I rode this trail on Sunday April 10 and absolutely loved it. I round tripped the whole route, from Echo to Park City and back...a total of 52 miles. Here's what you need to know if you're going to ride it.
1. It's mostly unpaved and not in that nice, crushed limestone, Katy Trail sort of way. It's more like a ranch or a fire road along most of its length. Generally speaking, the 13 miles from Park City to Wanship are much smoother than the 13 from Wanship to Echo. The worst stretch is the 4 miles from Echo to Coaldale. If you eliminate that little bit, it's a pretty decent ride. This isn't suburbia. It's a rural trail through the American West.
2. There are some soft spots. Again, most of these are in the Echo-Coaldale section of the trail. On my return, it started raining pretty hard and it turned into a quagmire real fast. I rode on 26" x 2.75" Dirt Wizard tires and I'm glad I did. I think this route is much more enjoyable if you're on a bike that can handle the terrain easily. Everybody's different, but I would not attempt the full route without at least 2" of tire width under me. From Park City to Wanship, a hybrid or gravel grinder will probably work just fine for most folks.
3. A 2% grade sounds like no big deal but over many miles it slows you down and wears you down. I never used the big rings on my cassette, but it was a lot more work going uphill to Park City than it was going back to Echo. I rode back almost twice as fast as I rode out. If you're going to roundtrip this, it's probably best to ride uphill first if your circumstances allow.
4. It parallels a freeway for almost the entire distance. It's a rural freeway through the mountains and sagebrush flats, not an urban freeway. For much of the route, it's well above you so it's not as if you're riding with traffic. This is common in this part of the world. The bike routes over Vail Pass and through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado also parallel freeways. Yes, there's a little bit of noise but don't let that discourage you. The views are incredible along most of the route.
If you live in a city or the suburbs like most Americans do these days, you're probably used to well manicured trails with themed signage, benches, beautiful trailheads, etc. This is not that. If you come expecting that, you're likely to leave disappointed. If, on the other hand, you come expecting to be wowed by the awesome, simple beauty of the American West, it will be a day well spent. I will be back. Five stars.
Tricycling on dirt!
I rode the entire trail from top to bottom on the 4th of july, 2012, on my '06 ICE QNT tricycle. The 1st 4 miles or so was paved, then it turned into well packed earth/gravel. The crazy part is that I was running 1.35", 95psi marathon slick tires in front!, so it was a bit bumpy but not that bad really as long as I didn't go faster than about 12 mph. It was a test for me to see if my tricycle could handle dirt roads, and since I have good rear suspension it was really quite doable. With fatter, low pressure tires I'll bet I could even have comfortably gone 4-5 mph faster. So, I just went slow and REALLY enjoyed the beauty of the area, with a highlight being when I took a very quick swim in the cold river (temp. was low 40's!). It was freezing but very refreshing, with large, hot rip-rap rocks to dry off on. I was lying there drying off and blissing-out in the hot sun when something caught my eye. I looked over less than 20' to the right to see a big beaver climb up on to the rocks, but as soon as he saw me he jumped back into the water. There's only one good place to swim w/o trespassing, (It's South of Wanship, you can't miss it...the river is deep and wide and passes right next to the path, with no fence.) so don't miss it thinking there'll be another one.
The only shade is under the hwy. overpasses and a few trees so take advantage of them when you get to them (use lots of sun screen due to the elevation). I had to open/close quite a few gates, but just saw it as a chance to rest a bit. I took 3L of ice cold water and drank all but a few ozs. of it during my 5 hr trip. (3 hrs. of triking and 2hrs of r&r). There are short sections of pavement through the little towns, and the quality of the dirt remains about the same till you get to the end by Echo res., where it deteriorates to being quite rough at the end.
Be aware that there is NO parking lot at the very south end, it just ends abruptly with a gate near the edge of a hwy, so my wife had to park in a turn-out a few hundred yards down the hwy so we could load the trike.
I stopped and read every interpretative sign (there were a lot) and the history of the area is quite interesting. I encountered NO "puncture vine" (aka "goat-heads") and my ride was flat-free. I encountered only 6 other cyclists the entire day, but did stop to talk to some interesting local sheep ranchers who shared interesting info about the area. Right at the point where the path goes between the freeways expect a REALLY FUN 7+ mile downhill where you don't have to pedal for about half an hour! I wore my altimeter watch and it was fun to see it dropping steadily all day long.
This trail is great, and i'd do it again, but i only reccd. it highly for people who like a bit more challenge/adventure in their rides.
I started out in the wide open plains, just before Atkinson at 11 am. The wind was behind me, and great views all along the way. It's downhill mostly to Wanship, then it levels out. There is a beautiful river by the trail, and lots of beautiful pastures. There's some really old barns and mills along the way.
I rode to Coalville and decided to turn back, so I could be back before dark. As I turned around, I was faced with riding straight into the wind....all the way back, with a gentle uphill climb from Wanship back to my vehicle. Took me forever, and I had to walk a lot of the way. I was absolutely exhausted. But all in all I really enjoyed the experience.
I encountered a young moose on the trail which was really neat, and when I finally reached the open plains near Park City, I got to enjoy an absolutely beautiful sunset over the snow tipped Wasatch Mountains. If you go, it might be better to start out by Echo Lake, so the wind will be at your back on the way back in. The whole trip took me about 6 hours.
"Beautiful, but come prepared"
"Started our journey down near echo resevior. The goal was to get 50 miles. My 11 year old son was trying to get his Boy Scout Cycling Merit Badge. Started out at 11:00 a.m., Monday, July 1. We wore 70 oz. Camel Backs and had 16 oz. water bottles on our bikes. We had to do the 50 miles in 8 hours or less to earn the badge. Passed by Coalville on 1/2 mile of pavement. Then the trail went back to hard-packed dirt. Temperatures were in the 90's. Very flat ride until you start nearing Wanship, Utah.
Beautiful stream accompanies you for most of the ride, but you're out in the sun during this whole ride so we were constantly looking for a shady spot to rest. Made 7 stops on our way to Park City. There are tables under some freeway over-passes, and that was really nice! In other shady spots, we just sat on the ground and ate power bars. Went through 4 power bars each for the whole trip. Consumed all water by the time we reached Park City, we had to refill! The hill going into Park City is not very bad (1 - 2% grade I think). Refilled our water supplies and began our trip back.
Costed our mountain bikes most of the way down from Park City. Peddaled acroos the open plain to Promintory, and then costed again down to Wanship. Had a tail wind most of that distance, but as we began riding towards Hoytsville, picked up a head wind. By the time we reached Coalville we were exhausted. At 42 miles, the sun was getting to us and we started feeling nausia. We hit the 50 mile mark and had no water left. Bring lots of water if you do this trail in the summer. You'll be in the sun most of the time. Use a very high Sun Block (SPF 30, or 45) to protect yourself from the intense sun. We did it, and it was a beautiful trail, but the winds can be tough, so prepare well! Both my son and I drank over a gallon of water on this trip, so again, bring a big (100 oz?) Camelback.
One more note, it took us 5 hours and 45 minutes to ride 50 miles on this trail. Not bad for 40 year old out-of-shape Scout Master and an energetic 11 year old Boy Scout! I think kids will definitely enjoy a shorter version of this trip! :-)"