By Wayne Cottrell
The Tintic Mountains Classic is a 110.0-mile loop through Utah, Eureka and Tooele Counties in north central Utah, making this the longest Road Biking Utah ride. The route covers some premium territory, visiting Utah Lake, the Tintic Mountains, and a segment of the Pony Express route. The ride is reasonably mountainous, with elevations ranging from 4,522 feet adjacent Utah Lake, to 6,620 feet near Eureka. Portions of the route have proven to be very popular with the Tour of Utah stage race, which, in its most recent editions, has featured a stage along these roads. The professional peloton tends to remain intact through here, suggesting that the climbing is not intense, and that its length should not be dissuading.
The ride starts and ends in Eagle Mountain, a city of 21,415 population (as of the 2010 census), located due west of Lehi and the Utah Valley. The ride begins at the Mountain Bike Ranch Park in Eagle Mountain. Purists may rebel against staging a road bike ride at a mountain bike park, but the location is ideal. Although the dirt jumps, pump track and slopestyle trails may be tempting, save it for your off-road bike and leave the park. Once out of the park, head west on Golden Eagle Drive; turn right onto Tinamous Road, and then left onto Red Hawk Ranch Way (Nolan Park is on the right). At the stop sign, turn right onto Pony Express Parkway. Follow this road eastward, with Utah Lake appearing on your right, at about one o’clock. Leave Eagle Mountain at mile 2.3. Once at Redwood Road (State Route 68), at mile 3.4, turn right and head south. The western reaches of Saratoga Springs are on your right. Not to be confused with the city in the Catskills of New York, or the Disney resort, Utah’s Saratoga Springs is a relatively new community, only becoming incorporated in 2001 (same year as Eagle Mountain).
The increasingly sparse development along State Route 68, around mile 10, south of Saratoga Springs, represents the true beginning of this ride. From here, the highway rolls along long stretches of undeveloped land, often windy, with the Lake Mountains on your right, and Utah Lake to your left. The Lake Mountains top out at 7,645 feet, and you might strain your eye to see communications facilities for the neighboring Provo-Orem metropolis high above. Utah Lake is a freshwater remnant of the former Lake Bonneville – the Great Salt Lake, to the north, is also a remnant. Utah Lake, in facts, drains into the Great Salt Lake via the Jordan River. A high rate of evaporation in Utah Lake actually leaves its waters slightly salty. Sewage was dumped directly into the lake up to about 45 years ago, and the effects on water cleanliness and chemical content still remain.
Enter the community of Elberta at mile 33.9, turning right onto U.S. Highway 6 at mile 34.7. Elberta had a population of about 250 as of this writing. Elberta is sometimes referred to as “The Slant” – the justification for this odd nickname is evident after turning right onto U.S. 6. Over the next 8.8 miles, the highway climbs a net 1,916 feet. The highway crests at the Utah-Juab County line, on the outskirts of Eureka. Entering Eureka, particularly its commercial district, takes one back in time to the bustling mining days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Silver and gold were extracted from nearby mines, generating enough capital and other resources to keep this town afloat for several generations. Evidence of the town’s active economy was that the second-ever J.C. Penney store was opened here, in 1909. Mining activity has diminished substantially since the heydays, and the town had a dwindling population of about 750 as of this writing. The town and the surrounding area are all part of the Tintic Mining District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Enjoy the descent through Eureka, but slow down a bit to observe the historic buildings.
Vivid descriptions of the context of the Tintic Mountains Classic continue in the forthcoming edition of Road Biking Utah, Volume 2. The ride continues beyond Eureka to State Route 36. Turn right here, at mile 47.4, and head north. Enter Tooele County at mile 52.4. Enter the community of Vernon at mile 67.4. Beyond this town, look for the turnoff to Faust Road, at mile 73.1 – turn right here. The alignment of Faust Road is directly along that of the Pony Express route. Be sure to carry plenty of water here as there are no facilities in this area. At the junction with State Route 73, at mile 86.6, turn right. Enter Eagle Mountain at mile 100.6; turn right onto Eagle Mountain Boulevard just past the city limit, at mile 100.8. Proceed counterclockwise around the traffic circle at Sweetwater South, at mile 105.5, and then head east onto Sweetwater North. After cresting Unity Pass (elevation 5,070 feet), the road becomes Pony Express Parkway. Continue eastward to Red Hawk Ranch Road; turn right and follow the reverse route above to return to Mountain Bike Ranch Park.
Wayne will be appearing at the Tour of Utah expositions, offering autographed editions of his book. Be sure to watch the race and stop by his booth!
Excerpted from Road Biking Utah (Falcon Guides), written by avid cyclist Wayne Cottrell. Road Biking Utah features descriptions of 40 road bike rides in Utah. The ride lengths range from 14 to 106 miles, and the book’s coverage is statewide: from Wendover to Vernal, and from Bear Lake to St. George to Bluff. Each ride description features information about the suggested start-finish location, length, mileposts, terrain, traffic conditions and, most importantly, sights. The text is rich in detail about each route, including history, folklore, flora, fauna and, of course, scenery.
Wayne Cottrell is a former Utah resident who conducted extensive research while living here – and even after moving – to develop the content for the book.