Bowmans Shortcut to Two Elk

Consensus:    (details)
  4.5 from 13 votes
black  Difficult from 4 votes
Rank: #2 in the Vail Resort area
#33 in CO, #139 Overall
Views: 5,076. Last 30 days: 303
Condition Details | Update
Feb 9 Green - dry
Featured Ride in the area near Frisco,
“An epic ride with spectacular singletrack, scenery, and a 4,600' descent.”
Nick Wilder on Oct 10, 2012
Getting There     GPX File     Print
12.119.5 milesKilometers 1,195’364 m Ascent 11,702’3,567 m High 8% Avg Grade (5°)
100% Singletrack -4,023’-1,226 m Descent 8,002’2,439 m Low 28% Max Grade (15°)
Closed May 6-July 1 for elk calving.
2:15 average time for 12.1 miles. Details

A fantastic long and scenic singletrack ride - the only drawback is the long shuttle required (or use a commercial shuttle service from Vail).
Need To Know
You can start anywhere from the Vail Pass area: right from the trailhead, or from the Shrine Pass parking lot (which gives you a couple miles of gentle downhill dirt road to warm up, and a shorter shuttle).
Once you get to the Bowmans Shortcut trailhead, climb climb climb your way up to the "Top of the World". It's well named and you'll understand when you get there! The climb is very steep in parts, but it's only about 800 vertical total.

After catching your breath and enjoying the views in all directions, continue on Bowman's Shortcut down to Two Elk Pass. This stretch of trail is very steep and quite rutted. It's the worst section of the ride, but it's short, so just get it over with.

From Two Elk Pass, a bunch of trails diverge. Don't worry too much as long as you're on one that is going downhill to the west, under the Mongolia bowls of Vail ski area. Other trails make some other good rides... but that's for another day.

There is evidence of an older version of the Two Elk trail that goes is deeply rutted and goes straight down the drainage. The new trail is now very smooth, easy, well built, and winds around the open meadow.

Continue down, passing the bottom of ski lifts. You'll cross a few roads, but never stay on one for more than 100' or so, and you'll find the singletrack again. You might have to look around in a few places, but it's all there.

Once you leave the ski area behind you, the forest gets thicker and the trail rockier. It follows Two Elk Creek for several more miles of moderate to difficult (due to rocks) until eventually popping out at the valley floor.

You'll be at the end of Cemetary Rd (and a shooting range, which is a little disconcerting after so many miles of backcountry riding). If you got a lift to Vail Pass (there are many shuttle services available), you can ride back through Minturn and all the way to Vail. Otherwise, you hopefully have arrived at your car.
History & Background
You are riding below Vail's back bowls, which are almost devoid of trees due to weather conditions in the hot, dry year of 1879 when forest fires ravaged many mountain slopes in Colorado. The fires left the wide-open slopes and sweeping vistas of Colorado high country that made the Back Bowls famous among skiers.
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PHOTOS of Bowmans Shortcut to Two Elk
  5.0 from 4 votes
The Gore range across the valley (Minturn, CO)
  5.0 from 1 vote
Welcome to Colorado singletrack! (Minturn, CO)
  5.0 from 1 vote
Bowan's Shortcut starts out scenic and just gets better and better. (Minturn, CO)
  4.5 from 4 votes
This place is called "Top of the World" for good reason! (Minturn, CO)
  4.5 from 2 votes
A sneak peak of the view a mile or so before it totally up at the "Top o... (Minturn, CO)
  4.3 from 3 votes
Several miles of this... and it doesn't get old. (Minturn, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
The upper part of the Two Elk trail is gorgeous and really easy. It get... (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
Big skies and wild flowers abound in outer Mongolia Bowl. (Minturn, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
The scenery near the Top of the World section of trail makes for a great... (Minturn, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
Still climbing. (Minturn, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
Thomas zig'n and zag'n through vail resorts outer Mongolian Bowl (Minturn, CO)
  3.5 from 2 votes
Two Elk is a ripping, fun descent. (Minturn, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Many wildflowers still at end of July (Vail, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Shot of Two Elk Creek using iPhone 5s and SlowShutter. You can't miss th... (Minturn, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Just past the Teacup Express chair the climb gets less technical, but ma... (Minturn, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
When you reach the bridge, you're almost done. (Minturn, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Top of the world looking South and East. (Minturn, CO)
  3.0 from 4 votes
K enjoying the lower aspen groves (Minturn, CO)
  3.0 from 3 votes
This downed tree (as of July 2013) makes it VERY easy to miss this turn ... (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Two Elk is narrow, technical, and has a very steep drop (> 30') to the c... (Minturn, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
It's an aspen fire! (Minturn, CO)
  2.3 from 3 votes
Some of the dense vegetation along the trail. (Minturn, CO)