Bowmans Shortcut To Vail

Consensus:    (details)
  4.6 from 17 votes
black  Difficult from 7 votes
Rank: #1 in the Vail Resort area
#14 in CO, #58 Overall
Views: 9,725. Last 30 days: 684
Condition Details | Update
Jul 31 Green - Dry
Featured Ride in the area near Frisco,
“A grand tour combining amazing alpine scenery with Vail's finest flow trails.”
Nick Wilder on Oct 21, 2012
Getting There     GPX File     Print
18.830.2 milesKilometers 1,776’541 m Ascent 11,703’3,567 m High 6% Avg Grade (4°)
90% Singletrack -4,453’-1,357 m Descent 8,151’2,484 m Low 26% Max Grade (15°)
Closed May 6-July 12 for elk calving
3:38 average time for 21.8 miles. Details

One of the very best link-ups around Vail: almost all singletrack over a long and varied day that combines high-altitude alpine scenery, great cross-country singletrack, and Vail resort's impeccably maintained flow trails.
Need To Know
Either set up a shuttle or use one of the many commercial services to get to Vail Pass. The trailhead is a few miles from the parking lot at the pass, so either drive yourself the the actual trailhead, or cruise the easy dirt roads on your bike (adding a couple miles to your day).
Head up Bowmans Shortcut, which is very steep in places, for about 700 vertical feet to the aptly-named "Top of the World". Soak in the 360 degree views from the alpine meadow, then continue downhill to Two Elk Pass. This section is very rutted and technical in places.

Once at Two Elk Pass, ignore the Two Elk Trail (it will look very tempting, and it is fabulous, so come back for it some day!). Head up the unsigned trail that goes up Mongolia Bowl (this is the Two Elk Connector). Though it goes up a couple hundred vertical, it's surprisingly easy and non-technical.

Pass straight through the Poma lift and you'll find yourself on a ridge on top of Vail ski area. Great views on either side. Keep your eye out on the left side of the ridge and you'll find an obvious notch that you must downclimb about 30 feet. This is the only way off the ridge.

You are now at the top of the Orient Express lift. Follow the major dirt road along the top of the ridge, passing the Two Elk lodge and a few more lifts until you get to Patrol Headquarters. This is easy to identify as the intersection of 3 major lifts and you'll find signs for the Grand Traverse Trail.

Follow Grand Traverse downhill through fantastic singletrack across bowls and through forests. Really fun! After a couple miles, you'll be at the top of the Lionshead gondola.

There are many options here, including getting a beer and the riding the gondola down (for free)...

But you're at the top of some great trails, so pick one. The one that best fits this ride is Radio Flyer, a really fast and fun flow trail. When that ends, follow the dirt road a bit and give Hank's Hideaway a try, or if you're getting tired, just stick on the dirt road.

After roughly 20 miles and almost 5,000 feet of descending, you end up at the base of Lionshead Village in Vail, hopefully with a huge smile!
History & Background
You are riding through and above 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.
View in 3D
4.9 (7)
A life-changing 485 mile ride on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango.
near Roxborough Park, CO
4.5 (13)
An epic ride with spectacular singletrack, scenery, and a 4,600' descent.
near Frisco, CO

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PHOTOS of Bowmans Shortcut To Vail
  5.0 from 4 votes
Great feel for the Grand Traverse trail (Vail, CO)
  5.0 from 4 votes
The Gore range across the valley (Minturn, CO)
  4.8 from 5 votes
Coming around the bend in Game Creek Bowl. (Vail, CO)
  5.0 from 1 vote
Bowan's Shortcut starts out scenic and just gets better and better. (Minturn, CO)
  4.1 from 17 votes
A mountain biking "Sound of Music" moment! (Vail, CO)
  4.5 from 4 votes
Wildflower season makes this ride even closer to perfect. (Vail, 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
Surveying Vail's back bowls. (Vail, CO)
  4.3 from 3 votes
Big bowls and Blue Sky Basin (Vail, CO)
  4.3 from 3 votes
Cruising along Ptarmigan ridge. (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
The back bowls.. Just as glorious in the summer! (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
The surprisingly easy connection from Two Elk trail to the ski area is r... (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
Proving that the "Grand Traverse" trail is aptly named. (Vail, 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 2 votes
Loop after loop, this trail gets repetitive, but never old. (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 2 votes
A really fun rollers section. (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 2 votes
Great aspens along Hank's Hideaway (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 2 votes
Radio Flyer - showing off what machine-made downhill flow trails are all... (Vail, CO)
  4.0 from 1 vote
Hard to focus on the trail... (Vail, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
Near the end of Big Mamba. (Vail, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
This part is fast and flowy, but it gets a bit more technical later. (Vail, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
Many wildflowers still at end of July (Vail, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
Coming up the final switchbacks immediately after entering Vail Ski Resort (Vail, CO)
  3.5 from 4 votes
Heading through the aspen tunnel. (Vail, CO)
  3.5 from 4 votes
Cruising down a short open section of Hank's before diving back into the... (Vail, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Many wildflowers still at end of July (Vail, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Top of the world looking South and East. (Minturn, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
Great flow through the trees! (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 4 votes
When you reach the top of the Poma lift, do NOT go down the road. Look ... (Vail, 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
Popping out of the trees on Grand Traverse. (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 2 votes
Biking across the Mongolia Bowls - makes me want to ski! (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
Elk? Really big - I should have put something in for scale. (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
You'll be riding on the summit ridge (or just below it, if you're headin... (Vail, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
There was a ridiculous amount of flowers. (Vail, CO)
  2.3 from 3 votes
It may just be a ride down a dirt road, but the scenery makes up for it! (Vail, CO)
  2.3 from 3 votes
The ride might not be special, but the scenery is! (Vail, CO)
  2.0 from 1 vote
Yer gonna die! Well, probably not, but a stern warning from Vail resort... (Minturn, CO)