“People come for the winters, but stay for the summers” is what the locals always say about Vail. Most people make their way out to Colorado’s biggest ski resort in the winter months, but never get to experience all the other great things that Vail has to offer when there’s no snow on the ground. In the winter, you’re (for the most part) limited to skiing and snowboarding, whereas in the summer, the list of things to do feels endless. From best-in-class outdoor activities during the day to world-famous perming arts shows at the Ford Amphitheater at night, Vail seems to have it all.
As usual this post will focus on my two favorite things–eating and riding. If you only have three days in Vail, here’s what I recommend checking out on Day 1.
Bowmans Shortcut to Two Elk Trail (12-26 miles depending on route)
This is an incredible backcountry point-to-point ride with amazing scenery from start to finish. If you have the ability to shuttle to the top of Vail Pass and don’t want a ton of climbing on your ride, the point-to-point route linked above (utilizing Bowmans shortcut from the top of Vail Pass) is a great way to do it. Another popular way to ride Two Elk Trail (if you don’t want to shuttle) is to take the Gondola (or ride) to the top of Eagle’s Nest Ridge, get on Grand Traverse, to Main Vail Rd, and follow Main Vail to the Two Elk Connector Trail. This will put you at the top of Two Elk Trail where Bowman’s shortcut comes in. Take a right on Two Elk Trail for a 4k ft descent down in to Minturn. The non-point-to-point version of this ride is significantly longer, but an awesome option for people looking to get some more peddling in.
Once you hit Two Elk Trail, the real fun begins. This ~8 mile, 4k ft descent traverses Vail’s famous back bowls before entering the narrow Two Elk drainage. The trail is very technical at spots and also incredibly remote. Experienced riders will find this to be an amazing adventure, but I would not recommend this route for anyone not comfortable on narrow, rocky, and often exposed trail. The rocky sections can be quite slick in the rain, so plan accordingly.
Two Elk trail dumps you out just South of downtown Minturn. Once the trail ends, take a right and follow roads back into town. If you parked in Vail, follow signs towards I70 and hop on the bike path back to town. For a post-ride meal, check out Moe’s Original BBQ in Lionshead or the Saloon in Minturn.