#VailBen Ongoing Dispatch: My Favorite Hiking in Vail

Jun. 10, 2014

 

Spotted this little guy along the Pitkin Creek Trail.

Spotted this little guy along the Pitkin Creek Trail.

If someone asked me what I thought was the one thing they should do in Vail during the summertime, I would have to answer “hiking.”

Don’t misunderstand me; the Vail Valley is home to some incredible summer activities, including mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fly fishing, award-winning dining, and A-list performances. But this is a mountain town. So the best way to understand Vail is to venture into those mountains on foot.

Step even a few feet into the wilderness and you’ll discover a whole new world of wildflowers and butterflies, birds and elk, waterfalls and snow-covered peaks. Around every bend is another vista more special than the last. Even a city boy like myself, at home among towering skyscrapers, can’t help but be speechless looking at this awesome landscape.

That’s why I have made it a priority to hike at least one local trail during each of my 10 weeks here in Vail. Below I’ll share some of my experiences, including hike highlights and observations.

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Know of a trail I just have to hike while in Vail? Be sure to let me know on Twitter or Instagram by using the hashtag #VailBen.
See you on the mountain!

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Berrypicker

 

One of the many wildflowers I spotted along Berrypicker.

One of the many wildflowers I spotted along Berrypicker.

Don’t let the sweet-sounding name fool you. This is no walk in the park. Just making up the initial vertical under the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead can be difficult (I certainly struggled). But you’ll be glad you did. Between ski runs lies a magical world populated with babbling brooks and fields of wildflowers. Even for a seasoned Vail skier, Berrypicker will show you a side of the mountain you didn’t know existed. As a novice hiker I love how well marked it is, making it hard to get lost. And the best part? It ends at the Mid-Mountain Village where you can reward yourself with lunch or spare your knees by desending via gondola.

Hike Highlight: wildflowers

 

Booth Creek Trail

 

The imposing Booth Falls at full steam.

The imposing Booth Falls at full steam.

After seeing a photo of Booth Falls, this popular hike shot to the top of my “must hike” list. And I wasn’t disappointed. While the trail can get crowded, I found plenty of time by myself. And the hike’s consistent moderate incline means it’ll make you sweat but it won’t kill you.

Even so, the reward of seeing Booth Falls will wash away any knee pain. When I visited, run-off made the waterfall a surging monster, its cooling spray wafting over the trail. And with plenty of places to sit and marvel at this gift from nature, it’s perfect picnic spot. Though one can hike all the way to Booth Lake, snow prevented me from doing so. But I hear it’s pretty inspiring as well.

Hike Highlight: Booth Falls

 

Fireweed

 

Watching a dramatic summer storm pass by on Fireweed.

Watching a dramatic summer storm pass by on Fireweed.

This trail on Vail Mountain is like a hiking Cliff Notes: All the rewards of the trail without any of the annoying switchbacks or cramping hamstrings. Traversing through the tall pine forests between Gondola One and the Eagle Bahn Gondola, Fireweed offers scenic vistas while being accessible from either lift. My traverse across Mid Mountain was especially noteworthy thanks to a passing storm that pounded the village down below. All I could think while walking the trail, camera in hand, was: My mom would love hiking this.

Hike Highlight: Gore Range views

 

Pitkin Creek Trail

 

Pitkin rewards hikers with open fields like this one.

Pitkin rewards hikers with open fields like this one.

I didn’t intend to hike Pitkin, but a wrong turn put me on its path. I’m glad it did. By far the trail with the most flora and fauna I’ve hiked so far, Pitkin’s steep switchbacks and dense forests give way to open valleys with incredible views. And though you might not get as close to its two waterfalls as you do on Booth Creek, the variety of Pitkin’s landscape encouraged me to push past late Spring snowfall and get as close to Pitkin Lake as I could realistically get. (Which was about .5 miles away.)

Hike Highlight: Valley views

 

Ridge Route / Ptarmigan Loop

 

Mount of the Holy Cross as seen from the edge of Ptarmagin Loop.

Mount of the Holy Cross as seen from the edge of Ptarmigan Loop.

These Vail Mountain-top trails features some of the best views of Mount of the Holy Cross from anywhere in town. Weaving across the top of Game Creek Bowl from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, Ridge Route dumps you into Ptarmigan Loop and its almost 360 views of both Holy Cross and the Gore Range. And though some snow remained during my hike, especially on Ptarmigan, a short detour to the access road  just above the trail provided easier, if slightly less picturesque passage.

Hike Highlight: Mount of the Holy Cross views

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Click here for details on these hikes and others in Vail.
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Vail America's Best Summer Job BenBenjamin Solomon is the winner of America’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Benjamin has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.