Betty Ford Gardens in Vail: Community center and host to educational programs for adults and children |

Betty Ford Gardens in Vail: Community center and host to educational programs for adults and children

Melanie Grangaard
Vail Lifestyle Magazine
photo - Betty Ford Gardens

Dominique Taylor Photography
Visitors can bring a picnic lunch and are encouraged to bring plenty of water — especially if visiting during summer afternoons.

Just steps from Vail Village, one of the world’s highest botanical gardens awaits exploration. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, which are open dawn till dusk year-round, are host to the Education Center, with hours that change seasonally, as well as a myriad of programs for both adults and children. Together with a team of employees, the Board of Trustees, and with the assistance of volunteers, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is gearing up for another colorful season of learning.

The Vail Alpine Garden Foundation, organized in 1985 and renamed in 1988 as the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, began as a collaborative work between landscape designer Marty Jones and gardener Helen Fritch. It focuses on promoting the understanding and conservation of alpine plants and mountain environments. Through the decades, the gardens have maintained that collaborative spirit, bringing together artists, horticulturists, chefs, garden enthusiasts, yoga instructors and visitors of all ages as they contribute to the garden’s own culture and ecosystem.

photo - Betty Ford Gardens; kids playing

Insider Tip
While the Crevice Garden is the first garden to bloom in May or June, the Perennial Garden, which is at its peak July through August, is probably the most vibrant.

During peak hours in the summer months, the paved and cobblestone trails — the majority which are ADA-accessible with ramps — are teeming with enthusiastic visitors. Lorrie Panfil, the operations manager at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, is thrilled about the summer’s outlook. “We are excited to host our own exhibit this year, ‘H20 = Life,’ in addition to displaying both traveling and permanent exhibits. We also have many children’s and family drop-in activities — everything from treasure hunts in the gardens to our popular Yoga in the Gardens programs.”

It’s a busy place, with something for everyone who harbors curiosity about the alpine environment around us. Comprised of six garden areas — each with multiple distinct garden beds — the Schoolhouse Gift Shop, the Education Center, the Picnic Pavilion, and with trails that connect the area, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens continually grows and expands its educational and conservational reach.

Last year, for example, the addition of the Pollinator Garden highlighted the vital role pollinators play in the health of alpine environments — and the health of nearly all global ecosystems. This year, as a result of being awarded a Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust Grant, the gardens will again grow, with the installation of the new Silk Road Garden, highlighting plants from alpine areas throughout Asia.

New signage along the Back to Nature Trail, one of the many ways the Town of Vail has shown its support of the gardens, allows visitors an insider’s look at the riparian environment along the Gore Creek. River and water health are further highlighted in the Education Center’s “H20 = Life: Wet, Wild, and Wonderful Waterways” exhibit (July-December).

While admission to the gardens is free, thanks to the loyal support of members and donors, as well as the Town of Vail and other sponsors, most of the numerous gardening and photography workshops such as Yoga in the Gardens and Chefs in the Gardens do charge a fee. More information is available at

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