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Promontory Summit(sh)

Promontory Summit is where the 1869 transcontinental railroad crossed the Promontory Range. Here - finally the "Golden Spike" was driven into the ground, to unite the railroad building efforts from the east and the west coast. Much of the old railbed is mountain bikable.

Actually there are two parallel railbeds, which to me is the most fascinating part of the whole story. Both railroads received plenty of incentives from the US government in the form of landgrants, to keep on building. The two railroads kept right on laying tracks past each other for 250miles in the hope of obtaining more landgrants. It is amazing to see how close the two tracks are. Workers from the two competing railroads could have carried on a conversation while laying track past each other in opposite directions.

Only one of these former parallel railbeds is bikeable, a large portions is also open to cars. But I never saw any cars, bikers or hikers for that matter. The highest point on this route happens to be on a partially paved road, that has to be used to detour a closed part of the railbed on top. It is not actually the same point as the old Promontory Divide, and that is the reason why I put an (sh) behind it.

1.(00.0m,4290ft)START-END WEST:jct Salt Wells Rd - BLM road following old railroad bed
2.(10.2m,4600ft)jct railtrail - Golden Spike Road
3.(17.3m,4870ft)route changes from railtrail to road, immediately before Park headquarter
5.(21.3m,4830ft)profile goes back onto railtrail towards south
6.(23.3m,4710ft)profile crosses road, staying on trail
7.(27.4m,4380ft)profile turns right on Ut83
8.(30.2m,4310ft)START-END EAST: low point on Ut83


From West.
The profile starts with a very slightly sloping BLM dirt road, running along or almost always on top of the old railbed. It is located on the wide shelf between the terraced deposits left by ancient Lake Bonneville and the water of the Salt Lake. This is as flat as it gets on this ride, but also the most peaceful and serenely beautiful part of the ride.

A few signs point out sites, such as the siding Rozel, named after the nearby mountains, where helper engines were once added for the short climb over the divide.

After several miles of this, the railbed turns eastwards, heading for an ever so shallow saddle, really almost a plain in the Promontory Range. A sign touts the severe grades and the severe railroad building efforts, but the elevation gain is hardly more than 500ft, and it barely looks like a hill.

Still - the deep cuts let you know you are on a railbed and the distant mountains give this 90 degree left turn a special appearance.

Continuing up the gentle grade, we pass a sign celebrating abusive labor practices, such as the fact that Chinese laborers were forced to lay a record 10 miles of track in a day, while being prohibited to take a break for lunch.

The railbed continues parallel to a dirt road till shortly to Promontory Summit (without the (sh) ). Shortly before getting there, the road following the rail bed terminates on the nearby road, and old rails have been laid down on the railbed to make it look more authentic on the summit.

The summit has been portrayed in countless photographs. In these photographs replicas ( or on 1869 photographs - the real thing ) of the two elaborately decorated steam engines meet one another, one Central Pacific locomotive from California, and one Union Pacific engine arriving from the east.

But actually, during my last visit there were no engines there, and without them, this modern visitor center, looking identical to a Mormon church building or a business bungalow seems a bit overbuilt. To gain admission the charge is 7 dollars a vehicle, loco or no loco. Upon pointing out that my vehicle was a bicycle the price was lowered to 4 dollars. It seems they don't see many bicycles here, in spite of the fact that this seems like a major cycling attraction.

The visitor center is the highest point on the railline. But travel is now restricted to the road, and that reaches a high point at the junction with the unpaved and unsigned Salt Wells Rd.

From East. (described downwards). After a short distance a dirt road and then the signed East Grade Autotour follows part of the railroad grade again. - Nice views of the valley and Wasatch Range, framed by deep cuts and not a single tunnel, but a small natural arch next to the railbed. The short detour soon ends on the road again.

But with a bicycle it is possible to follow the railbed further on the Big Fill Trail. The main attraction here are the site of a rickety old trestle bridge parallel to "big fill" dirt embankment, put up by the competition. The trestle was soon abandoned, and no sign of the bridge remains. The grade detours far to the north of the road, finally passes a ranch and comes out on Ut83 at the rocket company plant.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

A Dayride with this point as highest summit:


( < Salt Wells Rd( s(u) |)

Promontory Summit(sh) x2 :
near trailhead to BLM railgrade Rd <> West Grade Auto Tour route east <> Golden Spike Dr east > Promontory Summit(sh) x2 <> unmarked dirt road shortcut to East Promontory rd <> Promontory Rd south to turnaround point several miles past change from pavement to hard medalled: 72.5miles with 2800ft of climbing in 6:04hrs (garmin etrex30 m5:17.9.28).

A Dayride with this point as intermediate point
is on page: Salt Wells Rd s(u)