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.
Start of climb - intersection of Warm Springs and Pine Canyon Roads
about 2 miles north of Midway.
The road is quite narrow, but no traffic.
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.
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
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 - 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.”