Geared for Adventure

Mountain Biking in Eagle

Use this singletrack seeker to find the ride for you, whatever your preference.

By Cindy Hirschfeld June 24, 2021 Published in the Summer/Fall 2021 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

One of Eagle Ranch’s singletrack sidewalk trails

Image: Zach Mahone

The downvalley Town of Eagle (30 miles west of Vail Village) started to emerge as a mountain biking destination of its own some 10 years ago, and the momentum hasn’t stopped since. The diversity of riding draws in cyclists (and keeps them here; local riders tend to stay in this part of the valley rather than heading to touristy trails near Beaver Creek and Vail). Routes range from rolling terrain through sagebrush and scrub oak to high-alpine excursions among aspen trees and fir.

The town’s so bike crazy that it even established Singletrack Sidewalks, creating sections of dirt trail that link neighborhoods to each other and to schools, giving kids (nothing stopping adults, either) the option of safely mountain biking in addition to using paved bike paths and roads.

Trails—more than 100 miles in all—are grouped into three networks: East Eagle, Eagle Ranch, and West Eagle. “Everything is accessible from town,” says Laura Turitz, who with her husband, Bob, wrote Mountain Bike Eagle, a guide to 22 area trails. “Locals say your driveway is your trailhead.”

Even more trails are slated for construction this year, pending approval, says the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance’s Ernest Saeger. One will connect Eagle Ranch to the 3 Sisters Trail, opened in 2020 and the first trail in the recently acquired Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space. The other will climb up from Road Gulch to Bellyache Ridge and the Hillbilly Trail.

Trails on town open space are open to cyclists April 15–December 15 each year. Keep in mind that temps can soar here, and there’s not a lot of shade on these trails, so plan midsummer rides for early morning or late afternoon.

Short and Fun

Originally constructed for the high school state championships in 2013, Haymaker (on the east side of Eagle), a 4.5-mile, counterclockwise loop, is an enjoyable intro to local riding. The climbing is gradual other than a few punchy shots, there are rolling traverses through sweet-smelling sagebrush and piñon, and the final descent features fun, slalom-style switchbacks. For a much shorter ride, take Haymaker Cutoff.

The lower part of the Eagle Ranch trail network lets you easily combine routes for flowy loops—no lung-busting climbs or tricky riding. Park at the trailhead on Arroyo Drive. One option: Ride up Second Gulch to the doubletrack road; turn left to connect to the perfectly pitched singletrack in Mayer Gulch, which gently weaves through sagebrush, keeping the speed going and your smile wide. Pick up Turniphead to return to the parking lot and loop this approximately 3.5-mile ride. Or ride a longer loop (4.4 miles) by descending on Riddle and then Wall instead of Mayer Gulch.

Fast and Flowy

From Eagle Ranch’s Arroyo trailhead, gradually climb Third Gulch to LOV Connection, an undulating trail that zigzags across two ridgelines for 2.5 miles with nothing technical to interrupt your flow. For easier riding to the finish, hit the doubletrack Abrams Gulch Connector, then connect to the very last part of Abrams Ridge. Pick up Kill Bill and Kill Bill Spur to meet up with the paved Eagle and Haystacker bike paths and return to the trailhead at Arroyo. For more challenge at the end, stay left instead of getting on the connector trail until you reach Abrams Gulch; descend it for less than half a mile to the lower part of Abrams Ridge and ride a series of switchbacks to the bottom.

Lung-Busting Climb

The heart-pumping grind up Boneyard (east side of Eagle; park at the trailhead at Bluffs Drive and Mill Road) takes you up, up, up for 1,000 feet over 3.1 miles. The reward? In addition to all-encompassing views, including Red Canyon and snowcapped New York Mountain, take your pick of routes down. The most popular is Pool and Ice Rink (so named for the rec complex near its end), a downhill-only, super-fast descent over 3 miles; less than a mile of riding on the paved Hernage Ditch Path and Charlie Brown singletrack then brings you back near the start of Boneyard. Or stay closer to your uphill route with Redneck Ridge, which flows down for 3 miles, roughly paralleling Boneyard on the south side of Bellyache Road. A third option: continue riding out Campground Loop and Hillbilly for a little more than a mile, then hit the new Will’s Thrill, a short but memorable downhill-only plunge that ups the excitement factor with tabletops, gap jumps, and rock drops, as well as alternate lines that let you progress up to the biggest features. The trail ends in doubletrack Road Gulch; from there, head down to meet up with Haymaker.

Epic Ride

This itinerary for those seeking a challenge climbs all the way from high desert terrain up into the high alpine, with aspen groves, pine and spruce, and wildflowers enhancing the surroundings. This area is also popular with dirt bikers, so expect to occasionally share the trail. Be prepared for changing weather and temps, too.

Beginning from the Arroyo trailhead in Eagle Ranch, ride up Third Gulch and Pipeline to Hardscrabble Road, a sturdy climb of about 7 miles or so to Sawmill, a challenging 4.3-mile downhill riddled with natural obstacles. Once you hit Sawmill Road, turn left and ride Firebox Road all the way back down to Pipeline and descend your initial climb.

For another option, explore some of Eagle’s best advanced trails, set against stellar views of town and of the Flattop Mountains to the northwest. Start out on Abrams Ridge, climbing 900 feet in about 3 miles—some short, steep sections may well test your mettle. From the top, ride Scratch for a mile to Catwalk, a 2-mile singletrack traverse, over to BLM Road #8383, which circumnavigates the western and southern flanks of North Hardscrabble Mountain. It leads to Mike’s Night Out, a fast, fairly flowy 2.3-mile downhill. Hit the Reynold’s Wrap connector, then ride back down Scratch to World’s Greatest, another fast, fun descent (2 miles) with just enough small rocks to make you pay attention. Wrap up this Eagle tour de force with another 2.5 miles of downhill on Elmer’s and School House Rock.

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