle, Production Manager, jans.com

Trails Utah

Wasatch Trails Foundation