Page Contributor(s): Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Stacy Topping and Bruce Hamilton, Midway, UT
Guardsman Pass from Midway.
Ride 8.8 miles gaining 3,927’ to elevation 9,698’ at 8.5% average grade.
“A recent gift to cyclists (the upper stretches of this one were paved in 2011 and 2012), the east side of might Guardsman Pass near Park City is very likely the most difficult climb in the state and is one of the most difficult in the U.S. A majority of its route was introduced to cyclists through the 2012 Tour of Utah (and Mr. Leiphiemer) and although those riders did not go up and over Guardsman Pass (they used nearby and lower elevation Empire Pass to get back to Park City to finish the stage) viewers could certainly tell the hill is a stiff test.
A modest beginning in a spectacular setting soon leads to steeper grade as you leave signs of humanity behind and begin to twist up the hill from the fork in the roads. The first double digit grade ramp arrives just under a mile into the ascent. Thick trees (many aspens) soon greet you as you climb higher. The grade on this hill is quite variable as the multiple sections of double digit grade are mostly fairly short and followed by lesser slope although the constant variability adds to the hill’s difficulty. A twisty route with multiple switchbacks somewhat prevents you from seeing the agony to come although you can generally see (and sense) the wall of rock ahead of you. Around 3.5 miles in you reach another ramp of steep grade that contains the maximum grade of the climb. The slope then eases and soon you come to the first of two short descents, which occur fairly close together. Once beyond the first, the grade soon touches double digit again before the final descent. From that point you have less than a mile of solid grade up to a junction. The trees part just before the point and afford excellent views of the high altitude mountain slopes. From here head to the left...to encounter another double digit ramp that lasts for just over one half mile that is over slightly rougher pavement. The grade then eases a bit before steepening again for a short stretch. Just before the summit the grade eases for a final time as you encounter exposure to your left and reach high altitude Guardsman Pass and its excellent views to the east. This is also the top of the Big Cottonwood Canyon climb...from the west side of the pass…” (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 216.)
Ranked US #15 Top Road Bike Climb
Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.
Guardsman Pass from Midway is amongst the best cycling climbs in Utah. This is also the second most difficult climb by bike in Utah, and shares its first seven miles with Empire Pass. Guardsman Pass begins just north of Midway, Utah and can be reached by three routes: from Midway, Park City, or via Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Midway ascent to Guardsman Pass is very narrow road but with very little traffic. The climb is steep throughout with its most challenging section the 1.4 miles from 0.95 - 2.3 miles at 11.8% average grade.
Enter the state park just past the start of the climb.
Nice views south to Midway and Deer Creek Reservoir.
Several hairpins on the first half of the ride.
Nice stretch surrounded by Cottonwoods two-thirds up the climb.
Views along the route include look-backs to Midway and Deer Creek Reservoir, thick aspens bordering the roadway in places during the middle of the climb, and finally views of sharp mountain ranges and the grade of the final several hundred yards of Guardsman Pass far above (examples of all are on the slideshow, above).
Stay left to Guardsman Pass (right to Empire Pass)
Guardsman Pass is upper middle of photo.
Top of the climb.
Snow into May in most years.
Before climbing Guardsmans Pass, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.
Traffic and Roadway Report: PJAMM’s Ron Hawks reports “I did Big Cottonwood and descended down the last part of Guardsman and the pavement is like glass. So the entire climb from Midway is great.” Traffic is very light and minimal for the entire route, with a wide roadway in very good condition but for the final 1.7 miles on Guardsman Pass Road.
Guardsman Pass from Park City: The Guardsman Pass climb from Park City is much less difficult than starting from Midway, but is still rated the 12th most difficult climb in all of Utah. This climb begins at the south side of Park City and essentially splits two ski resorts (Park City and Deer Valley). At mile 5.6, turn right onto Guardsman Pass from Highway 224 (9/10th mile of flat riding west after passing over Empire Pass) and travel the final 1.7 miles to Guardsman Pass on a very smooth and newly paved (as of 2018) surface gaining 778’ at 8.3% average grade.
The roadway surface is excellent along this climb and the descent back down into Park City is the fastest we have ever experienced, 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 0.8 miles (Strava Link).
That’s a wrap!!
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