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Trailblazer Tuesday: Sweeney's Switchbacks Loop

Trails: Sweeney's Switchbacks & Flat Cable
Length: 2.5 miles 
Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate hiking
What you'll need: hiking shoes, comfortable/breathable clothing, sunglasses, water.
Other items: a backpack, your camera or phone, and a leash if you're bringing your dog. 

This week’s Trailblazer Tuesday hike features a quick loop that takes you from Old Town Park City up to the PayDay Lift mid-station, and back down again. One of my personal favorites, you can complete this hike in about 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace. It’s perfect for post-work exercise with a view, or a quick morning energy boost—if you’re into that kind of thing. 

You'll start this hike from Lowell Ave., right by Town Lift. Walk around the chain that closes the dirt road to vehicle traffic, and head up the "road." When you're almost below the lift line, take a right up the road. (You'll notice an orange hiking detour sign here if you're hiking in late August/early September 2014.) You're going to head directly up the ski run, making this section of the trail one of the most difficult. Don't get discouraged by the steepness of this trail, you'll be on winding singletrack soon.  

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After hiking for a few minutes, you'll hit a trail that intersects with this dirt road. Get on that trail, heading right. The great thing about this hike is that the climb is shaded for most of the way, so even though you're working hard, you won't be overheating if it's a really hot day. As the trail winds through the trees keep heading uphill and to the left. When you hit the trailmarker that points you in one direction for Sweeney's Switchbacks and in the other for Flat Cable, take the trail up and to the left toward Sweeney's. You'll be back at this same marker near the end of the hike when you're completing the loop. 

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Continue hiking until you pass under Town Lift for the first time. Stop for a drink of water, and while you're at it check out the view of Park City from just next to the lift line. At this point you'll see another trailmarker. Head right, staying on the trail for Sweeney's Switchbacks rather than South Sweeney's. You'll continue winding under the chairlift, possibly encountering a few mountain bikers and other hikers. Remember that while hikers do have the right of way, it's much easier for you to step off to the side of the trail for a moment than it is for someone riding a mountain bike downhill to stop quickly. Bikers heading uphill also appreciate when hikers pull off to the side, so they don't stop and lose their momentum. Keep following the signs for Sweeney's Switchbacks. Eventually the trail will intersect with a dirt road, which you'll head right up. 

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On this road you'll see a relic from Park City's mining days (pictured above) on your right. Stay on the road until you hit a singletrack trail, and a sign that points you right toward Flat Cable. You're just about done climbing!

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You'll head through the trees and begin your descent-- this is another great spot for a photo-op with the town of Park City as your backdrop. Continuning to wind down, the trail will dump you out on the ski run just above PayDay Lift's mid-station. Depending on the time of your hike you'll probably see people unloading the lift with slides in tow, ready to take on the Alpine Slide. 

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I like to take a quick right down the dirt road toward the paved Alpine Slide path, and then catch the trail again just before that paved path (heading right). From here you're going to wind down the run, taking switchbacks until you feel like you're walking down a road again. At the orange detour sign (if it's August or September 2014) where Flat Cable and Sweeney's meet, you'll take a left. You've been here before! Continue your hike down, taking the same trail that you hiked up, until you're back where you started. 

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