Two Elks Trail
I’ve been hearing about how epic the Two Elks trail in Vail for years now, but I’d never taken the time to do it. On paper, it’s a pretty monster ride (11 miles one-way with 3500’+ elevation change) and/or requires a shuttle from Vail Pass (East trailhead) and Minturn (West trailhead).
After two sleepless nights in Breckenridge, I was slamming a coconut water and as much Gatorade as my stomach could handle when I got to the West trailhead in Minturn right at 9:00. Forty minutes later, we parked at the Shrine Ridge trailhead in order to cut off about 2 miles of an uphill dirt road climb on Shrine Pass Rd from the Vail Pass exit. Bowman’s shortcut was a fairly serious climb, the slippery tree roots and mud-soaked trail making it all the harder, but up top, the views of Holy Cross to the south and the Gore Range to the north were pretty spectacular.
The decent on Bowmans to Two Elk was rutted out and relatively technical in spots, but nothing too bad. We made a left (east) onto Two Elk and after a quick batch of trees, burst onto some perfect singletrack at the base of Outer Mongolia Bowl and wound through colorful wildflower fields all along the Silk Road.
It was absolutely amazing and some of my favorite downhill I’ve ever done – fast and smooth through endless fields of wildflowers combined with a surreal feeling of my surroundings. The back bowls of Vail are world-renowned for their skiing, but I think they’re just as, if not more impressive during the summer. If it weren’t for a lightening storm coming up valley with rain completely obstructing Holy Cross, it would have made for a great day to just sit somewhere back there and soak it in, but we knew we were going to be passing some lifts that would provide some cover for the storms so we rushed up through the Aspens of Shangri-La Glade and under the Orient Express to Poppyfields in China Bowl before curving down the gully next to Two Elk Creek and down chair #37. Usually packed during the winter with lift lines waiting to head up Blue Sky Basin, it was eerie to not see another soul and other than the raging creek, it was silent. We hung around waiting to see what these storms were going to do, but other than the gray sky, we really couldn’t tell.
Of course within 5 minutes of hopping back on the bikes, we started to feel some cold drops come down in a light drizzle, but luckily the heavy stuff never came. The rest of the decent along Two Elk Creek was more technical, overgrown, and nerve-racking being on top of a 100ft ravine at times.
A good climb to some amazing views, a surreal feeling of ripping Vail’s back bowls in the summer, and challenging ravine/creek riding. Overall, it was absolutely incredible.
More specific trail Info here.