Up Zig Zag to Thunderbird, down Valley View Trail

Mountain Bike Trail Map with GPS Track

This page describes a mountain bike ride at the Steamboat Springs Ski Area. You climb the ZigZag trail to Thunderhead (top of the gondola) and descend the Valley View Trail. This 10 mile ride is basically a long climb followed by a long descent. Except for a short segment of the Valley View Trail, there is no more climing after you reach Thunderbird. The initial climb covers a little over 2000 vertical feet in 4.7 miles.

The ride is aerobically challenging and technically easy. There are a few rock formations on the Valley View trail that are difficult technically (I do not ride them), but the rest of the trails are easy. Unlike, for example, the Red Dirt Trail, there are no exposed sections of trail where you can fall off the side of a hill.

Waypoint 1 Icon

From the base of the ski area, head northeast along the Zig Zag Trail. If you are looking up at mountain from the base area, the Zig Zag Trail is the trail that heads off to your left around the base of the mountain. It is a four wheel drive road at this point and you will ride by multiple condominium developments on your left as you start the ride.

Stay on the Zig Zag Trail, going straight through intersections with other trails (you will pass the lower terminus of the Valley View Trail 1.2 miles into the ride) and access roads.

Waypoint 2 Icon

Waypoint 2, 2.4 miles into the ride, marks the upper end of the Creekside Trail. For this ride, follow the hard right turn to stay on the Zig Zag Trail.

If you do not have the time, energy, or inclination to climb further, taking Zig Zag to Creekside and descending Creekside is a great ride. The Creekside Trail descends the Burgess Creek valley and you end up in a housing development. Take a left on the road and it will take you to the Thunderhead chair lift, where you can pick up the Zig Zag Trail and take it back to the bottom. The Creekside Trail is a blast to ride because of its banked curves, undulating trail, and multiple (3) creek crossings.

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We stopped at Waypoint 3 to snap a photo of the hot air balloons from the Steamboat Balloon Rodeo.

Steamboat Balloon Rodeo Hot Air Balloons

Waypoint 3: Steamboat Balloon Rodeo

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Thunderhead! You’ve made it and the climbing is over. Enjoy the view.

View from  Thunderhead / Top of Gondola

Waypoint 4: View From Top of Gondola

Start the descent by heading south on the accesss road near the gondola building. At the intersection, stay right on the road marked with signs to Huffmans and to Valley View.

I took the road all the way down to the Valley View Trail because I was in a hurry. Huffman’s Trail provides a nice single track alternative to get you most of the way to the Valley View Trail. You still have to ride on the road for a short distance, but much less so than I did on this ride. Check out write-up of an ascent of the Valley View Trail for a gps track map showing the route of Huffman’s Trail.

Waypoint 5 Icon

The lower end of Huffman’s Trail is on your right. Stay on the road and watch for the Valley View Trail (well signed) on your right in about .4 miles.

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Turn right onto the singletrack at the sign for the Valley View Trail.

Waypoint 7 Icon

This is why they call it the Valley View Trail!

Valley View Trail Vista

Waypoint 7: Valley View

Waypoint 8 Icon

Did I explain why they call it the Valley View Trail? It’s they Yampa River Valley, by the way. The distant mountains with the flat tops are the Flat Tops :)

Valley View Trail Vista

Waypoint 8: More Valley View

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I tried to get cute with a photo of a hot air balloon ‘on the trail’. It didn’t really work, but here it is anyway.

Hot Air Balloon from Valley View Trail

Waypoint 9:Steamboat Balloon Rodeo Participant

Shortly after waypoint 9, the trail breaks out into the open and loses its single track character. The rest of the trail is less technical (fewer tight curves, wider tail) and you can really let it rip. After traversing some ski runs, you head back into trees and get a nice ride back to the Zig Zag Trail.

Waypoint 10 Icon

The Valley View Trail tees into the Zig Zag Trail. Take a left onto Zig Zag and head back to the base area. Nice Ride!

Here is a gpx file contianing the gps tracks and waypoints shown in the trail map at the top of the page.