Your driveway is your trailhead. That's what the locals in Eagle, Colorado, say about the community's surreal town-to-trail access. "No matter where you are in town, you're a short ride away to a dirt trailhead," says Eagle mayor Yuri Kostick, who has led some unprecedented efforts to boost biking in the area. "It's really amazing how much access there is to sweet singletrack from everywhere in Eagle."
While trailheads are close by in this family-oriented valley village about 30 minutes west of Vail, poor on-trail signage was a consistent problem. In the past, even locals would get lost, says Charlie Brown, who owns Eagle's sole bike shop, Mountain Pedaler. Brown created the well-respected local map, and recently Laura Turitz, with husband Bob, wrote the go-to Mountain Bike Eagle guide. The book's tagline? "Get the guide or get lost." Turitz still recommends using a combination of the guide and the map, just in case.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trails have always been there, explains Turitz, but now there's much better signage--and a guide to navigate all the beautiful twists and turns. A local hotel tax funded new signage, but the full overhaul required sweat equity from Eagle Open Space manager John Staight and the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition. "The hard-core Eagle bike community has been riding for over 20 years, but we have seen huge changes in the past 10 years. More folks started to get clued in about how good the riding is and what kind of unlimited potential we have," Kostick says. "Eagle has also made great strides to increase the paved trail network, which provides easy and safe ways to get to dirt all over town." Most kids ride to school, says Turitz.
The mountain bike madness came to a head last year when Kostick convinced a private land owner to put up part of his property for a close-in, custom-built racecourse to stage the Colorado High School Cycling League mountain bike championship, an effort that earned the Community Impact Award from the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). The Haymaker Trail introduced a whole new generation to the coolness of this Colorado town and trails.
Eagle has ideal climate and varied terrain. Trails are conveniently divided into three areas. Beginners can get creative with a series of loops off Haymaker. There's also plenty of flowing, beginner singletrack options in Eagle Ranch, where a figure eight can easily add up to an hour of riding. Downhillers should beeline to the professionally rebuilt Pool and Ice Trail, which descends off of the Boneyard on Bellyache Ridge. Technical endurance junkies can find longer day rides in West Eagle. Still in the works, according to Kostick, is a "back-of-beyond monster loop that can be shuttled and includes a 3,000-foot descent from the summit of Hardscrabble Mountain on U.S. Forest Service lands through some brilliant singletrack on BLM territory, and ends up on the town network, where you can roll into one of our two independent craft breweries for a recovery drink."
The riding season is also longer here than in most mountain towns. Eagle rests at an arid 6,600 feet, which allows mountain bike terrain to open in spring rather than summer. Trails officially open April 15, and the season kicks off May 17-18 with the reinvented Eagle Outside Festival. Put on by Mike McCormack of BreckEpic fame, the weekend features a plethora of mountain bike demos to test local trails and the Firebird, a 40ish-mile backcountry endurance race designed for experienced riders.
More info on everything Eagle at www.eagleoutside.com, www.mountainbikeagle.com, and www.eagleoutsidefestival.com.
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