Nestled in the heart of Park City at Canyon’s Village you’ll find a pleasant 4.5-mile round trip trail winding through the mountains. This popular trail with the locals is used for trail running, mountain biking or an enjoyable day hike. Round out your day by adding a short detour to a beautiful alpine lake or to the top of the Red Pine Lodge for a tasty mountain snack and a ride down the gondola.
How could something as magical as that go wrong?
Holly’s Trail Hiking Stats
|Trail Description||Out and back|
|Trail Location||Base of the Orange Bubble Express Lift – Canyon’s Village at Park City, Utah|
|Trail Start||40.686773, -111.557256|
|Round Trip Mileage||4.5 miles|
|Average Time||2 – 3 hours|
|Elevation Gain||~500 feet|
|Best time to visit||Late spring through early fall (before snow falls)|
|Fees||None unless you want to ride the gondola up|
|Canyons Village Info||Hours & Pricing|
We love exploring the mountains, especially at ski resorts during the summer. Often, we’ll find some amazing trails and have the opportunity to have lunch atop the mountain or enjoy a scenic chair-lift ride from the top for free. Some ski resorts offer a free ride down, but not everyone does (we’re looking at you San Jacinto Peak).
After finding limited hiking opportunities in the immediate vicinity of Park City (which seems crazy), we found a hike called Holly’s Trail that seemed like a reasonable distance and elevation gain. We couldn’t find a lot of information about Holly’s Trail online, but we knew it started at the base of the Orange Bubble Express in Canyon’s Village and we wanted to give it a shot.
Our experience on Holly’s Trail
We got an early start on the trail around 8:30 a.m. to beat the record temperatures Park City was experiencing while we were in town. Luckily, it was a bit overcast and kept the worst of the sun off us for much of the day.
We made our way to the base of the Orange Bubble Express and were pleased to see a sign directing us towards the trail system. The trail begins gradually sloping uphill with a golf course directly to your right. Keep your eyes out for errant golf balls as we saw many on the trail and a new one was added right in front of our eyes.
It was here we got to see our first wildlife sighting, a cute marmot hiding in the rocks. He even stopped to pose for us!
The trail curves to the left and immediately begins switch backs up the mountain. We saw a few trail runners coming down, but the trail (and Canyons Village) was mostly empty.
We chocked the emptiness of the village up to the lasting effects of Covid and few available activities in the Canyons Village area during the summer.
The Unexpected Detour
As we were following the trail, we came to a sign with an arrow that said “Holly’s Trail – No Hiking or Biking Beyond This Point.” In hindsight, we should have continued past this sign (there was even some visual evidence of a trail beyond it).
The arrow, when combined with the “no hiking” directive was quite confusing. So, we turned towards the left and continued onward and upward, as that appeared to be the only other way to go. To this day, we still grumble about that contradictory sign and our choice of misdirection.
This isn’t the first time we’ve ended up off trail by accident (it happened at Kraft Mountain in Nevada and at Gower Gulch in Death Valley). I was starting to think we’re just bad navigators, but apparently, we’re not the only ones that have gotten turned around on this poorly marked hike.
A few of our favorite quotes:
Very difficult to find the trail head and not well marked.
We never did actually find it due to some construction.
As some others have observed, the trail is poorly marked until the near the end. However, this is only a problem at the beginning of the trail where it’s unclear where to turn off the switchback climb near the ski lift.
Poorly marked trail. Walked about 2 miles before seeing marker.
Glad to see we were in good company.
The good news is we ended up loving the route we took.
True, there were some pretty challenging uphill climbs, but the views were gorgeous and we got a great workout in!
The march up “Doc’s Run”
We ended up hiking straight up a ski run called “Doc’s Run.” It goes fairly straight up the mountain until you reach a crest area of the Red Pine Gondola. The views from the crest were amazing. You could see Canyons Village below you, the Red Pine Lodge off in the distance further up the mountain and 180-degree views of the area.
At this point, we knew we were pretty far off Holly’s Trail, but we had gone up so much in elevation, we didn’t expect to intersect with the real trail any longer.
We debated trying to follow the Red Pine Gondola straight to the lodge, but that path is unsuitable for hiking. The gondola heads down a fairly steep gully for hikers and across a valley that didn’t look too friendly.
We ended up turning a slight right and continued to follow Doc’s Run up another hill.
We could see some sort of communication type building in front of us and followed the ski run towards it.
The sun was starting to peak out from the clouds at this point, but we were determined to at least see the top of the hill.
At the end of Doc’s Run, we found the communication building and found ourselves back near the Orange Bubble Express Line. Just a short distance in front of us we saw another building which happened to be the Lookout Cabin.
Lookout Cabin Restaurant
During the winter, you’ll find daily lunch specials and a place to relax in between ski runs at the Lookout Cabin.
During the summer (at least when we were there), the place was closed and deserted, except for a few workers doing maintenance and repair.
We stopped to enjoy the views and lounge around in the chairs on the deck.
From Lookout Cabin, we could see the Red Pine Lodge with the “Short Cut” chairlift heading straight for it. There wasn’t a friendly hiking path under the chair lift, so we opted to continue following the Orange Bubble Express down the road and towards the Alpine Lake.
As we were heading towards the lake and not far down the trail from Lookout Cabin, we found the end of Holly’s Trail off to the right.
We had finally found where we were supposed to be.
Continuing down the road, we came across the beautiful (man-made) Alpine Lake.
The lake is stock full of fish and while no swimming or wading is allowed, it’s a great place to stop and relax.
While at the lake, we spoke with a local ranger that told us they used to rent small boats in the summertime. This was shut down when Vale Resorts purchased all the local ski areas.
Alpine Lake to Red Pine Lodge
After enjoying the lake and fighting off some bugs, we decided to continue on.
The hike from the Alpine Lake to the lodge is a quick (easily followable) gently downwards sloping trail. We passed by a few disc golf baskets and lamented not having our discs on hand.
The lodge itself has a great area outside with tables and umbrellas on a large patio. We stopped to enjoy our homemade lunch at the lodge, but you can also purchase snacks and drinks inside.
We watched as some tourists got off the gondola and wandered around on some of the trails at the top.
Rather than hiking down, we decided to ride down the gondola to conclude our day. There was no charge for a ride down (this could change in the future), but if you’d like to ride up it costs $28 per person (pricing subject to change).
While we didn’t end up on the true Holly’s Trail, we enjoyed our unique path up the mountain!
Should you hike up Holly’s Trail?
Rating: 4.0 Mooses
What we liked
- The mountain views on our alternate trail were gorgeous.
- We really enjoyed hanging out at the Alpine Lake. There were tons of trout stocked in the lake and it was a great resting spot.
- The gondola ride down the mountain was fun.
What we didn’t like
- The signage for Holly’s Trail is very poor. We got off track at the beginning and ending up finding the very end of it after a long hike up the mountain.
- There were a lot of bugs by the Alpine Lake. Bring bug spray!
Verdict: If you find yourself in Park City and want to get a hike in, this is a good option. If you plan on following the traditional Holly’s Trail, we recommend downloading a GPS map to follow such as Alltrails to make sure you stay on the trail. Definitely add a detour to the Alpine Lake and consider riding the gondola down to end your day.
*Note: we did use Alltrails that day, and somehow still managed to get turned around, so be careful out there and keep your eyes open for the correct trail!
Know before you go
- The trail starts at the base of the Orange Bubble Express Chair Lift at Canyons Village in Park City, Utah.
- A GPS map is recommended to stay on the official Holly’s Trail as it isn’t well marked.
- If you find you’ve taken a wrong turn like we did, the resort area is pretty open and you can probably find an alternate route up the mountain if desired. There are a lot of ski runs and roads that run throughout the area.
- Check the local operating hours of the resort and the gondola before you head up the trail. The resort has limited hours of operation during the summer months as less visitors seem to be in the area.
- The mountain is popular with mountain bikers and they do use Holly’s Trail. Keep your eye out for them while you’re on the trail.
- As an alternative to hiking up Holly’s Trail, you could take the gondola up and hike back down the mountain, however tickets are priced at $28 per person.