There are a lot of beautiful views throughout Park City and the surrounding area of Utah, but Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway is one of the best. It is a 14-mile drive through the Wasatch Mountain Range. It takes visitors up the summit area into the Big Cottonwood Canyon. It also allows visitors to reach the Park City Mountain Resort. The road connects Park City to Midway and Brighton and is used both for slow drives to see the outdoors and for routine traffic.
Along The Route
Along the route are a number of activities and stops to make though visitors do not have to get out of the car or stop as they travel it. There is also no cost for taking this Backway, which means it is a great way to spend a couple of hours marveling at the natural beauty here.
The area is popular for those who love to watch wildlife as a number of natural habitats exist throughout it. Though visiting throughout the year is well worth it, during the fall months, in particular, many locals enjoy a drive through the area due to the vibrant colors of the fall leaves as they change color. The leaves become bright orange and deep red. All of the aspens in the area tend to put on a brightly colored show for a couple of weeks during the fall.
Also along the route are various areas of wildflowers. Depending on the time of the year, these may offer a wide range of beautiful colors. They end up being most vibrant during the mid-to-late-spring months and into the summer. This is also the time when the area’s evergreens and other foliage fill in the area and help the mountains to become vibrant green again.
This backcountry drive is perhaps one of the best ways to see the mountains from a different angle. Because it connects from Salt Lake Valley through Heber Valley, it can take a bit of time to make the drive, but the entire process is generally relaxing without a lot of traffic to rush you.
There are a few key areas where the sides are steep, and the roads narrow a bit. This is not dangerous unless you are not driving and are fully aware of your surroundings. Keep in mind that there are washboards in some areas. It is typically not advisable to take this route when there’s a significant amount of rain or storms heading into the area.
The route takes you along the mountain road past the ski lifts and the numerous residential developments. Once you reach the highest point, the mountain views really open up and become impressively beautiful. At this point, you have reached an elevation of 9,700 feet above sea level, and you can see throughout the area. There are areas close to this where you can get out and take a short hike. Just keep in mind some areas are a bit more treacherous than others. The entire trip takes just about an hour to complete if you remain in your car from one area to the next. It may be possible to bring along a lunch to stop for a picnic and take in some of those views along the way.
Most of the roadway along the Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway is paved. However, there is a portion of gravel towards the middle of the drive, which can mean slowing down to avoid accidents.
To reach the area of Guardsman Pass, start by following Utah State Route 224. Take that to Deer Valley Drive. Once there, go east at the exit on Marsac Avenue. There is a roundabout at this intersection. After turning left, continue to follow the road to continue up to Ontario Canyon. This allows you to enter the Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway.
There are a few key limitations to keep in mind. The roadway is closed off once the snow starts to fall each year. To catch those fall leaves and foliage, then, it is important to go in the earlier part of the season, usually between September and October. The roadway is not plowed during the winter months. This makes it highly dangerous for anyone trying to drive through the area.
Another route from Park City involves following Prospect Street through the older portion of the city. This allows you t continue south into the mountain areas. Eventually, Prospect becomes Highway 224, which is Guardsman Pass Road.
There is no charge for accessing the road.
There are locations where it is possible to pull over and get out of the vehicle. This is not uncommon for people to do. It is even possible to hike. However, there are no buildings or service centers directly on the Backway. Those become available once you reach the cities of Park City, Midway, or Brighton.