Hikes in Vail

Region in Colorado, United States

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 3,960 m 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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Best Hikes in Vail

Showing 1 to 10 of 10
    Open details for Upper Piney River Falls Trail

    Upper Piney River Falls Trail

    Moderate
    9.3 km
    213 m
    2-3h

    Upper Piney River Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Vail Region. The trail, which rewards hikers with stunning views of the Gore Range, slowly climbs up 213 m, spread over 4.6 km, to a cascading waterfall. This trail is commonly used as the approach to Mt. Powell - the highest summit in the Gore Range at 4,141 m.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.8
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Open details for Booth Falls Trail

    Booth Falls Trail

    Easy
    6.3 km
    375 m
    2-3h

    The Booth Creek Trail, that leads to Booth Falls, hikes through the Booth Creek drainage. It is lined with spectacular sandstone rock formations. You’ll hike past aspen groves and beautiful meadows to an 18 m waterfall.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.7
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Open details for Pitkin Lake Trail

    Pitkin Lake Trail

    Hard
    15.6 km
    837 m
    5-7h

    Pitkin Lake Trail makes for an adventure-filled day hike. The gorgeous trail starts off steep, but it quickly (after roughly 1.6 km) levels out. Gradually, the trail ascends the valley, past two waterfalls, to the stunning lake that sits below East and West Partner (two 3,960 m peaks).

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.9
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Open details for Shrine Ridge Trail

    Shrine Ridge Trail

    Easy
    5.5 km
    206 m
    1.5-2h

    Shrine Ridge Trail gradually hikes through lush pine meadows, passing two small ponds, to Shrine Ridge. The Shrine Ridge leads to the top of Shrine Mountain (elevation 3,580 m). You’ll get incredible views, considering it’s such a short hike.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.9
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Open details for Gore Lake Trail

    Gore Lake Trail

    Very Hard
    20.4 km
    823 m
    6-8h

    Gore Lake Trail is a full-day hike to the beautiful, alpine lake. The trail winds through aspen groves, meadows, and pine stands in the beautiful Gore Creek drainage. There are some steep sections, but it’s all worth it. Things level out when you get to the lake where you may be greeted by mountain goats.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.9
    Technical Difficulty
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Advanced (Diamond)
    Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
    Open details for Ridge Route

    Ridge Route

    Easy
    3.9 km
    170 m
    1-1.5h

    Ridge Route is a hike located on Vail Mountain, connecting Eagle’s Nest to Wildwood. The trail offers breath-taking views of the Holy Cross Wilderness south of Vail. The impressive Mount of the Holy Cross, at 4,270 m tall, is visible from Ridge Route.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.9
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Open details for Bighorn Creek Trail

    Bighorn Creek Trail

    Hard
    12.1 km
    650 m
    4-5.5h

    Bighorn Creek Trail is a diverse hike that takes you through a variety of trees, and meadows of wildflowers. There is even an old cabin located a mile past Bighorn Creek Falls. The trail offers views of Vail Mountain and city, and the Gore Range.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.7
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Open details for Gore Valley Trail (East Vail)

    Gore Valley Trail (East Vail)

    Very Easy
    6.0 km
    24 m
    1-1.5h

    The East Vail portion of the Gore Valley Trail takes a shared hike and bike path. You’ll pass below a vibrant red sandstone cliff band while following Gore Creek. The easy walk leads to the meadows and aspen groves on the east end of the golf course. Pack a picnic for this one!

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.8
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Open details for Berrypicker Trail

    Berrypicker Trail

    Hard
    9.5 km
    622 m
    3.5-5h

    Berrypicker Trail hikes up Vail Mountain to Eagle’s Nest from Lionshead Village. The trail steeply winds through meadows of wildflowers (which are the ski runs during winter), aspen groves, and pine stands. The hike is often done as a one-way with help from the Eagle Bahn Gondola taking the return journey.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    10.0
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Open details for Davos Trail

    Davos Trail

    Easy
    9.2 km
    205 m
    2-3h

    The Davos Trail follows a dirt service road. It hikes through aspen groves and meadows of wildflowers. Looking across the I-70, hikers are greeted by the peaks of the Holy Cross Wilderness.

    User Ratings
    Overall Rating
    9.6
    Technical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
    Physical Difficulty
    Easy (Circle)
    Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.

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