“An epic ride with spectacular singletrack, scenery, and a 4,600' descent.”
— Nick Wilder
Closed May 6-July 1 for elk calving.
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.