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A Guide to Bonanza Flats - A Recreational Haven Worth Saving

High above Park City, just below the scenic Guardsman Pass, a sprawling forest of aspens and evergreens, wildflowers, and swimming holes has beckoned locals and visitors alike for decades. With ample parking and a network of well-maintained hiking and biking trails, the area includes parts of the popular Wasatch Crest Trail and heavily used Mid-Mountain Trail, which connects Deer Valley’s Silver Lake area to Canyons Village.

Yet for nearly half a century, most hikers, bikers and families didn’t realize the well-worn paths of this 1,350-acre area, known as Bonanza Flats, weren’t actually public property. In true mountain town fashion, the original owners — United Park City Mines — had long permitted public use, a precedent held as the land changed hands.

This mountaintop playground made headlines recently when new ownership indicated plans to sell to a private developer, which would have prevented much of the access locals and visitors now enjoy. Rather than pushing for a government intervention, locals mobilized to purchase the land. Park City residents initiated efforts with a $25 million bond, then a patchwork of donations closed the $13 million gap — all in less than six months. Phew! The purchase ensures that Bonanza Flats will remain open to the public as it has been for decades, with the promise of new trails connecting areas between Park City and Salt Lake resorts.

To see what makes Bonanza Flats so inviting, here’s a guide to exploring this high-altitude area any time of year:

Although you can take in much of the Guardsman Pass beauty with a scenic drive, we recommend a hike through one of the many well-maintained trails throughout Guardsman Pass, all a short distance from our Empire Pass and Silver Lake properties.

You'll find clearly marked trailheads with ample parking and a route for all abilities, making Bonanza Flats one of the easiest areas to explore from upper Deer Valley. For a challenge worth the views, we recommend hiking to Peak 10420 then stopping at Lake Lackawaxen to cool off on the way back. For a child-friendly hike with all the beauty, pack a picnic and take hour long trek to Bloods Lake.

Bonanza Flats is also great for mountain biking, particularly if you’re up for a challenge. Because of the altitude, we recommend having some practice, but you’ll find good routes for a range of abilities. For intermediates, we recommend the just-challenging-enough Mid-Mountain Trail with plenty of out-and-back options. Serious riders will enjoy taking on the Wasatch Crest Trail, including the pleasure of conquering Puke Hill. For a seamless ride, take advantage of bike shuttle service to Wasatch Crest or the WOW (Wasatch Over Wasatch) trails.

We recommend choosing one of our private home accommodations in Empire Pass, like Ironwood, Northside Villa, or the Ski Utah Home,, to soak in your private hot tub or get cozy by the outdoor fireplace. Your Xplore team can also arrange a post-ride massage so you can wake up feeling ready for a new challenge.

Although a brief season (the first snow often falls in October), Park City’s autumn might be its best kept secret. Between bug-free hikes, crowd-free trails, aspens in full orange-and-yellow, and festive events like the Tour Des Suds — a lighthearted 7-mile bike race from City Park to the top of Guardsman Pass (taking place this year on September 15) — we think autumn might even rival summer. You can satisfy your post-adventure hunger with a burger at Daly’s Pub in the Montage Deer Valley before soaking in the hot tub at your Natural Retreats lodge condo, or having a chef-cooked meal waiting for you when you arrive home. Stay three nights at a featured Empire Pass property like Grand Lodge, and you’ll enjoy an extra night on us for even more exploring.

Bonanza Flats is a playground of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, taking adventurers through rows of aspens and evergreens, and often into a single-track wonderlands with a surprising amount of wildlife, from birds to even foxes and deer. Main routes also allow snowmobiles. We recommend booking a tour through one of our many partners. Your Xplore team can make your reservation.

Where To Stay:
Empire Pass
We recommend our Empire Pass homes and lodge condos for the most convenient access to Bonzanza Flats. You’ll also enjoy complimentary shuttle service to Main Street and ample dining options in the Empire Pass area itself.

Silver Lake
Our Silver Lake home collection also allows easy access to Guardsman Pass, whether you take the short drive to the trailhead or bike from the Mid-Mountain Trail. Each of our Silver Lake homes features a private hot tub, gourmet kitchen, a garage and space for equipment storage.

Main Street
To discover all that Park City has to offer, we recommend one of our Main Street Collection homes. Easily stroll to the Old Town transit hub, where you can take complimentary service to Empire Pass. You can even stow your bike!

The Colony
For hikers and bikers looking to enjoy the full scope of Park City's trail system, The Colony homes in the mid-mountain gated community at Canyons Village offer out-the-door access to connector paths leading all the way to Bonanza Flats.

Photo Credit:
Header Image: Bret Webster
Gallery Images 1-2: Bret Webster
Gallery Images 3-5: G. Brad Lewis