Geared for Adventure

Mountain Biking in West Vail

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

Chris Bivona basks in the North Trail’s alpenglow.

Image: Scott Bellow

You won’t find machine-built flow trails or tabletop features here. Located primarily on White River National Forest land, this area north of I-70 in West Vail offers several rides on classic singletrack, often reached by climbing up Forest Service roads. Gear up for the welcome shade of aspen groves and stands of lodgepole pine, midsummer wildflowers galore, the sound of rushing creeks, and the sort of technical challenges you may not have encountered at the bike park. These routes are popular for hiking, too, so keep a heads-up for foot traffic. Note that trails are closed through June 20 because of elk calving and migration.

Short and Fun

In its entirety, the North Trail etches the hillside across from Vail for about 12 miles, but with several access points along the way, you can tackle just one or two sections for a shorter ride. The segment from Red Sandstone trailhead (off Exit 176 from I-70) west to Buffehr Creek, for example, runs 3.75 miles; from there, pedal the frontage road back to the trailhead. Parts of the North Trail can be challenging, with steep climbs and switchbacks. The rewards include riding through quaking aspens, stellar views across to Vail Mountain and the Holy Cross Wilderness beyond, and an impressive frenzy of blooms midsummer.

Dennis Humphrey makes a scenic descent on Son of Middle Creek.

Image: Scott Bellow

Fast and Flowy

To experience Son of Middle Creek, begin with a steady, 3-mile climb up Red Sandstone Road (Forest Road 700) from the trailhead of the same name. The real fun begins when you reach the trail itself: 4 miles of forest bathing in aspens on your bike (fall colors alert!). You’ll intersect the North Trail a little more than halfway down; turn right for a shorter return route to Red Sandstone. But it’s worth it to stay on the main trail and keep cruising through the descent until the frontage road; ride back to your starting point to close the 8.7-mile loop.

Epic Ride

The Lost Lake loop (11.8 miles) covers a variety of terrain just outside the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness: Forest Service roads, technical singletrack, dense forest, open meadows, and, of course, the destination lake, backed by a vista of the Gore Range’s imposing, jagged peaks. Drive (or ride) 6.6 miles up Red Sandstone Road to the West Lost Lake trailhead, then ride counterclockwise from there, covering about 8 miles on road ranging from smooth dirt to rough four-wheel-drive before hitting singletrack for the rest of the way.

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