Morgan Russell’s job is to plan your Vail vacation. The now local grew up visiting Vail and participating in the variety of activities this area has to offer.
“It was a no brainer for me to come to Colorado for school because of all the fun I had had in Vail,” said Russell, a local concierge at The Sebastian. “Now I live here, and it’s fun to watch other people learn to love the things I grew up doing.”
One of the biggest challenges, Russell said, is to try and fit in all the fun. Daily itineraries can fill schedules from sunup to sundown, if desired, but time management is key.
Looking to make the most of every minute? We’ve put together a list of ways to play in water, on wheels and on foot, so visitors can get a taste of what locals like to do.
FLY FISHING, RIVER RAFTING
Logan Johnson, general manager of Minturn Anglers, said business’ most popular fly fishing trip is a half-day wade or float trip.
“The wade trip is better for beginners,” Johnson said. “Eighty percent of folks who we have taken out have never picked up a rod before, and the wade trip is more personalized.”
The Minturn Anglers guide service picks up participants where they are staying, brings them to the angler shop and gets them suited up with fishing gear, boots, waders and fishing licenses. Johnson said most “never-evers” do end up bringing at least a few to the net.
Morning trips begin between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. for Minturn Anglers, and earlier is better, generally speaking when it comes to fishing. Half-day trips are four hours on the water and about six hours door-to-door.
Fly Fishing Outfitters, out of Avon, also offers about four hours of fishing for half-day sessions, and owner John Packer said the groups usually get going by about 7 or 8 a.m.
“It depends on what people’s time frame is,” Packer said. “Teenage kids obviously don’t like to get up before 7, but fishing is best early or late.”
A one- and two-day Orvis fly fishing school is also offered by Fly Fishing Outfitters.
“Fly fishing is a great family activity because everybody in the family can do it, and it’s something that you don’t normally get to do in most places,” Packer said.
Gore Creek Fly Fishermen is partnering with Beaver Creek stables this summer, so visitors can take a horseback ride up to Beaver Lake to enjoy lunch and then have the opportunity to add a fly fishing excursion to the trip.
Rafting and stand-up paddleboarding
“Rafting is the No. 1 most awesome activity to do in Vail in the summer, as far as I’m concerned,” Russell said.
The Vail Valley offers a lot of introductory white water, so visitors and locals can choose their own adventure.
“It’s nice that this area has — like the mountain — green, blue and black ability offerings in rafting,” Russell said. “So there’s something for everybody.”
Shorter rafting trips average four to five hours, and longer, more advanced trips are up to 10-hour days.
Stand-up paddleboarding is making big waves in the valley as well, with companies such as Stand Up Paddle Colorado that will help guests find what they are looking for on the water, whether that’s getting their heart rates pumping on the rapids or finding the peace and quiet that’s not so easy to get at home.
“The first time I did stand-up paddleboarding, I could not believe how much fun it was,” Russell said. “It’s a combination of adrenaline through the rapids and a sense of serenity — you really get the whole package on the river.”
CYCLE DOWN VAIL PASS OR
MOUNTAIN BIKE EAGLE’S
Vail Pass bike shuttle tour
Russell said he almost always recommends a Vail Pass bike tour to visitors. Guide companies take people up to Black Lake at 10,600 feet in elevation to let them ride down the Vail Pass bike trail and through the path along the golf course in East-Vail — a total of about 16 miles.
“We do the Vail Pass bike tour out of our shop in Lionshead,” said Lee Steele, of Vail Sports. “The trip time is approximately two hours, which is the time it takes guests to get the bike fitted at the shop, to get them dropped off on top of the pass and for them to ride back into Lionshead.”
The trip package includes a bike rental, transportation to the top of Vail Pass, a helmet and a water bottle.
“We are a bit unique in our shuttle service,” Steele said. “Our guides tag along and are First Aid and CPR trained and certified. They lag in back and have tool kits and safety kits.”
Vail Sports offers three trip times per day: 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., and reservations are recommended. Children and adults have to be proficient at riding a bike on their own.
“It’s a fairly unique activity,” Steele said. “What a great way for guests to truly get to the top of the world on Vail Pass and then to ride all the way down through it.”
Ski & Bike Valet also operates out of Lionshead and has shuttles that leave daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The bike tour includes a shuttle ride and up to four hours of a bike rental with a helmet, map and bike repair kit.
“Most people that do the path ride can do it in an hour-and-a-half; others take two-to-three hours,” said Ski & Bike Valet owner Tom Neyens. “I would call this a pretty easy ride — I have had kids from 8 to 80 do this ride, and it seems like everybody really enjoys it.”
Mountain bike in Eagle
Couple and co-authors Laura and Bob Turitz just released the second edition of “Mountain Bike Eagle,” a trail guide with an oversized map for riding in the area. The book has thorough information on the area, including where to find the trailheads, elevation profiles and turn-by-turn directions.
“There are so many trails that intertwine, so having the oversized map really makes a big difference in being able to tell how all the trails work together,” said Laura Turitz.
She said the main difference between Eagle and some of the other areas is that they are still in need of more signs.
“It’s not perfect yet,” she said, “so visitors may need a little guidance to not get lost.”
For beginner riders in Eagle, Turitz recommends riding the The Boneyard and Eagle Ranch Loop. She said both stay closer to town than the west Eagle trails and so it’s harder to get lost.
“In west Eagle, there is a lot more climbing, it takes longer to do them, and it’s always helpful to have a map and another person with you who has been there before,” Turitz said. “A little planning definitely goes a long way.”
“Mountain Bike Eagle” is available at www.mountainbikeeagle.com, along with a list of local retailers that sell the book.
WALK ON-MOUNTAIN OR
HIKE UP TO THE TOP
Both Vail and Beaver Creek mountains and surrounding areas offer miles upon miles of scenic trails to tread. Beaver Creek has 62.5 marked miles of scenic trails for all ages and ability levels, and Vail has nearly 25 miles of hiking trails on the mountain.
“Hiking in Beaver Creek is exceptional with stunning mountain vista views, hikes through Aspen glades and hikes for all ability levels,” said Nate Goldberg, Beaver Creek’s director of summer hiking. “Some favorite hikes include Lost Buck to Village to Village, Beaver Lake Trail and Aspen Glade to Allie’s Way. Beaver Creek Resort’s trails are beautiful to explore in the summertime; it’s an experience not to be missed.”
The Beaver Creek Hiking Center offers guided hikes daily. All hikes include transportation, the use of packs, boots and hiking poles, rain gear, bottled water, Gatorade and granola bars.
On Vail Mountain, Berrypicker is a challenging intermediate hike that takes guests from the base of Vail Village or Lionshead, up to Adventure Ridge and back.
There are also several shorter loops hikers can take from the top of the mountain, which can be accessed by a ride up Gondola One or the Eagle Bahn Gondola. These loops include Ridge Route, Eagle’s Loop and Fireweed.
Hiking at Vail is accessible for every ability and fitness level. A trek can be combined with a gondola ride, if desired, and guided hiking tours are available from Adventure Ridge. Also, those who hike up with their dog can ride down the gondola with their furry companions.
“Certain companies make it easier to put together a full itinerary,” Russell said. “You can go for the whole day up to Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain, for instance, zip-lining, on ropes courses, disk golfing, mountain touring and horseback riding, and have an awesome lunch or watch the sun go down on Talon’s deck.”
Russell said companies such as Sage Outdoor Adventure cater to all-day activities, so families can go rafting in the morning and then are taken to Sage’s ranch in Wolcott to shoot sporting clays and drive Razors (off-road vehicles) in the afternoon.