Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park Itinerary

Utah

At a Glance

Name: Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park
Length: 28 Miles
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Summit
Surfaces: Asphalt, Gravel
State: Utah

About this Itinerary

Park City is one of the most vibrant mountain towns in the west. Rich in history, filled with endless opportunities for outdoor adventures, and featuring a thriving arts and culture scene, this hamlet has a little bit of everything. While winter sports may have put the town on the map, and its international film festival brought it to the collective consciousness, lesser known but equally dynamic are the variety of warm weather activities the area has to offer. For bikers, experience one of the jewels of the region, the 28-mile Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail (HUP). Traversing its namesake State Park, the trail offers stunning views of the Wasatch Mountain Range as it travels across wetlands in Silver Creek Canyon, through small towns, and along Weber River to Echo Reservoir.

The corridor the HUP follows was first carved out in 1871 when part of the present day route was used to transport coal from Coalville mines to the Wasatch Front on a narrow-gauge rail track. Once silver was discovered in Park City the Utah Eastern Railroad and the Echo-Park City Railway both completed lines to bring coal in to fuel the pumps that removed water from underground mines and transported silver out to reach the Union Pacific transcontinental line passing through the town of Echo. Both lines were completed in 1880 and were vital to the booming silver mining industry which saw Park City grow into prosperous western town. Today, as you bike the HUT stop to read the 16 plaques positioned along the trail that provide interesting facts and stories about the coal and silver industries that were once the lifeblood of the area, as well as learning about pre-historic animals that once roamed these parts, and what life was like for early settlers to the region.

Park City has a wide variety of lodging options that suit every taste and budget. We recommend The Old Town Guest House for its historic charm, proximity to shops and restaurants, and casual yet comfortable vibe. Each of the four guest rooms features a private ensuite bathroom and a full gourmet breakfast is included each morning. The indoor common spaces include a sitting room with a welcoming fireplace where guests can enjoy snacks in the afternoon, and an outdoor deck with a hot tub. Furnishings reflect the mountains and evoke a country lodge feel. Your host Deb Lovci is an experienced backcountry skier and avid cyclist and can provide a wealth of information about the HUT and biking the Park City area in general. Be sure to take advantage of her knowledge to make the most of your stay in the area.

It is relatively easy to reach Park City from the Salt Lake City International Airport on public transportation via a transfer in downtown Salt Lake City, or directly by shuttle service. Our itinerary does include a drive to a trailhead on the second day of riding, so if you are planning on riding the entire HUT and do not want to bike the trail round-trip in one day, take that in to consideration when deciding whether to rent a car or to take public transportation.

The surface of the HUT is packed dirt and gravel (a 3-mile section near Park City is paved), and sections do become rutted from weather and horses. The vegetation along the trail can be thorny and sharp. This vegetation is called ‘puncture vines,’because once dead it becomes dried, can easily blow onto the trail, and is the leading cause of flat tires along the route. Be prepared to deal with flats and be sure to have plenty of extra tubes and a repair kit. For these reasons we strongly recommend a mountain bike. There is also a slight grade to the trail, with the ascent on the return trip. Winds can also be a factor in this area. Keep all of this in mind and plan accordingly. Visitors with two vehicles may prefer to ride the trail one-way to Echo and enjoy an almost entirely downhill route for the 28-mile length. While the trail can be ridden round-trip in one day, given the incline and the challenge of biking on gravel, our itinerary divides the trip in to two days with both days covering about 28 miles roundtrip. Another option for those who are eager to bike the trail but are perhaps uneasy about conditions, is to take a guided tour. White Pine Touring is located at the trailhead and can offer a tour of the trail, as well as other nearby destinations, and will take any concerns out of your hands. For the adventurous, the trail is a fantastic route with stunning scenery, and can be done without assistance, as long as you come prepared and plan ahead.

In downtown Park City find rental bikes at Jans Mountain Recreation Experts. Located on Park Ave., an easy walk from the Inn and a short distance from the HUT trailhead, this full service outfitter offers a variety of rental bikes. Reserve a mountain bike at least one day in advance (although we recommend reserving sooner in high season). White Pine Touring, which is located at the trailhead on Bonanza Drive, also offers rentals (they contract with Jans). At either location you will be able to rent a quality mountain bike.

Day 1

After enjoying a full breakfast at the guesthouse, set out for the trail with plenty of water, a spare bike tube and repair kit, and snacks. To reach the HUT trailhead, which is located about one mile away, take a right on Empire Avenue and the first right on Calhoun Street. Turn left on Park Avenue and right on Sullivan Avenue (it will curve to the left, follow this direction). At the baseball field, take a right to follow the path that goes around the field. This path will take you through a pedestrian tunnel and across a couple of streets, before reaching the trailhead (it is not as complicated as it may seem.)

The trail begins at an elevation of 6,800 feet and descends at a 2% grade for the first 14 miles. Enjoy this gradual descent and take in the surrounding mountain views. Follow Silver Creek and pass through wetlands in Silver Creek Canyon. This area is diverse in wildlife so keep your eyes open for bald eagles, herons, moose, and fox, amongst others. As the trail winds through the pass it follows I-80 before reaching Wanship. This is the 14-mile mark and our turn-around point for the day. There are no amenities in Wanship, so plan ahead.

Day 2

Drive about 16 miles to Wanship. To reach, follow Park Avenue to UT-248E to US-189N to I-80E to Exit 155 in Wanship. Turn left on S. State Road 32 and look for on-street parking near the trail, which crosses over the road about one block along. Head north on the trail where the route meets up with the Weber River, which flows between Echo Reservoir and the Lockport Reservoir. This river is popular with fisherman and you are likely to spot anglers as you travel along.

Continuing on, reach the historical town of Coalville. Founded in 1850 by Mormon settlers, this town found prosperity in 1859 when challenged by the territorial government in Utah to find coal within 40 miles of Salt Lake City for a reward of $1,000. A coal vein was discovered and coal mining took off, eventually transforming the entire area. In town, located at 98 N. Main St., bike past the historic Thomas L. Allen House. Built in the 1880s, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this unique home was designed and built by its original owner. Currently a private residence, and not open for tours, it is still worth a bike past. You will notice a number of ornate and beautifully preserved buildings in this small town, including the Summit County Courthouse and Summit Furniture & Mercantile, both still functioning for their original purpose. Located on Main Street, the elaborate architecture of these buildings gives a glimpse in to the prosperity the town enjoyed during its heyday.

Only a few miles past Coalville, the trail ends at the western mouth of Echo Canyon. The last several miles, however, offer stunning scenery as you ride along Echo Reservoir. Shortly before the end, along the trail find the Echo Resort and Restaurant. The resort offers access to the reservoir, which is popular for boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking, and features a restaurant serving hamburgers, corn dogs, chicken strips, and cold drinks. Coalville is also a good place to stop for lunch. Well worth a visit, on your return stop by Denise’s Home Plate. Located at 49 N. Main St., this small restaurant offers a variety of delicious homemade dishes and is welcome respite from the bike trail. Try a hot grill items, homemade soup, deli sandwiches, or a salad. Serving lunch Monday through Friday, the restaurant is a local favorite and delivers fresh, quality meals in the charming little spot.

Once back in Park City, enjoy time in the hot tub at the guesthouse relaxing sore muscles and preparing for other adventures in this dynamic town.

For dinner, Park City offers a wide variety of options.Located in historic Masonic Hall, the award-winning fine-dining restaurant Riverhorse on Main is the ultimate foodie haven in town. Situated in the heart of downtown Park City, the restaurant’s decor is chic and sophisticated yet still manages to capture the spirit of this mountain town. With an extensive wine list, tempting dessert menu, and refined ambiance, an evening here is truly decadent. Focusing on fresh local ingredients and with a casual but hip atmosphere, Fletcher’s is worth a visit whether you stop by for a drink at the bar or come in for dinner. The menu focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients and features classics with a twist. Located on Main Street in downtown Park City, this restaurant has quickly become of the hottest places in town. For a good burger, steak, ribs, or seafood, look no further than Butcher’s Chop House & Bar. An upscale casual eatery, the comfortable atmosphere will keep you lingering for awhile. Located at the base of the town lift, this is a popular local hangout and provides a welcoming environment and a tempting menu. For large crowds or for smaller groups who just can’t decide on what type of cuisine everyone is in the mood for, stop by Squatter’s Roadhouse Grill. With an extensive menu and a little bit of everything, this popular restaurant is sure to please. From traditional pub fare such as burgers and nachos, to Ahi spring roll salad, grilled fish, pizzas, and more, the menu offers a wide variety of dishes. Be sure to also try one of their signature award-winning craft beers.

Day 3

If you have an extra day, be sure to check out Utah Olympic Park, the site of several events in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games including the bobsleigh, luge, ski jumping, and Nordic combined. Located just outside of Park City, this venue now serves as a training center for Olympic and development-level athletes. Visitors can enjoy various zip lines, a mountain coaster, ropes courses, summer bobsled, drop tower, or a ride on the scenic chairlift. Also tour the 2002 Winter Olympics and Ski Museum, and watch a variety of special events featuring athletes.

No visit to Park City is complete without a visit to the excellent Park City Museum. The museum traces the history of the town from its inception through the booming mining years to its current status as a premier outdoor destination. Visitors will see mining simulations, tour an original jail cell, and learn about some of the colorful denizens of this former Wild West town. The museum also hosts historic walking tours of the town and an historic home tour, in addition to other events. Through a series of informative exhibits, intriguing images, and colorful anecdotes, the vibrant history of this fascinating mountain town comes to life.

Park City has long had a strong arts community, and The Egyptian Theatre has been the centerpiece for live theatrical performances. In the late 1800s the opulent Park City Opera House opened. Within a short time a fire destroyed the building and much of the town. The Dewey Theatre replaced this building and opened in 1899 until its roof collapsed in a record-breaking snow load in 1916. On Christmas Day in 1926 its replacement, the current Egyptian Theatre, opened. Influenced by the then-recent discovery of King Tut’s Tomb, the construction was overseen by an Egyptologist and adorned with lotus leaf motifs, scarabs, and hieroglyphics. The theatre eventually became the home to the present day Sundance Film Festival and in addition to this role, serves as venue for a variety of theatre, comedy, musical acts, and special events for the community. Be sure to stop in to see this magnificent theatre and catch a performance while in the area.

There are seemingly endless opportunities to explore the outdoors from your base in Park City. Stop by the Park City Information Center for details about local hiking, biking, horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, fishing, golf, and many more activities in the area. The helpful staff here can provide maps, give restaurant recommendations, and provide details about the numerous special events that take place in town during the year.

Attractions and Amenities

Accommodation/Lodging

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