Distance: 43 km
Time: 3 – 6 hrs
Elevation Gain: 862 m
Elevation Loss: 850 m
Technical Rating: Intermediate
Physical Rating: Hard
Season: July – October
Permit Required: No
Elbow Loop is a classic Rocky Mountains ride which combines the Big and Little Elbow trails into one full loop. The scenery on the mostly doubletrack (4WD) trail is breath taking as it takes you through the Tombstone Pass. Pack your overnight gear and stay a night or two at the Tombstone campground or take a side trip hike up to Tombstone Lakes; the trailhead is located about 15 km up Little Elbow Trail and no bikes are permitted on this side trip.
Elbow Loop may be ridden either direction, but the preferred route is counter-clock-wise. Starting up Little Elbow trail ride over to the forks and return via the Big Elbow trail ending at the suspension bridge crossing the Little Elbow River, returning you to the trailhead.
Expect a gradual gravel climb up Little Elbow all the way to Tombstone Pass before descending a short, but fast section down to Big Elbow Valley. The climb up is in good shape overall since the June 2013 floods, with a couple of small washouts and one creek to cross. Make sure to turn left onto Big Elbow (large sign indicating turn) at the end of the descent down to Big Elbow Valley, as right will take you down to the Tombstone Campground. From there you will be greeted with a few short and steep climbs on more gravel roads, before the trail turns into some of the most amazing and breathtaking singletrack found on this ride. The singletrack has also been damaged by the June 2013 floods, with one significant washout found along the descent. Yet, it’s still a joy to ride. Following the flowy singletrack, the trail turns back to a wide gravel descent crossing several creeks and the river along the way. You are sure to get your feet wet and in some cases the water is as high as your knees. There has always been a number of crossing, but now since the floods, there are many more to navigate (bridges have been wipped out). Route finding remains relatively easy for the experienced rider. The last part of trail on the Big Elbow takes you out along an open, yet flat, gravel doubletrack that follows the Elbow River before crossing the final suspension bridge back to the trailhead parking lot.
TRAILHEAD | N50 47.659 W114 51.174 (PARKING)
Take Hwy 66 from Bragg Creek to Little Elbow recreational area. Parking is located near the suspension bridge; look for the Trailhead sign indicating where to park. From the carpark ride through the campground west, to the start of the Little Elbow Trail or start at the suspension bridge if riding clockwise on the Big Elbow trail.
N50 47.346 W114 52.016 (Little Elbow)
N50 47.464 W114 51.496 (Big Elbow)
bikepirate rating: 4 Skulls