Now is the time to bike Vail Pass |

Now is the time to bike Vail Pass

Take in the emerging fall foliage on a 17.5-mile downhill joy ride

The Vail Daily Live crew takes a bike tour to the top of Vail Pass. Riders begin the tour with a stunning view of the Gore mountain range rising up behind the picturesque Black Lakes.
Emma Cerovich/Vail Daily Live

The leaves are starting to turn, and one of the best ways to get a view of the valley’s famous fall colors is to take a bike tour of Vail Pass, a 17.5-mile ride that descends the pass and then takes you through Vail Village and into Lionshead.

The paved route is designed for bikers of all levels — and best of all, it requires almost no peddling. The 1.5-hour downhill joy ride allows you to take in all of the scenery around you while exerting minimal physical effort.

Charter Sports, a local snowsport and bike rental shop with multiple locations in both Vail and Beaver Creek, offers daily bike tours of Vail Pass that depart from its Lionshead location next to the Arrabelle Hotel every day at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. There are also shuttles that leave directly from some local hotels, with departure times depending on the location.

At the Lionshead storefront, Charter Sports will assign each rider to a bike fitted to their height and weight, as well as a helmet, and then load all people and bicycles into a van that makes the 20-minute drive east on Interstate 70 to the starting point of the bike path.

Charter Sports provides riders with a comfortable cruiser bicycle, a helmet and transportation to the top of the Vail Pass bike path, about a 20-minute drive east from Lionshead Village. The tour itself is self-guided unless you choose otherwise.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

Stepping out of the van, bikers are immediately greeted with a stunning view of the Gore Mountain range rising behind the picturesque Black Lakes, two natural bodies of water that have been buffered by dams and help mark the beginning of the tour.

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The main skill set that this path requires is the ability to brake, and once you’ve got that down, you are ready to hit the trail. The starting point of the tour is located at 10,600 feet of elevation, over 2,000 feet above Lionshead Village and 200 feet higher than Eagle’s Nest.

Air temperature drops by five degrees every 1,000 feet, so expect to start the ride about 10-15 degrees colder than when you finish it. To ensure a comfortable ride from top to bottom, bring layers of clothing — and if you get cold easily you won’t regret bringing gloves and earmuffs to insulate against the wind.

Although Charter Sports calls it the Vail Pass Bike Tour, the tour itself is self-guided unless you choose otherwise. Their experienced bike rental specialists are happy to guide you down the trail, but one of the unique aspects of this tour is that once you get the equipment and the drop-off, you are free to take the ride down at any pace you choose.

The bike path moves through changing landscapes that give riders a comprehensive look at the topography and foliage of the valley. It winds around tree coverage, runs alongside the highway at points, crosses brooks and streams and opens a birds-eye view of the valley.

Riders get to watch the tree population change as they move from higher to lower elevation, and this month you can expect to glide between fluttering red, orange and yellow aspen leaves for a significant portion of the trip.

Riders can choose to end their tour in Lionshead Village or continue to the hotel locations that they departed from in Avon or Beaver Creek. If you take the path from Frisco to Avon, it is about a 25-mile ride. Return transportation from Lionshead to other starting locations is available for the 10 a.m. trip but not for the two later start times.

The Vail Pass Bike Tour costs $59 per person, and reservations can be made online at or by emailing Tours will be offered through September and October, as long as the weather permits.

As we come to the end of summer and wait patiently for winter to begin, now is the time to bike the Vail Pass.

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