Empire Pass, Midway Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Empire Pass, Midway


Empire Pass Midway Utah Cycling Guide: Conquer one of the Hardest Bike Climbs in the US

Explore this Climb

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Mostly Cloudy

3.1 mph ESE with gusts up to 7.4 mph

0% chance of light rainfall

7:05 AM (local)
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Wind Speed


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46° 37°


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53° 35°


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57° 35°


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60° 36°


pjamm cycling rain weather icon

52° 39°


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

52° 40°


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

57° 39°

Climb Summary

View of Rocky Mountains from Empire Pass

From Midway

Empire Pass from Midway shares its first 7 miles (and by far most difficult stretch) with Top 100 #14 cycling climb,  Guardsman Pass. Guardsman/Empire Pass begins just north of Midway, Utah and can be  reached by either the Midway (more difficult) or Park City (least difficult) sides.  We can also connect with Empire Pass from Big  Cottonwood Canyon  US most difficult bicycle cimb #39. The Midway ascent to Empire Pass is very narrow and rough,  but with very little traffic.

Beginning of the bicycle climb to Empire Pass - road sign

Start of climb - intersection of Warm Springs and Pine Canyon Roads

 about 2 miles north of Midway.

Roadway sign on Pine Canyon Drive on climb by bike to Empire Pass Utah

The road is quite narrow, but no traffic.

Cottonwood Groves while cycling to Empire Pass on Pine Canyon Drive from Midway, Utah.

Pass through cottonwood groves in the upper half of climb.

  The climb is steep cycling throughout its first 7 miles (8.6%, 3,098') and  levels off significantly after turning right at the junction of Guardsman and Empire Passes  (7 mile mark).  The last .9 miles of the "climb" are very mild - 2.7% average grade and  only 105' of elevation gained.

Roadway sign at turn off from Pine Canyon Road to Empire Pass.

Turn right at mile 7 after 7.1 miles / 3,115’ / 8.5%


Travel the remaining 9/10’s mile at 2.5%

Traffic and Roadway report:  The roadway surface is poor for the first 7 miles of this  climb and the descent is very rough and hazardous due to very steep conditions, gravel,  potholes and some switchbacks from the 4-7 mile marks. Traffic is very light.   The last .9  miles are along much smoother roadway.

Steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 1.8 (15%); steepest mile beings at mile 1.2 (12.4%)

From Park City


Route travels border of Deer Valley Ski Resort and under Ruby Express Chair lift

Photo Wikimedia.commons.org

The Empire Pass climb from Park City is much less difficult than starting from Midway (which is effectively Guardsman minus 1.7 miles).  This climb begins at the south side of Park City and essentially splits 2 ski resorts (Park City and Deer Valley).  The roadway surface is excellent along this climb and the descent is the fastest we have ever experienced and there is no doubt this is one of the fastest descents in the U.S. - one stretch, referred to as “The Drop” on Strava has a KOM averaging 71.5 mph for .8 miles (Strava Link).  

This climb can be done as an out and back from Midway (capturing both sides of Midway), or the Big Kahuna (Big Cottonwood/Guardsman + Guardsman/Empire from Midway + Empire from Park City - Map of The Big Kahuna). Our map begins and ends at the base of the Big Cottonwood Canyon climb, but you could also drive to the top of Guardsman, park there, then drive down to the bottom of any of the three climbs and begin your ascents, finishing at the top of Guardsman (since you will pass your vehicle at least once during the climbing, this is a good option as it gives you easy access to provisions along the way.

Finish of bike climb to Empire Pass from Park City Utah 

Finish - view west.

Steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 4.1 (13.2%) and steepest mile at 3.7 (10.9%)

Traffic and Roadway:  Traffic is mild for the route, the roadway wide and in very good condition.  Both routes ascending to Empire pass feel safe.

Here’s what Tour of Utah (2016) says about Empire Pass:

“Just say “Empire Pass” to a veteran of the Tour of Utah—then watch their face twist to an expression of excruciating anguish. Few climbs in the world have a reputation similar to Empire Pass. Topping out at over 9000 ft, with rough pavement, average grades of 10% and pitches reaching over 20%, Empire Pass is quite simply the toughest climb raced in the United States. But this stage isn’t won on the summit. The winner needs a phenomenal ascent up Empire that’s followed by an equally brave descent down through the technically challenging Deer Valley Resort and into Park City. New this year will be a quick tour through downtown Park City, where our stage winner will need to save a little something special for the stage’s finish line; now positioned—after one last grinding climb—at the top of Main Street.”