Guest editorial: Big funding secured for trail to alleviate pressure on Mid Mountain |

Guest editorial: Big funding secured for trail to alleviate pressure on Mid Mountain

Lora Smith
Mountain Trails Foundation resource manager

The 2019 trail maintenance and building season may have gotten off to a late start with a blustery May and snow not melting up high until well into July. But, with funding fully secured for an exciting new trail project, the Mountain Trails Foundation crew was anxious to get boots in the dirt at 9,000 feet elevation.

The 9000’ Trail, temporarily named and indicating its rough elevation, is a much-needed connector trail that will traverse the mountain between 8,900 feet and 9,500 feet elevation from Empire Pass to Scott’s Pass. The new trail, meant to disperse trail use, is roughly parallel to the classic Mid Mountain Trail, which sits at about 8,000 feet elevation. When complete, the five or so miles covered by the 9000’ Trail will connect several existing trails, including Fat Lip, Black Forest, Keystone, Dead Tree and Shadow Lake. The 9000’ Trail connects a web of trails, now accessible without having to lay foot or wheel on the over-used Mid Mountain trail.

Assessing the detrimental impacts that outdoor enthusiasts are having in upper Guardsman, especially in the Bonanza Flat area, Park City Municipal prioritized funding to help mitigate human impacts. Heinrich Deters, Park City Municipal’s trails and open space manager, says, “The 9000’ Trail is part of the Bonanza Flat planning. It creates additional trail options and connections in the area and disperses users to different trails and trailheads.” Deters further explains, “The City is excited about the 9000’ project as it will provide the opportunity of regional connections through Bonanza Flat, which include the WOW Trail and Wasatch Crest Trail.”

In an effort to direct trail-users to sanctioned, sustainable trails, the city strategically installed three new trailheads, each with designated parking and vault toilets, on Guardsman Road. New trail connections in the area, the 9000’ Trail among them, are part of the conservation/recreation master plan for the Guardsman area, designed to protect the environment and enhance recreational access in the area. The master plan is a collaborative effort between Park City Municipal, Mountain Trails Foundation and Utah Open Lands, the land trust responsible for Bonanza Flat.

Funding for the $158,000 projected cost of 9000’ Trail comes through grants obtained by the Mountain Trails Foundation from the Utah Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation ($79,000) and Utah State Parks Recreational Trails Program ($59,000). Park City Municipal also committed $20,000 to the project. As a nonprofit organization with a positive, long-standing reputation among stakeholders and landowners, Mountain Trails Foundation is in the unique position of being able to collaborate across property lines and fundraise for projects like this. The result is that the entire community benefits from a free, public, world-class trail system. Deer Valley Resorts, Park City Mountain/Vail Resorts and Park City Municipal all provided Landowner Approval for the 9000’ Trail. The city and Mountain Trails thank the landowners for their vision. Charlie Sturgis, Mountain Trails Foundation executive director, says, “Big-picture vision and long-time cooperation between landowners, resorts and the city have created a free, 400-mile trail system that is at the heart of Park City’s culture and economy.”

Phase one of the two-phase project has been completed and about two miles of trail are now accessible, starting from the Empire Pass trailhead. Rick Fournier, who heads the trail crew, speaks to the challenge of trail building in high-alpine terrain. “Phase one was fairly straight forward from a build standpoint, other than dealing with lingering snow at Empire Pass. Phase two will be more challenging and interesting, as it works its way through the talus fields and rock bands under Jupiter Peak before climbing up to Pioneer Ridge, crossing Dead Tree and descending into Scott’s Bowl.” Fournier is cautiously optimistic that the 9000’ Trail can be completed by October 2020.

For future updates and information about a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October 2020, visit the Mountain Trails website (

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