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Bowmans Shortcut to Two Elk

 4.4 (21)
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Map Key

12.1 Miles 19.5 Kilometers



1,195' 364 m


-4,023' -1,226 m



Avg Grade (5°)


Max Grade (15°)

11,702' 3,567 m


8,002' 2,439 m


Shared By Nick Wilder



Getting forecast...

An epic ride with spectacular singletrack, scenery, and a 4,600' descent.

Nick Wilder

Dogs Unknown

Features -none-

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.


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Your Check-Ins


Sep 14, 2018
Fred Searles
Aug 1, 2018
Bill Westervelt
You need to be very careful at the Two Elk intersection and GO STRAIGHT. I ended up going down the two elk trail and messed up the whole ride. 26mi
Jul 21, 2018
Andrea Tupy
With Kate and mark
Sep 30, 2017
Dan Gilberstadt
Great ride!!! The first part is a hike-a-bike and some exposure on the latter part of the ride. 12.1mi
Sep 14, 2017
Aaron T.
Sep 13, 2017
John Negomir
Beautiful ride, the rocks keep it interesting near the creek. 12.1mi
Sep 3, 2017
Kelvin Caiati
Aug 13, 2017
Hunter R
Very overgrown by the creek - watch out for rocks hiding in the weeds along the trail. Your pedals will thank you!

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Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 21 votes


in Vail Resort


  4.4 from 21 votes
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10,151 Since Oct 10, 2012
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until next year:) Dec 3, 2013
marshall moose
Golden, Colorado
marshall moose   Golden, Colorado
Even though the description says the opposite, the section from the 'Top of the World' on Bowman's to the Two Elk intersection is THE BEST section to ride. A rock/root/steep rider's dream, and so fast. The last section of Two Elk above the river has just enough exposure to lull you into a sense of complacency - stay alert on it! Jul 21, 2018

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