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The Best Vail Hiking Trails (With Insider Tips!)

by | May 1, 2022 | Vail

With over 57 million participants each year, hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in America.

It’s not hard to understand why. There are beautiful trails to suit hikers of all ages and fitness levels. It doesn’t require any special equipment or skills. Best of all, it’s absolutely free!

With another Colorado summer upon us, no doubt you’re itching to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. The question is: Where should you go?

In this post, we’ll discuss the best Vail hiking trails to enjoy with your family and friends. We’ll also provide some expert tips to ensure you stay healthy and safe during your journey.

Top 5 Vail Hiking Trails

We’ll start our list with some of the easier hikes in Vail that are family-friendly or good for acclimatizing to the altitude (or both). The hikes get progressively longer and more challenging as our list goes on, but the rewards are worth the effort!

1. Fireweed Loop

This two-mile loop takes about an hour to hike and has a small elevation gain of just 168 feet. Follow the trail from the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Gondola One and get ready to see plenty of beautiful wildflowers along the way.

2. Shrine Ridge

This spectacular 4.3-mile hike (with 1,000 feet of elevation gain) takes you through pine groves and open meadows to reward you with a stunning view of Mount Holy Cross.

Take Exit 190 for Vail Pass and turn onto the Shrine Pass dirt road (FSR 709). Follow this easy road for 2.3 miles until you reach the trailhead beside the Shrine Mountain Inn.

3. Booth Creek Falls

This popular 4.2-mile hike has it all — sandstone rock formations, aspen groves, Gore Range mountain vistas, and a beautiful waterfall at the end.

During the summer months, you’re allowed to park at the nearby Vail Mountain School. Another option is to take the East Vail shuttle from the Vail Transportation Center (VTC) to the Booth Falls stop.

4. Upper Piney River Falls

Take the scenic 45-minute drive up to Piney River Ranch and get ready for one of the most beautiful hikes of your life. The trail is six miles round-trip and takes you through aspen groves, a river valley, and evergreen forests, with the soaring peaks of the Gore Range directly above your head.

5. Gore Lake Trail

If you’re looking for a serious challenge, lace up your boots and get ready for the 12.5-mile trek up to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Colorado. With an elevation gain of nearly 3,000 feet and an average round-trip time of 6-8 hours, this excursion is for serious hikers only.

Insider tip: To make the most of your journey, bring your gear and camp overnight before tackling the return route.

Safety Tips for Hiking in Colorado

If possible, spend the night in Denver or another low-elevation destination to minimize your chances of developing altitude sickness. Start with easy hikes around the valley before you attempt a more rigorous trek to any summits.

Check the weather, and then check it again. Thunderstorms can appear suddenly and lightning strikes can be deadly — especially if you’re on a mountaintop! Your best bet is to start your hike early in the day and (of course) always let someone know where you’re going.

Slather on the sunscreen and bring plenty of warm, lightweight layers, including gloves, a rain jacket, and/or a puffer coat. Remember: It will get colder (and probably windier) the higher you climb.

Finally, pack plenty of water and snacks to fuel your energy, and make sure your phone and GPS are fully charged.

What to Do After Your Hike

Vail hiking trails are among the best in Colorado — if not the entire USA! As you prepare for your summer Vail vacation, bookmark this article to help with the planning process.

What will you do after a long day of hiking? There’s no shortage of terrific things to do around Vail, but we imagine that getting a massage will be at the top of your list.

Say goodbye to sore muscles and hello to relaxation at Apres Massage & Facial in West Vail. Our team of therapists is here to help you recover from your hike and get ready for another day of fun in the mountains.

Give us a call at 970-445-2114 or book your appointment online. We re-open for the summer season on May 27th — we’ll see you then!