Hiking in and around Vail

May. 20, 2015

2015 Summer Hiking Hero

Whether you’re looking for a gentle nature walk or a half-day’s quad burner, it’s hard to beat the diversity, beauty, and quality of hikes in and around Vail. 

We give a summary of hikes below, but if you’d prefer to let a professional lead the way, there are always guided hikes on Vail Mountain as well as with the Vail Nature Center. No matter the length of your walk, be sure to bring a day bag with water, sunscreen, a warm layer and rain shell – Colorado weather is known for changing quickly!

 

VAIL PROPER

Want to walk directly from Lionshead/Vail Village to the trail head? Here are some great walks and hikes that are easily accessed from Vail’s base areas.

Vail Nature Center/Betty Ford Alpine Gardens/Ford Amphitheater.
Allow 1.5 – 2 hours to wander and explore.
EASY.
A short walk east of Vail Village, there are many routes that take you through this lovely, quiet area. We recommend starting at the path just left of Vail Village’s Covered Bridge as you enter Vail Village. This path hugs Gore Creek and after about a 1/4 mile, opens up to a small playing field, playground, and eating area. With public art and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to explore, you might not make it past the Ford Amphitheater, but we hope you do! Walk over the wide bridge across from the Amphitheater and veer left – there you’ll find a short but peaceful nature walk that hugs Gore Creek before making its way up to the Vail Nature Center.

Betty-Ford-alpine-rock-garden

 

Berrypicker
This classic Vail Mountain trail winds through peaceful aspen trees and wildflowers (see a full list of Vail’s on-mountain trails). Keep an eye out for deer and marmots along the way as well as incredible views of the Gore Range and Vail Village/Lionshead.

The route can be approached in a variety of ways, depending on the length of time and challenge you’re looking for:

Eagle’s Nest to Lionshead (Downhill).
Allow 1.5 hours.
EASY.
Ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain – an elevation of over 10,000ft. You can then wend your way down at a leisurely pace through the mostly gradual descent. Be aware of some steeper sections as you get closer to Lionshead.

Eagle’s Nest to Vail Village (Downhill).
Allow 2.5 hours.
EASY.
Ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain – an elevation of over 10,000ft. You can then wend your way down at a leisurely pace through the mostly gradual descent. When you see the fork in the trail between Lionshead and Vail Village, veer right (east) to Vail Village. The way might be longer than heading straight to Lionshead, but the descent is more easy-going and the lush forest makes for a peaceful walk.

Vail Village to Lionshead/Lionshead to Vail Village.
Allow 2 hours.
EASY-MODERATE.
This cross-mountain trek rises about quarter of the way up the mountain, taking you through tranquil forests, and popping out on grassy ski runs as it leads you from one base area to the other. Starting in Vail Village makes for a more gradual climb – be aware that the initial ascent from Lionshead can be a bit steep but tapers off after the first mile.

Vail Village to Eagle’s Nest (Uphill).
Allow 4 hours.
MODERATE-HARD.
A more gentle way to reach Eagle’s Nest than starting in Lionshead, this trail starts just behind the base of Gondola One. You’ll quickly find yourself in an idyllic, verdant setting as you climb; crossing a series of small bridges over a waterway before being led to a more gradual ascent through forests and grass covered ski runs.

Lionshead to Eagle’s Nest (Uphill).
Allow 3 hours.
MODERATE-HARD.
The initial ascent out of Lionshead is a challenging uphill climb, but after about a quarter mile it tapers off to a more gradual ascent to Eagle’s Nest. This quad-burner is a great workout, with views that make every step worth the effort.

 

Berry Picker Trail Vail Colorado

 

ALONG THE BUS ROUTE

No car? No problem. Want to bus it to one end of Vail and walk back? You’ll find those options here too! Hop on the Town of Vail’s free bus system to discover a network of trails than run the length of Vail.

Gore Valley Trail
Like Berrypicker, there are lots of ways to approach your walk along this trail. The Gore Valley Trail is a paved recreational path that runs the length of Vail, connecting to the Eagle Valley Trail at the west end of Vail, and to the Vail Pass Trail at the base of Vail Pass to the east. The 12-mile route is a combination of attached bike lanes, detached trails and residential streets and winds through open space, parks and recreation facilities, as well as Vail’s core village areas.

One way to enjoy the trail:

East Vail to Vail Village.
Allow 2.5 hours.

EASY.
Take the East Vail bus to Pitkin Creek and walk back into Vail Village. The 20 minute bus ride will give you a preview of the stunning walk you have in store. At the start of the walk, keep an eye out for waterfalls tumbling from rocky crags in the hillside, aspen forests and a large beaver pond. The second half off of the walk hugs the Vail Golf Course before connecting to a beautiful residential road that leads into Golden Peak and Vail Village. Be aware that much of the trail is multi-use, so keep an eye out for bikes.

Vail hikes

 

North Trail
MODERATE-HARD.
A local hiking and biking favorite, this quad-burner wanders in and out of the neighborhoods on West Vail’s northern side. You can take the Town of Vail’s West Vail Red Loop buses to one of the trail’s multiple access points: Trapper’s Run, Buffehr Creek, Red Sandstone Road. You can also easily walk to the easternmost trailhead at Middle Creek, hike west and grab a West Vail Green Loop bus back to town. Most sections of the trail begin with a fairly steep elevation gain that tapers into a beautiful and moderate walk before dropping into the next access point. Get detailed descriptions of each section of the hike on the USDA’s website.West Vail's North Trail

 

Booth Creek Trail
Allow 3 hours
MODERATE-HARD
The headline hike of East Vail, this out-and-back hike climbs steeply into the rocky crags of East Vail to a stunning waterfall, Booth Falls. If you’re still feeling good once you reach the falls, keep climbing another 2 miles to reach Booth Lake. To access the hike, take the East Vail bus to the Booth Falls stop and walk the short stretch to the trailhead, or drive along the Frontage Road east from Vail and turn left on Booth Falls Road. Parking is available at the trail head.

Booth Creek Falls

Questions about any of these hikes or want us to feature one that isn’t listed? Let us know in the comments below!