Try to ignore the sweat dripping into your sunglasses and the thumping heartbeat that feels like it’s about to jump out of your chest. Keep your pedaling cadence high and your chest low. Embrace the grind. The twisting singletrack that awaits will feel even more refreshing after you conquer the climb. No lift bumps or shuttle rides here. Earn those turns through gear-grinding sweat equity.
These pedal-powered trails make up our favorite cross-country mountain bike rides at Utah resorts. Some are short and sweet laps in the woods on flowy singletrack. Others are alpine epics on steep, loose terrain high above tree line. Whatever your preference, they all start and end right at your car, and come with the opportunity treat yourself to an après-bike beverage and snack at the resort base. Don’t check with an actual nutritional expert, but I’ve heard beer and nachos are great for recovery to help you do it all again tomorrow.
Loop: 11 miles, 2,676 feet elevation change
This is the most straightforward way to ride the famed Big Mountain Trail at Snowbird. It’s a bit of a grind up the Miners Road and Peruvian Gulch doubletrack, but it’s more than worth it when you have nearly 3,000 feet of descending via the Big Mountain Trail once you reach the top. The views in Little Cottonwood make the pain easier to ignore.
Out and Back: 4 miles, 1,300 feet elevation change
From the car, a steep but steady climb on Upper Albion Meadows takes you to the base of Devils Castle. From there the trail continues up in the looming shadow of the eponymous Devils Castle cliffs above. Turn around and head back the way you came. You can swap out lower Albion Meadows for a challenging descent on Snake Pit if you want to spice it up.
Loop: 5 miles, 1,400 feet elevation change
This loop at Solitude is an excellent route for a hot, midsummer day as it meanders through north-facing forest. After a smooth climb up Serenity, Queen Bess delights with sweeping turns through the trees. From there, head down Honeycomb Cliffs and connect back up canyon on Silver Fork Connector and Daktari.
Intermountain Cup XC Race (Pass Required)
Loop: 7 miles, 2,000 feet elevation change
The Intermountain Cup XC Race loop is a classic linkup of singletrack trails throughout Sundance Resort. It’s frequently used as a race course, so be sure to expect everything from twisting turns in the trees to loose rocky straightaways, all with views of the incomparable Mount Timpanogos. All riding at Sundance requires a pass, so be sure to pick one up before you hit the trails.
Loop: 8 miles, 2,000 feet elevation change
Deer Valley is famous for its downhill bike park, but the resort has excellent xc riding as well. Deer Crest, Mid Mountain, Team Big Bear, Ontario Loop and Flagstaff Loop are classic old-school cross country trails with more technical features than you’ll find on newer, machine-built trails. Naildriver is a downhill-only trail in the bike park you can access via pedal power, so take advantage of the high-speed straights and steep berm turns on the way down.
Loop with Out and Back: 17 miles 3,500 feet elevation change
This xc loop isn’t for the faint of heart, but pack enough water and snacks, and it’s doable for intermediate riders. Armstrong traces a low resistance path up the mountain before you reach Pinecone Ridge, which cruelly steepens as you near the top. From there head back down Pinecone Ridge, where the rollers become fun features instead of imposing walls and finish down an area classic on Spiro.
Loop: 16 miles, 1,900 feet elevation change
The Powder Mountain Loop features many of the resort’s highlights including Brimm, one of the best beginner level trails you’ll find anywhere. Start the trail by parking at the beginning of Brimm and ride the 16-mile loop counter clockwise by finishing with Trail Yeah!, Doctor’s Dozen, Sunrise and Baggage Claim. Nothing is terribly steep, so get ready to churn out some fast, ripping miles.
Loop: 29 miles, 6,000 feet elevation change
This one is truly epic. With a fuzz over 6,000 feet of climbing on the route, Tour De Sardine Peak takes swimmer’s lungs, legs of steel and an iron will. The Tour features the famed Needles trail with stunning high-alpine scenery that will help take your mind off the burning in your quads. If you’re up for it, the Tour de Sardine Peak is a must-do.
Loop: 3 miles, 990 feet elevation change
Start with a challenging grind up Green Mile, which is quite steep, or alternatively spin up the doubletrack Nordic Valley Service Road to the top. From there, dive into some gnar on Fezzari, which starts with some small technical drops before opening up with high-speed berms and tabletops.
Loop: 5 miles, 1,000 feet elevation change
This ride consists of two loops connected which can be ridden together as a figure 8. Bjorr is a beginner-friendly smooth and flowy trail, while Bjorr Cottonwood steps up the technical terrain with some enjoyable rock and root sections.
Lollipop: 10 miles, 1,400 feet elevation change
Begin with a steady climb up the Duncan Creek DH trail. At the intersection, take a right turn and ride the upper loop counter clockwise to the access trail #64 to Tanner Hollow to Meadow DH. From there, enjoy a flowing descent down Meadow DH and Duncan Creek DH back to where you began.
Out and Back: 6 miles 1,500 feet elevation change
Brian Head Resort is renowned for its bike park with rugged downhills and flowy tabletops, but it’s also home to some xc classics. Though the Right Fork of Bunker Creek is commonly shuttled, it makes for an epic out and back with an extra sense of accomplishment. The climb to the top is relatively stout with some loose sections and steep grades. Once you turn around to let gravity take over, Right Fork is a fast and fun downhill with high speeds and big berms back to the bottom.
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