Let’s face it. For good or bad, everyone knows or has heard of Vail, Colorado. Amazing skiing, ritzy town, and lots of rich folks visiting at all times of the year. Drive just 30 miles west on I-70, out of Vail and past Beaver Creek, though, and you’ll find a town not so many people know about: Eagle, Colorado.
Long known as Vail’s little step-brother, Eagle has been making a name for itself over the last few years. They’re investing lots of money and time into building a world-class trail system, and there seem to be outdoor events and competitions every weekend between April and November.
Speaking of that time frame, Eagle has one thing going for it that Vail can never have: a longer riding season. Because it sits at only 6500 feet and is essentially “high desert” terrain, Eagle is mostly rideable between late April and the end of November. Sometimes even closer to Christmas; and it’s in the Colorado Rockies. Not bad.
Only a two hour drive from downtown Denver, Eagle is slowly becoming an easier day trip destination for mountain bikers all along the Front Range. The riding is incredible, and there are plenty of places to grab a beer and a burger post-ride… it’s a nice little Saturday.
Two friends and I hit the road early to ride all day in Eagle, and to sample both of the main trail networks in town. We came away very, very impressed.
On the west side of town, just above the Eagle Ranch neighborhood, sits the West Eagle section of trails. These trails are built on a series of spines and gulches that rise above town sharply, offering a little bit of every kind of riding. In a way, it reminded us a lot of the riding on 18 Road in Fruita.
All told, there are close to 50-60 miles of trails, with lots more being planned as we inch closer to 2017. The terrain is a mix of high desert and high country, and it’s an awesome place to get away from the hotter temps of Denver during the summer.
We combined some of the better known trails to make a 15 mile loop in the morning, including Abrams Creek, Abrams Ridge, Itch & Scratch, Mike’s Night Out, and World’s Greatest. You really can’t go wrong with any trail choice over here… just be prepared for some steep, punch climbs and a little bit of the same coming down.
After stopping for lunch, which included a smoothie and panini from Yeti’s Grind in downtown Eagle, we headed over to the east side of town for the afternoon. The east side network is smaller, but the layout is easier to navigate and the views are just as good.
Climbing up from the trailhead, take the Boneyard Trail: a 3-mile gentle climb that offers great views and never gets too steep. It meanders through sage brush and low-lying pines, and tops out at a main intersection representing your downhill choices. There are two main options, plus you can always turn around and descend the way you came.
Redneck Ridge is a fast, flowy (and sometimes steep) downhill trail that rips down the same aspect as Boneyard, but is more direct. You can get going quite fast, so watch for some of the sharp-edged rocks in the shadows. The more famous option is Pool & Ice, which is a 3.5 mile descent that ends up at–you guessed it–the town’s pool and ice rink.
Pool & Ice is a purpose-built flow trail that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Lots of banked turns, table tops, and whoop-de-do’s offer a great ride down to the valley below. Trust me, you’ll want to ride it a second–and maybe third–time.
Once you get down to the intersection, you’ve arrived at the Haymaker Trail–the site of the NICA National Championships. It’s a 5+ mile loop that offers minimal elevation gain/loss; it’s meant to be a fast track for racing. Turn right at the main intersection, and you’ll arrive at the town dirt jumps and flow track… they’ve thought of everything here.
All in, Eagle is an awesome place to ride for a day… or three. With the upcoming ballot issue proposing more available funds for trails on Vail Valley open space (which includes Eagle), there’s sure to be lots more awesomeness coming. Next time you’re in Colorado and checking out the main attractions, don’t forget to give the little brother a chance–you might be surprised.