Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bowman's Cut

Distance: 6.2 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,883 ft - 11,744 ft
Elevation Gain: 861 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Tags: #coloradooutdoors, #hiking
Nearby hikes: Shrine Mountain, Shrine Mountain East, Wilder Gulch, Ptarmigan Pass

Gore and Tenmile Ranges from the top of Bowman's Cut
Bowman's Cut near Vail Pass takes you through the trees to a long open meadow. A short off trail walk to the top a small knoll capped with a campfire ring enchants with a north-south view of both the Tenmile and Gore Ranges. To the south Mount of the Holy Cross is visible.

For those who like walking in the forest, Bowman's Cut has a lot of appeal. The trail itself is covered in pine needles and generally soft. The forest is open and airy allowing dappled sunlight to highlight varied forest undergrowth and wildflowers. Additionally, large decaying logs dot the landscape providing an attractive window into the importance of death to a forest ecosystem. Note, if the forest is not for you, the nearby Shrine Mountain trail spends much of its time above tree line.

Typical segment in the trees
Unfortunately, the preponderance of decay seems to breed Snipe Flies, whose larvae are thought to live in downed trees where they feed on other insects until they emerge to suck your blood with a vicious bite you won't forget. Because of this, long pants and long-sleeved shirts plus a little chemical warfare in the form of DEET is recommended in summer.

The long meadow
At 2.6 miles the trail breaks out into the meadow. At 3.1 miles is a small wooden post marking the end of the meadow. From this point on the trail returns to the trees until it descends to Two Elks Pass. We chose to turn around at the sign. Note the knoll with a view is to the right just as you enter the meadow. There is no trail, just wander across the tundra. A large campfire ring marks the spot.

The wooden sign marking the end of the meadow
Bowman's Cut is also used by mountain bikers, which use it as a connector to the Two Elks Trail that travels from Vail to Minturn. The few who passed us were all very polite.

Even in late summer, the meadow contained wildflowers
To get to the trailhead drive west on I-70 to exit 190 for Vail Pass. Turn west onto Shrine Pass Road, a dirt road passable with passenger cars. At 2.3 miles pass the trailhead for Shrine Mountain and Shrine Mountain East. There is a bathroom at the east side of this lot. At 3.7 miles, pass the Holy Cross Scenic Viewing Deck and at 3.9 miles turn right onto Lime Creek Road. This road is a little rougher but still passable with a low clearance vehicle. At 4.4 miles total the trailhead will be on the right marked by a small wooden sign. Park along the side of the road. There is space for around 5 cars.

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