Splendor in the singletrack on Meadow Mountain

In the 1920s, lettuce crops blanketed the lower slopes of this 9,700-foot-high gentle peak west of Vail (accessible via Dowd Junction from the Minturn exit off I-70). Then for seven years in the 1960s, a small ski area operated here. Now Meadow Mountain is a beloved year-round recreation spot, where backcountry skiers and sledders slide on snow in winter, and hikers and mountain bikers tackle the trails in summer and fall.

Lung-busting Climb

The best way to experience this local landmark, which ranges from the namesake meadows to shady forest, is to bike the 10-mile loop that begins and ends at the parking area adjacent to the Holy Cross Ranger District Forest Service office just below the highway interchange. Start out by climbing Line Shack, an old doubletrack road that ascends some 2,000 feet over 5 miles; though the route has a few steeper sections, it’s primarily a steady uphill grind. Take your mind off the climb by admiring the abundant wildflowers that dot the meadows midsummer; in fall, the aspens provide a shimmering color show. Near the Line Shack itself, a funky old log structure, is a fine spot to take a break and savor the views of the craggy peaks that make up the Gore and Sawatch ranges. Your descent begins on Whiskey Creek (closed annually until June 20 to protect calving elk), 3 miles of classic singletrack that requires navigating some tight and twisty sections (bonus: the trail wends through leafy aspen groves). At the trail intersection, head right on Everkrisp to return to the parking area; this flowy route opened in 2019, thanks to hundreds of hours of all-volunteer labor.

Short and Fun

You can also ride a shorter—and more technical—loop (6 miles) in this area by turning left about halfway up Line Shack onto Full Nelson, then riding that brief connector to the West Grouse Creek Trail. (Note that only this 1.5-mile section of West Grouse is open to bikes.) Descend until Half Nelson on the left, then tackle a quick climb back to Line Shack and savor the downhill stretch.

Fast and Flowy

Ride an out-and-back on Everkrisp (8 miles round-trip), beginning at the western trailhead in Eagle-Vail (park at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion) and ending near the Forest Service office, or vice versa.

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