Barring a face shot-filled powder day in January, there really is no better time to be in Vail than during the GoPro Mountain Games. The June 9-12 festival not only celebrates fat tires but is a wall-to-wall showcase of every individual mountain sport in existence. It's one of the only times in the summer that you can land restaurant and lodging deals or a campsite close to town. And of course, there are bike trails galore.
Where to find singletrack
The Games kick off with the inaugural enduro in Eagle on June 9. In case you haven't already read up on Eagle, it's one of the fastest-growing singletrack towns in the country. From Capitol Street, one of the main drags featuring plenty of nearby parking, a movie theater and a couple of good restaurants and breweries (see below), the Eagle Ranch trailhead is a short ride away, featuring nine trails ranging from wide dirt road to fast, swooping rock and white-dirt singletrack reminiscent of Fruita or Moab.
Check Mountain Bike Eagle for the west side map. On the east side of Eagle, trailheads accessible near the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink and also near Eagle Valley Middle School include the classic The Boneyard, offering numerous tributary trails and a well-balanced combo of fast singletrack through sagebrush, climbing switchbacks through pines and (hence the name) a few piles of partial animal skeletons.
Edwards and Avon
Sadly, there is no way to ride dirt the entire way between Eagle and Vail, but halfway between the two–in Edwards–there is a fantastic ride–Berry Creek, which features a number of spurs and connectors, one of which (Avon Singletree Connector) connects you to the trail system in Avon. From Edwards, the Berry Creek trailhead is across the street from the Shaw Regional Cancer Center. In Avon, reach the trail system (and park) along Nottingham Road, just north of Interstate 70. There is a collection of new trails (built in the last five years), including Lee's Way, a buff flow trail accessed after a lung-busting but completely manageable three-mile climb through gulleys and switchbacks.
The GoPro Mountain Games cross-country race happens on Saturday, June 11, and features a natural singletrack and dirt road loop on Vail Mountain, climbing and descending switchbacks through pines and aspens. This is a great loop and one of the only on-mountain rides available this early in the season. On the north side of I-70, those jonesing for a climb can ride up the neighborhood behind The Holiday Inn to Davos Trail, a steep dirt road that tops out at a radio tower with sweeping views of the whole valley. The North Trail system–a local favorite–is unfortunately closed for elk calving during the Mountain Games.
Parking is free–even in the Vail garages–during the Mountain Games, but the garages fill up and it can be tough to find a spot on the frontage roads. Bike into Vail if you're staying nearby (there are bike paths everywhere between Eagle and East Vail), but bring a good lock. And if you do park in the garages, don’t forget about your bike on the roof rack.
In addition to lodging deals at just about every hotel in town this time of year, there are several beautiful camping areas in the valley, equipped with numbered sites, fire rings and toilets but minimal facilities. The most convenient to Vail is the Gore Creek Campground in East Vail. There is also the Halfmoon Campground near Minturn and the Eagle River-Gypsum Campground in Eagle as well as Sylvan Lake Campground, tucked into the wilderness about 10 miles southeast of town. In between Vail and Eagle, there is the Wolcott Campground and hugely popular among hippies and whitewater enthusiasts, Rancho del Rio on the Colorado River, about a 40-minute drive from Vail or 30 minutes from Eagle. There are also numerous unsanctioned camping areas throughout the White River National Forest that surrounds the valley.
You're probably going to load up on a fair share of granola and energy bar samples during the Games, but what about a real meal? Obviously, Vail has many fine (and pricey) dining options, but if you're in the market for a decent breakfast burrito and/or cup of coffee, a simple but tasty sandwich or wrap, hit the Big Bear Bistro, Loaded Joe's or Yeti's Grind.
If you're feeling indulgent, a local's favorite with locations in both Vail and Eagle is the messy and delicious Moe's Original Bar B Que.
Local brew scene
Like everywhere in Colorado, you don't have to travel far to stumble upon a microbrewery, and with a decidedly grubby and largely baggy bike short-clad crowd, there's no better spot to go after a ride. Although technically in Eagle-Vail, Vail Brewing CO is the newest addition with a blackboard full of at least 12 homemade varieties. Crazy Mountain Brewery has taken the entire state by storm and its brew house offers a simple, picnic table and dog-friendly setup with an occasional food truck outside. Bonfire Brewing in Eagle is not far behind in homegrown popularity, its cans sold throughout Colorado and beyond.
More at mountaingames.com.