MTB Project Logo

A grand tour combining amazing alpine scenery with Vail's finest flow trails.

Your Rating: Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add To-Do · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key







11,692' 3,564 m


8,178' 2,493 m


1,563' 476 m


4,219' 1,286 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Unknown

Closed May 6-July 1, 2019 for elk calving. As of July 1, 2018 all trails in this area are open.


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. From the bottom of Radio Flyer, the best intermediate sequence down is Lower Radio Flyer to Big Mamba to Hank's Hideaway, 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.


Shared By:

Nick Wilder with improvements by Jeff Brown

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 39 votes


in Vail Resort


  4.6 from 39 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Recommended Route Rankings


in Vail Resort


in Colorado


3 Views Last Month
28,444 Since Oct 21, 2012
Difficult Difficult



A mountain biking "Sound of Music" moment!
Nov 6, 2012 near Vail, CO
Coming around the bend in Game Creek Bowl.
Apr 14, 2013 near Vail, CO
Hitting the sweet, sweet berms on Radio Flyer!
Jul 9, 2017 near Vail, CO
The Gore range across the valley
Nov 16, 2012 near Minturn, CO
Climbing out (towards the east) on the incredible Grand Traverse Trail
Jul 9, 2017 near Vail, CO
Bowan's Shortcut starts out scenic and just gets better and better.
Nov 16, 2012 near Minturn, CO


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 10, 2022
Phil O
starts down the road past shrine ridge trailhead. could start there for a few more miles. starts with steep climbs for about 45 minutes, some pushi… 19mi — 4h 00m
Sep 15, 2020
Matt Greenfield
Aug 30, 2020
Craig Hirsch
All clear.
Jul 2, 2020
jon J
I passed about 10 patches of snow, none were longer than 10 feet wide, but still had to get off my bike 23.5mi — 3h 30m
Oct 6, 2019
Brian Lackore
Trail was still in great condition and temperatures felt much warmer than what thermostat indicated — 4h 30m
Sep 28, 2019
Lior Y
Wow. In my opinion this is one of the best trails in CO 18.7mi — 2h 50m
Sep 28, 2019
Ted Paletta

Join the Community

Create your FREE account today!
Already have an account? Login to close this notice.

Get Started