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Vail mountain biking guide

August 5, 2007 — The following trail descriptions are provided courtesy of the Forest Service Ranger Station in Minturn. For more detailed information head to our "Ask a Local" feature (on the right side of this page) and send us an email.

Vail Pass To Redcliff

LENGTH: 11.3 miles


DIFFICULTY: Easy/Moderate

USGS MAP(S): Vail Pass, Redcliff

ACCESS FROM VAIL: You will probably need two cars for this ride. Leave one in Redcliff. To get there take I-70 west to Minturn- Leadville exit 171. Drive 10.4 miles east on Hwy 24 to Redcliff, turnoff before Turkey Creek bridge. Shrine Pass Road (where your ride will end) is the first left, 0.6 miles after turnoff. Do not park on private property in town. Leave the second car at the Vail Pass Rest Area, this is where the ride begins. To get to the pass take I-70 east about 13 miles from the Vail Village Exit.

DESCRIPTION: From the Vail Pass Rest Area, ride up Road #0709, the Shrine Pass Road, located at the west side of the rest area. The road turns into dirt and climbs 2.4 miles up to the summit. There is a road to the left that leads to the Shrine Mountain Inn. To get down to Redcliff, continue on the 709 road downhill. It is 9 miles down to Redcliff.

Along the way there is the Mount of the Holy Cross overlook at 3.7 miles. Bear left when you come upon the #728 Road intersection (#728 is the Lime Creek Road, stay on the 709 road all the way down). The ride descends through Spruce-Fir forests, and follows along Turkey Creek. At mile 7 into the ride you will pass an old miner's camp on the left side of the road. Finally you will cross the bridge into Redcliff at mile 11.3.


LENGTH: 11 miles, trailhead to trailhead



DIFFICULTY: Most Difficult

USGS MAPS: Minturn, Redcliff, Vail

ACCESS FROM VAIL: You will probably need two vehicles for this ride. Leave one at the West Trail- head. To get there, travel west on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn, Leadville, and Hwy 24. Exit here and turn right onto Hwy 24. Proceed south on Hwy 24 for about 2.5 miles to Cemetery Road. (This will be the only bridge across the river in Minturn.) Turn left onto Cemetery Road and continue on the road to the fork. Take the right fork, where the road forks again, take the left fork and follow this to the end of the road.

Leave your other vehicle at the East Trailhead. To get there, travel east on I-70 to Exit 180 for East Vail. Exit here and turn right onto the frontage road. Follow the frontage road to the closure gate, about 2 miles. Park along the road near the gate, do not park in the campground.

DESCRIPTION: This is the start of the Vail Pass Bike Path. Ride up old Hwy 6 for 2 miles to the Two Elk Trailhead on the right side. The trail goes over Black Gore Creek and under 1-70. Now begins the difficult part of the climb. Two Elk pass is almost 2,000 ft above. For approximately a mile you ride along side of Timber Creek.

The trail now begins some serious climbing. You will more than likely need a few rests and may even choose to walk parts of it. The summit is marked, but does not provide the scenic vista encountered on some of the higher summits. As you ride on, the trees open up to reveal views of the Gore Range and the Sawatch Range.

The rest of the trail is a challenging single-track descent. The trail crosses through the bottom of Vail's Back Bowls, and travels alongside the Two Elk Creek. The single-track trail joins up with the service road, ride along this, but keep your eyes open for the trail which breaks off of the service road about 100 yards before the road reaches the chairlift.

Remain alert on this trail, as it is very rocky and has many turns in it. After 9 miles of trail riding, you will cross the Two Elk Bridge. Just little further on is another bridge crossing the Two Elk. The West Trailhead is just ahead, as well as the conclusion of your vigorous ride.


LENGTH: 16 miles


DIFFICULTY: More Difficult

USGS MAP: Minturn

ACCESS FROM VAIL: Travel west on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn, Leadville and Hwy 24. Exit here and turn right onto Hwy 24. Proceed south about 5 miles, passing through Minturn to Tigiwon Road #707. Turn right. Drive up the dirt road about one mile (you cannot park on the first I mile of the Tigiwon Rd), and park where available.

DESCRIPTION: The first one mile of the Tigiwon Road is the site of the Eagle Mine Cleanup Program. The project involves moving mine tailings from several mine areas above to the New Tailings Pile below.

Your ride begins past this activity area. The ride is fairly easy with no real challenging climbs. The road is washboard but is devoid of heavy traffic most of the time. The Cross Creek trailhead is located about 1.5 miles up from the bottom. This trailhead leads into miles of wilderness hiking trails. Five miles from the start of your ride is the Tigiwon Lodge. It was built in 1934 to house religious services. for public use through the From this point you have a back bowls of Vail and the distance. Now it is available clear view of the Gore Range in the distance.

The road ends 2 miles later. This last part of the climb is a bit more challenging as the grade steepens. The road ends at the Half Moon and Fall Creek trailheads. There is a Wilderness Boundary in the area, so mountain bikes are not allowed on the hiking trails.

Now it is a simple matter of turning around and coasting downhill back to your vehicle.


LENGTH: 26 miles




USGS MAP: Vail West

ACCESS FROM VAIL: The ride begins at the bikeway in West Vail, where the shopping center is on the North Frontage Road.

DESCRIPTION: Ride the bikeway uphill for 1.5 miles until you reach the Red Sandstone Road, turn left here and ride up the paved road and continue on the dirt, Red Sandstone Road #700.

It is 12 miles to Piney Lake. The ride begins with a steady climb along a high use, washboard road. The washboard decreases as you continue on, but the traffic remains heavy all the way. Since this is such a popular road for motorists, it is advised to do this ride on a weekday, or early morning.

The Lost Lake 4 WD Road will be passed 5 miles into the ride. This is another one of the popular mountain bike routes in the area. The road descends for 1.5 miles and then turns upwards again. Take a break at Indian Meadows and enjoy the view of the Gore Range.

Continue along the Sandstone Road, you will pass the Red and White Mountain Road, the Lost Lake Hiking Trailhead, and the Piney Road. Once past these points the road will begin switchback down into the Piney Valley.

Follow the road to the right, there will be signs marking the way to the Piney Ranch. From where the road forks, it is about two more miles to the lake. Once you get to the Lake, take your time to stroll about the area. The ranch is currently owned by Vail Associates. Respect the rights of others. There is a hiking trail which follows along the Piney River Drainage, but it is a Wilderness Area, thus closed to mountain bikers.
Enjoy the peace and beauty here and rest up for your ride back. It is 13 miles back to West Vail Shopping Center. You will have a few climbs to take on but it mostly an easy ride with views of the Vail Mountain Ski Area.


LENGTH: 12.7 miles



DIFFICULTY: More Difficult

USGS MAP: Vail West

ACCESS FROM VAIL: Off 1-70, take Exit 176 for Vail. Turn to the north and proceed on North Frontage Road to Red Sandstone Road #700. Proceed up Road 0700 to the first right turn, which will be the Lost Lake 4 WD Road. Park where available.

DESCRIPTION: Ride up the 4 WD Road. Bear left at the #786 Road. Stay to the left at each of the other road junctions. There are blue markers along the way that will help you to stay on the right path.

At about 4 miles from the start of the 4 WD Road you will come upon the Lost Lake hiking trail. It is a single track and covers about one mile before it reaches the Lake.

Bike around the lake to the other side where the hiking trail picks up once again. It is a 3.4 mile ride out to the west trailhead. The trail ends at the Red Sandstone Road. When you get to the trailhead, take a left onto the Red Sandstone Road. Ride for about 4 miles back to the Lost Lake 4 WD Road where you began the ride.

COMMENTS: This trail passes through an area that was logged in 1987-88. This demonstrates that National Forest land is used for a large variety of activities and resource. The heavy use this trail receives has caused an impact on this peaceful mountain lake. Please remember to pack out all trash.


LENGTH: 8.4 miles round-trip




USGS MAP(S): Vail West

ACCESS FROM VAIL: Begin the ride near the West Vail shopping center, where the bikeway ends. Ride along the frontage road heading west then turn right on Chamonix Rd. Continue along until Arosa Drive and turn right, stay to the right onto Cortina Lane until it dead ends at a dirt road.

DESCRIPTION: This ride is an out and back with a few difficult but short climbs and a moderate constant elevation gain. It is known as the Davos Hill or Radio Tower ride. The trail is a dirt 4 WD road that has scattered rocks on it. The ride takes you through some large Aspen glens and open meadows with a view of Dowd Junction.

Continue along the rolling road and bear left at the fork at 3.9 miles. This road takes you to the radio tower overlook as well as the turn around point of this ride.

Stop here for views of Minturn, Gilman, Notch Mountain, Mount of the Holy Cross and Meadow Mountain to the south. To the west is Avon, Eagle-Vail and Edwards. To the east is the Vail ski area.

Now it is a short, easy ride downhill back to West Vail.


LENGTH: 19 miles loop


DIFFICULTY: More Difficult

USGS MAPS: Pando, Redcliff

From Vail, travel west on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn and Hwy 24. Exit here, turn right and continue south on Hwy 24 for 17 miles. Turn left at the Camp Hale Memorial sign. Park where available.

Note: Since this is a loop, there will be about 4 miles of riding along Hwy 24. You can leave one vehicle in Redcliff (To get there, it is 12 miles south on Hwy 24 from Exit 171 off of I-70. Turn left off of Hwy 24 into the town of Redcliff. Please do not park on private property.) Leave the other vehicle in in Camp Hale as described above.

DESCRIPTION: The ride begins here at the Camp Hale entrance. Follow the road into the camp. Take a left when the road splits. Travel I mile on this road that parallels the Eagle River. Turn right onto Resolution Road #702, stay to the left when the road forks at the East Fork of the Eagle River Road. Resolution Road #702 will take you to the apex of this ride atop.Ptarmigan Pass.

The first 4 miles of the ride are a steady climb. After this, the road steepens to a challenging climb. Now would be a good time to take that scenery break. The openness of this road makes it perfect for viewing the Mount of the Holy Cross and Notch Mountain.

The top of this road is at 11,765 ft. This is the highest point in your ride. It is mostly downhill from here, but by no means easy. The road descends 2,500 feet vertically. It follows along the Wearyman Creek. The road is bumpy, steep, and has quite a few potholes. Take your time on this descent. There are many river crossings along the way. After the first 5 miles of descent you will reach a fork in the road.

This is the Wearyman-Hornsilver intersection. Remain on the 747/Wearyman Road. one more mile and the Wearyman Road ends at the Shrine Pass Road. Take a left here and travel 4 more miles down into Redcliff. To get back to the highway from the Shrine Pass Road, ride over the bridge that goes over Turkey Creek, the dirt road will become paved. At the stop sign take a left then the first available right. You will ride through downtown Redcliff, past the Post office. Continue along this road as it crosses the Turkey Creek once more then. heads uphill. The road ends at Hwy 24. Take a right here and ride the highway for about 4 miles back to the Camp Hale entrance.


LENGTH: 14.5 miles round-trip



DIFFICULTY: More Difficult


ACCESS FROM VAIL: From Vail, travel west on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn and Hwy 24. Exit here, turn right and continue south on Hwy 24 for 17 miles. Turn left at the Camp Hale Memorial sign. Park where available.

DESCRIPTION: The ride begins here at the entrance. Follow the road into the camp. Take a left when the road splits. Travel one mile on this road that parallels the Eagle River. Turn right onto Resolution Road 0702, stay to the left when the road forks at the East Fork of the Eagle River Road. Resolution Road #702 will take you to the summit at Ptarmigan Pass.
The first 4 miles of the ride are a steady climb.

After that the road steepens to a challenging climb. Now would be a good time to take that scenery break. The openness of this road makes it perfect for viewing the Mount of the Holy Cross as well as Notch Mountain.

The top of the road is at 11,765 feet. From this site you can see the Gore Range to the east, the Sawatch Range to the west and the Ten-Mile Range.
The ride back to your vehicle is a fast downhill. Use caution, be aware of potholes, washboard, and other vehicles (especially other bikers).


LENGTH: 15 miles, round-trip



DIFFICULTY: More Difficult

USGS: Redcliff

ACCESS FROM VAIL: The Ride begins in Vail Village at the base of the Vista Bahn Express lift. This lift is located at the top of Bridge Street.

DESCRIPTION: The ride begins here at the ski area's service road. Follow the road upwards as it traverses across the slopes. You will begin by riding across the Inter-national run, one of the steepest, fastest runs on the mountain. The first fork in the road will branch off to Lions- head. At this fork take a left, as the road continues upwards. Take another left at the next fork.

Now the road travels away from the village area and heads east towards Gold Peak. The road continues switchbacking across the slopes. The road will to turn away from the front of the mountain and head in towards the Mill Creek Valley. At 3.5 miles you will reach a fork in the road, take the left hand road, this will lead you up Mill Creek. The right fork goes past Chair 10 (which you can see from this point), and on up to Mid-Vail.

The road becomes a jeep trail that is passable by vehicles only with high clearance. It is rideable for mountain. bikers. The ride continues upwards for another 3.5 miles from the fork at Chair 10. The road parallels Mill Creek.

The ride ends at a road gate. Although, if you are extra ambitious, you may continue on to the Commando Run, which will get you to the Shrine Pass Road and eventually to Vail Pass Rest Area. Maps and compass are essential. For the rest of us, take a break and enjoy the views of Gore Creek, the Mount of the Holy Cross and the Back Bowls of Vail.

From here it is a simple matter of pointing your bike downhill and hanging on. Be sure to use caution, there is motorized traffic on these roads.


LENGTH: 20.8 miles round trip



DIFFICULTY: More difficult

USGS MAP(S): Pando, Homestake Reservoir, Mount of the Holy Cross

ACCESS FROM VAIL: Travel west on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn, Leadville and Hwy 24. Exit here, turn right and travel 12 miles to Homestake Road # 703. Turn right and drive about one mile until you can park on the right at an old camp-ground. Leave your vehicle here.

Begin your ride at this point. The ride is a series of rolling hills along a dirt road. There are several steep climbs along the way. Homestake Road parallels the Homestake Creek. The road can get quite dusty and is usually washboarded.

At 6.8 miles you will pass Gold Park Campground. Holy Cross City 4 WD Road is at 7.2 miles. This jeep trail is another of the areas mountain bike trails, but is probably one of the most challenging.

Homestake Road continues on for another two miles. When you reach the base of the dam, take the left-most trail to the top of the dam. The reservoir is the water-source for the frontrange town of Aurora.

The reservoir is a popular fishing spot. Take your time and walk about the dam and rest up for your trek back to your vehicle. The trip back is mostly downhill. The grade is not steep enough to coast all the way back, though. There are a few climbs along the way as well.

Berry Creek Trail

LENGTH: 8.6 mi.. (loop)




USGS MAP(S): Edwards

ACCESS FROM VAIL: Exit I-70 at exit# 163, 13 miles west of Vail. The best place to park is at the rest area on the South side of the Highway but you can find parking at the beginning of Beard Creek Road.

DESCRIPTION: From the North side of the Interstate take your first left on Beard Creek Road. The go right following Berry Creek on a dirt 4-wheel drive road. Stay right as the road rises and switches back across the hillside. At about 3 miles you will reach the high point of the ride. The road the descends down to the June Creek Road. Turn right and follow June Creek through the Golf course to Berry Creek Road, and turn right on Berry Creek road and follow it back to the Interstate.

There are many 4 wheel roads branch off of the main road. While it won't be easy to get lost you can get side tracked. For extra credit: June Creek Road climbs for miles into the Piney Lake area. Get the Vail West Map and you can ride all the way back to Vail. Don't attempt this without plenty of water and the correct maps.


LENGTH: 12 mi. (loop)



DIFFICULTY: More Difficult

USGS MAP(S): Minturn

ACCESS FROM VAIL: The Trail Head for Meadow Mountain starts at the Minturn Ranger Station. Exit at #171 Follow the signs for Leadville and Minturn for less than half-a-mile and park in either the dirt parking lot or the paved lot next to the Ranger Station.

DESCRIPTION: From the trailhead sign, follow the old dirt road that winds behind the white house at the end of the parking lot. This road climbs gradually through large open meadows and Spruce-Fir forests. The open meadows are old sites of lettuce growing that occurred in the 1920's.

When you reach the fork in the road (2.7 miles) bear right along the road marked # 748. After a series of steep switchbacks you will enter an old clear-cut site, bear to the left here where the road continues upwards. Ride on the double track until you reach the Forrest Service hut. There is a single track trail on the east (right) side of the hut. The trail travels to the west past a small pond.

After riding .3 miles from the hut, you will come upon an old fence. There is a trail that continues through the fence avoid this trail. The trail that you want is less obvious and follows the fence to the right. This single track descends through Aspen and Spruce-Fir woods. There are several tricky spots that you should be prepared for, so use caution. You will pass a beaver pond and then continue the descent to the rear o Battle Mountain High School. To complete the loop, take the side street back out to Hwy. 24. Take a right onto the Hwy. and ride about 3 miles back to the Meadow Mountain parking lot.



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