Guardsman Pass Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Guardsman Pass


Guardsmans Pass Cycling: A Complete Guide for Bikers

Page Contributor(s): Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

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Climb Summary

View from top of Guardsman Pass on bike climb from Midway.

View south towards Midway from Guardsman Pass

Ride Description: 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 7 miles with Empire Pass.  Guardsman Pass begins just north of Midway, Utah and can be reached by  3 routes i.e., from Midway, Park City or via Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Midway ascent  to Guardsman Pass is very narrow and rough, but with very little traffic.   The climb is  steep throughout with it's most challenging section the 1.4 miles from .95 - 2.3 miles at  11.8% average grade.[1]

The road is narrow . . . and . . . steep!

Cottonwood Groves along the bike climb up Guardsman Pass from Midway, Utah 

The road is narrow . . . .

Steep grade sign at the top of Guardsman Pass

. . . and steep!

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 (samples of all are on the slideshow, above).

Bicycle through cottonwood groves on our bike climb up Guardsman Pass from Midway and Park City.

Cottonwoods line the roadway just below the Midway Pass turn.

Views southeast of forest towards Midway from Guardsman Pass.

Views southeast of forest towards Midway from Guardsman Pass.

Stay left to Guardsman Pass (right to Empire Pass)

Views southeast of forest towards Midway from Guardsman Pass.

   Views southeast of forest towards Midway from Guardsman Pass.

It is a brute of a climb, but well worth the effort. 

 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.  

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 2 ski resorts (Park City and Deer Valley).  At mile 5.6, turn right onto Guardsman Pass from Hwy 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 rough (as of summer, 2015) 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 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).  

Note - as of June 4, 2017, the road was paved according to Strava members

  1.  Matt Snyder “All paved except the park city side of guardsmans pass. 2-3 miles.”  
  2. Rich Morris writes as of 2017  ”The entire ride up from midway is newly paved (last year) and very smooth. The only section that is crumbly asphalt is the short section to the top of Guardsman pass. The very top is a bit gravely but really nothing to shy away from with any road bike.”
  3. Mike Montrose - “Hey John, technically none of this particular route is dirt, but in effect that last 2 miles to the summit on Guardsman the pavement is so old it's almost like dirt. However on the plus side, the Midway side of Empire Pass was just paved last fall and is awesome. Also to note, there is a variation of this route where instead of going down the Sundance side of Alpine Loop, you go down to Cascade Springs and take the dirt road from there to Soldier Hollow. I've done that 3-4 times, it's not too bad, about 2-3 miles I think, have never had a flat. It's saves having to go up Canyon road and around Deer Creek.”
  1. Regarding the dirt/gravel routes:  “Yes, they are commonly used routes, only "dangerous" inasmuch as it's a lot of climbing :) The combination of the Midway side of Empire Pass and the last two miles of Guardsman are--if done together--rated as the most difficult climb in Utah. Guardsman of course is a seasonal road, so only recommended when the road if officially opened in the late spring, and prior to closure in the fall. On the short dirt road shortcut, if on a road bike I would also add a note to take it slow and to stay fully in control, but there are no dramatic or steep descents on it.”
  2. Mike also provided a couple of his Strava routes that include dirt/gravel if you are up for that type of adventure:  “ here's the full loop  and here's the version with the shortcut -  .

Traffic and Roadway:  Traffic is minimal for the entire route, the roadway wide and in very good condition but for the final 1.7 miles on Guardsman Pass Road.  

Steepest segments

[1]  The last 1.7 miles from the intersection of Guardsman and Empire  Passes has been repaved as of 2019 and is in excellent condition.