This route is great if you enjoy long, grueling, epic days on the bike. Beautiful dense vegetation throughout the ride and amazing views from the top. The route overall is moderately technical, rocky in many spots, and very narrow on Two Elk and Game Creek which adds difficulty as there is no room for error.
The overall length, elevation, and elevation gain makes this a tough one. Starting and ending in Minturn seems like a good option since you can turn around at any time, with multiple routes directly back to Minturn where you'll find bars and restaurants for after-ride replenishing.
This is a long, high-elevation ride, and weather can change rapidly so be mindful of the forecast, be prepared for any weather, and have enough food/water for 5+ hours.
Most riders are going down Two Elk toward Minturn, so be mindful that they may not be expecting uphill traffic.
Park at the Haymeadow Trailhead parking lot just north of Minturn, which was fairly empty for this nice Saturday morning, or in any public parking lot in Minturn.
Ride south through Minturn, to the south end of town, then across a bridge on the left over the river on Ballpark Road. Follow the road past a cemetery, ride along the railroad tracks to the shooting range on the left, go left toward the shooting range, and continue down the dirt road to the Two Elk Trailhead.
You may also drive to the Two Elk Trailhead if you plan to descend back down Two Elk Trail
, but it may require a truck or SUV.
From Two Elk Trailhead, the steady nine-mile climb starts almost immediately. It's easy to follow as it parallels Two Elk Creek almost to the top. The terrain is somewhat rocky but mostly ride-able, aside from several brief hike-a-bike sections due to a steep grade or being a little extra rocky.
About four miles up Two Elk, the trail passes a few ski lifts and continues steeply to the left. From here on up is less technical and has more open views as you start to leave the dense forest. The trail crosses a few more dirt roads in the ski resort, then continues east to Two Elk Pass.
About seven miles up Two Elk, just below the top of Two Elk Pass is a three-way intersection. At this time, a tree is blocking the north fork, so don't miss the turn. Follow the north fork climbing two more miles up to the ski resort.
When you reach the top of the T-bar ski lift, you're practically at the high-point of the ride, and this is a great time to stop and enjoy the views. It's mostly downhill if you continue this route, or all downhill if you turn back down Two Elk.
From the T-bar lift, you have two options:
A. Continue a short climb up the singletrack to the northeast, and go left at the next trail intersection. Traverse the ridge until you have to go left down an insane hike-a-bike section.
B. Follow the dirt road underneath the ski lift, avoiding the insane hike-a-bike section, both ending up at the same point at the bottom of the hike-a-bike section.
Follow the main dirt road to the west (which may be easier with a map on hand, I had to ask a ski area worker for directions). Shortly after a steep climb under a ski lift, watch closely for the (tiny) Grand Traverse
trail sign on the left. Follow the Grand Traverse
trail to the Eagles Nest, where the gondola and all the summer mountaintop activities are (which is a strange feeling after all that quiet backcountry riding!).
From Eagles Nest, there's a path that leads to the Wedding Deck, where the signs say "no bikes allowed." The bike-friendly route to Game Creek Trail
is from the trail that says no bikes, follow the dirt road to the northeast which will loop around to the southeast and intersect with another dirt road, and Game Creek Trail
descending to the west. Game Creek Trail
is not marked and depending which way you approach it from, you may see a sign stating "No lift Access."
Game Creek is fast, rocky, technical, narrow, and the last stretch of the ride, so enjoy it! After about one mile, there will be a sudden, unmarked trail to the left, which is Game Creek; continuing straight past this will lead down Matterhorn into West Vail. The rest of Game Creek is simple to follow back into Minturn, is all downhill, and leads right back to your parking spot.