Hiking in Vail
Views from the Upper Piney River Falls hike near Vail, Colorado

hikes in Vail

Region in Colorado, United States
Vail Trail Map

Nestled in Eagle County Colorado, the lively town of Vail is best known as the best ski resort in the state. Visitors flock to Vail in the winter months, eager to take advantage of the fine powder and stellar ski slopes. However, few visitors realize that Vail is just as fantastic for summer adventures – when the snows clear and the trails become accessible once again, Vail is transformed into one of our favorite Colorado hiking destinations.

Vail is situated just beneath the Gore Range, offering incredible access to some of Colorado’s finest hiking routes. There’s something here to please everyone, from imposing peaks to lush valleys, and everything in between. Hiking in Vail will take you across ice-cold, fast-flowing rivers, through scented pine forests, and along craggy ridges decorated with wildflowers. What more could any keen hiker ask for?

As a ski resort that has been welcoming visitors for decades, Vail has everything you need for an outdoor adventure holiday. The pretty alpine town, with its distinctive cobbled streets, is packed with fantastic restaurants, shops and bars, and makes an excellent base for many activities out in the wild. This is a particularly good spot for whitewater rafting and mountain biking, and there are many companies offering guided tours from the town.

Vail really has something to offer visitors in all seasons. To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of all our favorite hiking routes in Vail. It’s time to pull on your hiking boots and hit the trail!

Top 10 Hikes In Vail

Vail might be best known as a skier’s paradise, but this beautiful spot also has plenty to offer hikers in the summer months. The steep slopes are transformed into spectacular, challenging hiking routes, passing by lush wildflower meadows, gushing waterfalls, and atmospheric pine forests. There are plenty of routes here to challenge experienced hikers, and you don’t have to go far to experience some truly breathtaking views. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something a little more low key, many of these trails can be easily shortened to make them perfect for young kids or those looking for an easy stroll in the middle of some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery.

  • Upper Piney River Falls Hike: This beautiful trek is one of the most popular hikes in Vail, and with good reason. The path climbs slowly to a beautiful cascading waterfall, passing through aspen forests along the way, crisscrossing over the creeks. The falls are a wonderful place for a picnic, and the hike isn’t too difficult, making this one of the most satisfying day hikes in Vail.
  • Booth Falls Trail Hike: The trail to Booth Falls is a wonderful option for a relatively easy hike in Vail. The route passes through the Booth Creek drainage, lined with spectacular sandstone rock formations, taking in expansive wildflower meadows and lush aspen forests along the way. The gushing waterfall marks the end of the route, and offers a wonderful view back along the valley.
  • Bighorn Creek Trail Hike: This lovely hike offers plenty of diversity, and is an excellent way to see the best of Vail’s wonderful scenery. You’ll enjoy lush wildflower meadows and beautiful aspen forests, as well as fantastic views over the Gore Range. We think that the Bighorn Creek Trail is one of the best hikes in Vail.
  • Pitkin Lake Trail Hike: Looking for a little adventure? This fantastic day hike in Vail has everything you need to slake your wanderlust. The Pitkin Lake Trail ascends a lush valley, passing by two gushing waterfalls, before arriving at a stunning lake nestled between two 12992ft peaks: East and West Partner. This fantastic hike is a Colorado classic, and the ideal way to spend a fun-filled day out in the mountains.
  • Berrypicker Trail Hike: The Berrypicker Trail is one of our favorite Vail hikes, as the steep winter ski runs are transformed into a meadow of wildflowers in the summer. The trail winds through forests of pine and aspen, and ascends relatively steeply to the left side of Eagle’s Nest, offering some of the best views of the Vale Range in the region on the way up.
  • Shrine Ridge Trail Hike: This beautiful, relatively easy hike passes through a lush pine forest, past two small tarns, before reaching Shrine Ridge. Although this is a small hike, the views are exceptional, making this one of our favorite hikes in Vail. Shrine Mountain and Ridge take their name from the stunning view of the Mount of the Holy Cross, which you can enjoy at the summit of this hike.
  • Gore Lake Trail Hike: Looking for a challenging hike in the heart of some of Vail’s finest scenery? Look no further than this majestic day hike to Gore Lake, passing by pine and aspen forests, and beautiful wide meadows. The trail is steep at times, and it’s a relatively long hike, but the views at the lake are well worth the effort. If you’re lucky you may also encounter some mountain goats along the way!
  • Ridge Route Hike: Ridge Route connects Eagle’s Nest to Wildwood, right in the heart of Vail Mountain itself. This iconic trail provides jaw-dropping views of the Holy Cross Wilderness, but it’s a relatively easy trail with gentle elevation. The path passes through expansive meadows and fragrant pine trees, and the views along the way are simply breathtaking.
  • Gore Valley Trail Hike: The east portion of the Gore Valley Trail is a wonderful place for a hike, passing through meadows and aspen groves alongside Gore Creek. The vibrant red sandstone cliffs next to the creek are incredibly picturesque, and you’ll find plenty of great places for a picnic. This is one of the best family hikes in Vail.
  • Davos Trail Hike: The Davos Trail snakes gently through aspen and pine forests, with views across the I-70 and the Holy Cross Wilderness. The route passes by the lovely Meadow Mountain, which is an elk calving area in spring, and a wonderful place for wildlife watching. This hike offers some fantastic views over the Gore Mountain Range, and there are plenty of places to stop to enjoy the scenery.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In Vail?

The hiking season in Vail typically runs from June to the end of September, when the peaks are free of snow and the trails are clear. July and August offer the best possibilities for good weather, but you’ll be in competition with plenty of other tourists, who flock to the region for summer vacations in the great outdoors. This is a really fun time to visit Vail, as there are many activities on offer and the trails are in the best condition for hiking.

To avoid the crowds and for better deals on accommodation, try to visit in the shoulder season. Spring can be exceptionally pretty, with emerging wildflowers and bright, sunny days, but be aware that some of the higher trails may still be inaccessible due to snow. We think that the best time to go hiking in Vail is autumn, when the larch forests are at their best, the weather is crisp and clear, and many of the summer tourists have departed. This is also a great time to catch a local festival or enjoy the wonderful local produce at harvest time.

Other Outdoor Activities In Vail

Colorado is a paradise for adventurers, and in addition to hiking, you’ll find a whole range of other outdoor activities in Vail. Bring your tent and camp out under the stars on some incredible backpacking trails, where you can admire the brilliance of the night sky. Try your hand at horse riding, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, or fly-fishing. If you’re travelling with kids, don’t miss the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest botanical garden in the world, which is teeming with beautiful scented flowers in the summer. In winter, Vail is transformed into a snowy wonderland, and is one of the most popular ski resorts in the United States. Whenever you visit, and whatever your tastes, there’s an outdoor adventure here for you.

How To Plan A Trip To Vail

Is Vail on your hiking bucket list? If not, it should be! We think this part of Colorado is an incredible place for hiking and summer adventures. To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a handy guide to planning a trip to Vail, with all the information you’ll need to make your stay a success. You’ll find insider tips on where to go and where to stay, recommendations for some fabulous restaurants, and of course, all of our favorite hikes in the region. Come and explore everything that this fantastic ski resort has to offer in summer!

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Vail

Can you hike up Vail Mountain?

Vail Mountain is a wonderful place to enjoy a hike, with many trails starting from the base of the mountain and others at the top of Gondola One and Eagle Bahn Gondola.

How many days do you need in Vail?

The area around Vail is quite compact and accessible, meaning that it’s possible to do a lot in a short space of time. That said, we’d recommend staying in Vail for at least two to three days, allowing you enough time to take in a few good hikes and to sample some of the excellent restaurants in the area.

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The best hikes in Vail

Views from the Upper Piney River Falls hike near Vail, Colorado

01. Upper Piney River Falls Trail
Difficulty

5.8mi 699ft 2.5-3.5h

Upper Piney River Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Vail… Read More

User Rating

9.4Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Scenery on the Booth Falls trail Bighorn Creek Trail hike near Vail, Colorado

02. Booth Falls Trail
Difficulty

3.9mi 1,230ft 2-3h

The Booth Creek Trail, that leads to Booth Falls, hikes through the Booth Creek drainage.… Read More

User Rating

9.4Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Pitkin Lake Trail hike near Vail, Colorado

03. Pitkin Lake Trail
Difficulty

9.7mi 2,746ft 5.5-7h

Pitkin Lake Trail makes for an adventure-filled day hike. The gorgeous trail starts off steep,… Read More

User Rating

9.8Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Trail of the Shrine Ridge trail hike near Vail, Colorado

04. Shrine Ridge Trail
Difficulty

3.4mi 676ft 1.5-2h

Shrine Ridge Trail gradually hikes through lush pine meadows, passing two small ponds, to Shrine… Read More

User Rating

9.7Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Scenery from the Gore Lake Trail hike near Vail, Colorado

05. Gore Lake Trail
Difficulty

12.7mi 2,700ft 6-8h

Gore Lake Trail is a full-day hike to the beautiful, alpine lake. The trail winds… Read More

User Rating

9.8Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Trail of the Ridge Route hike near Vail, Colorado

06. Ridge Route
Difficulty

2.4mi 558ft 1-1.5h

Ridge Route is a hike located on Vail Mountain, connecting Eagle’s Nest to Wildwood. The… Read More

User Rating

9.9Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Scenery from the Bighorn Creek Trail hike in Vail, Colorado

07. Bighorn Creek Trail
Difficulty

7.5mi 2,133ft 4-5.5h

Bighorn Creek Trail is a diverse hike that takes you through a variety of trees,… Read More

User Rating

9.6Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Gore Valley Trail (East Vail) in Vail, Colorado

08. Gore Valley Trail (East Vail)
Difficulty

3.7mi 79ft 1-2h

The East Vail portion of the Gore Valley Trail takes a shared hike and bike… Read More

User Rating

9.3Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Trail of the Berrypicker Trail hike in Vail, Colorado

09. Berrypicker Trail
Difficulty

5.9mi 2,041ft 2.5-3.5h

Berrypicker Trail hikes up Vail Mountain to Eagle’s Nest from Lionshead Village. The trail steeply… Read More

User Rating

10Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty
Scenery on the Davos Trail hike near Vail, Colorado

10. Davos Trail
Difficulty

5.7mi 673ft 2-3h

The Davos Trail follows a dirt service road. It hikes through aspen groves and meadows… Read More

User Rating

9.5Overall Rating Technical Difficulty Physical Difficulty

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