12 must-try outdoor activities in the Vail Valley
Sure, Vail is world-renowned for its skiing and snowboarding, but the Vail Valley offers plenty beyond vast bowls of bluebird powder days and grippin’ groomers. Whether you prefer your adventure water-drenched, iced, air-borne, cliff-side, cycled, motorized or snowy, our mountain recreation covers it — and much, much more.
Please Be Aware
Though the weather is warmer, Colorado summers bring varied weather conditions at higher elevation. Be sure to pack water, sunscreen, a raincoat and do not wear cotton. Wear clothing that can wick away moisture.
YEAR-ROUND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN THE VAIL VALLEY
1. Fish On
Fly-fishing can be a year-round activity in the mountains. Learn to fly-fish — or perfect your cast — through outfitters like Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, Nova Guides, Piney River Ranch or Sage Outdoor Adventures. Wade through the crisp water, or book a float trip to enjoy the sparkling water against a clear blue sky and snow-capped mountains. Access to some of the best fishing holes in the Gore Creek, Eagle River, Brush Creek and Colorado River can be tricky, so we highly recommend the experts who keep track of the fish on a daily basis.
Winter or summer, spring or fall, this is one sport that spans them all. Paved trails along the Eagle River provide smooth pedaling for people of all ages and abilities, while dirt trails winding down mountainsides range from beginner to advanced (with or without chairlift access — your choice). In fall, golden aspens provide a particularly stunning backdrop for riding, while winter white calls for fat biking. Many cross-country centers, such as Vail Golf Course and Eagle Ranch Golf Course, allow these beefed-up version of mountain bikes — with their thicker tires to grip snow — and trails like Haymaker in Eagle are open to bikes year-round. Rent bikes at such shops as Venture Sports, Base Mountain Sports, Charter Sports and Vail or Beaver Creek Sports.
3. Epic Discovery/Adventure Ridge
Vail Mountain has built the ultimate play adventure area at Eagle’s Nest. During the snowy months, it’s called Adventure Ridge, and includes a snowmobile track, snow tubing and ski biking. The summer months bring Epic Discovery, which includes zip lines, alpine coaster, bungee trampolines and several ropes courses.
4. Snowshoe or Hike
Explore the mountains on foot. When snow blankets the ground, take in the scenery while getting a cardio workout by snowshoeing. Rent gear at the Vail Nordic Center or the Beaver Creek Nordic Center. Explore the world with a naturalist at Walking Mountains Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. When the snow melts, walk around Shrine Pass, atop Vail Pass, or take the gondola at Vail or Beaver Creek mountains and see vast fields of wildflowers. The Vail Recreation District’s Nature Center also leads wildflower walks throughout the week.
5. Horse Around
Horseback riding through green meadows caters to groups of nearly all ages and abilities. Beaver Creek Stables, Piney River Ranch, Sage Outdoor Adventures and Triple G Outfitters are all great options for tours. And, there’s hardly any way to make a mountain vacation more magical — romantic or family-fun wise — than by sitting under a blanket on a horse-drawn sleigh, listening to the jingle of bells. Try a sleigh ride dinner at 4 Eagle Ranch.
WINTER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN VAIL
Sage Outdoor Adventures shows you exactly what powering through the high country involves with its snowmobile tours. Nova Guides is also known for its seemingly endless miles of 360-degree panoramic views with its Top of the Rockies tour, which includes views of the Continental Divide and begins in historic Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Army Division trained for World War II. Either way, you can zoom up to elevations of over 12,000 feet, where you just might feel dizzy from the thin air — and adrenaline.
7. Nordic Ski
Alpine skiing and snowboarding are one form of enjoyable exercise, but to amp it up a notch, flatten out the terrain and strap on a pair of skinny skis. Cross-country skiing consists of both classic style and skate skiing (each with its own technique and specialized equipment). Locations like the Vail Nordic Center or Beaver Creek Nordic Center will set you up with gear, and lessons, if you need, to make the most of your day gliding across a perfectly groomed surface.
Ice skating at the base of Vail or Beaver Creek mountains looks, and feels, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting — only with more snazzy village appeal, and pizza, fire pits and hot drinks to warm up the chilly afternoon or evening. Both rinks rent hockey and figure skates for a festive evening on ice. And, speaking of festive: check out Beaver Creek’s winter family festivals and skating shows — they’re not to be missed! The Beaver Creek rink is also open in the summer.
SUMMER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN THE VALLEY
9. Stand up Paddle Board or Kayak
If you’re ready to navigate the water (lake or river) yourself, rent a SUP (stand up paddle board) or kayak. Beginners may want to get their sea legs on the stiller, gentler yet still lovely Nottingham Lake in Avon. And, speaking of gentle (yet tricky), locales like the Athletic Club at Westin offer SUP yoga, giving you another balancing trick (and stretch) for your bod. Once you feel comfortable kayaking or SUPing on the lake, ask your rental agency where the calmest stretch of river lies (or, in the case of kayaking, you may just want to go for the rapids; just ask first, so you know what you’re in for).
10. Rafting and Tubing
Fast and furious, or go-with-the flow: you decide. Piney River Ranch and Sage Outdoor Adventures are just two of the pros that can properly outfit and guide you along the river. Turtle Tubing is an excellent option for families and groups looking for an affordable, fun float trip.
By Jeep or ATV, off-roading assures a bumpy good time that opens your senses to yet another side of the Rocky Mountains. Discover the mystery of the most recently extinct volcano in Colorado through Sage Outdoor Adventures; it gives you access to 6,000 acres of private land and 14,000 acres of public land in the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area. Nova Guides offers yet another perspective of mountain history, this time in the form of Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Army Division trained for divisive battles it won in World War II. If you’ve never ridden an ATV before, it’s one for the bucket list — and a simple skill to learn. Guides will instruct you, then let you (safely) loose.
Beaver Creek, Eagle Ranch, EagleVail, Gypsum Creek, Red Sky Ranch, Sonnenalp, Vail Golf Club, Cordillera — each one provides its own unique perspective on greens, tees, traps and topography. Golfing in the Vail Valley offers unique opportunities to spot wildlife — big and small — while experiencing how high elevation makes your ball go farther.
Hardscrabble stopped by the Vail Daily newsroom to jam as one of their three performances in one Saturday, the last of which was at the Bonfire Block Party.