From Florida to Vail: Couple’s favorite Vail Valley hikes
August 9, 2018
We were initially acquainted with Vail on a skip trip about 15 years ago. As avid skiers, we have visited many Colorado ski towns — Telluride, Breakenridge and Snowmass, to name a few.
After having traveled from Florida to Colorado over a span of many winters, we decided it was time to experience Colorado in the summer. Coloradans had warned us not to miss the season of wildflowers and temperate weather in our favorite state.
We chose Vail for our Colorado summertime adventure because of its relative proximity to Denver and the variety of recreational areas nearby. Our plan was to hike and bike as many trails as we could fit in.
The sheer number of options was a bit overwhelming, but with a little bit of advice from locals we were able to carve out an itinerary that allowed us to experience a number of unique landscapes.
We checked out several moderately challenging trails and are happy to share our top finds below.
Booth Falls Trail
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For those who prefer communing with nature in solitude, Booth Falls trail in the White River National Forest probably wouldn't be your first pick.
It is fairly well-trafficked and we understood why after hiking the 5-mile trail. It took us about three hours to cover at a leisurely pace. If you'd prefer less company during your hike, then it's recommendable to get going early in the morning.
The hike didn't take excessive effort, but between the distance and some areas that were more challenging, I wouldn't call it easy. I think this trail would be well-suited for families with older kids. We saw quite a few on the trail and they seemed to be doing fine.
There were some muddy places, so we were happy we had planned our footwear accordingly. You have to cross a couple of creeks along the way.
Booth Falls trail was speckled with majestic aspens and the sweeping vistas were spectacular. We were thrilled to see carpets of colorful wildflowers, a really different look from the snow-covered mountains we are used to. I'd like to say the highlight of the trek was the falls themselves, but the whole walk was so varied and lovely that I can't make that claim.
Some friendly trekkers along the way shared that going 2 miles beyond the falls would lead us to a picturesque lake. While it was tempting, we turned around and made our way back to the trailhead, as we didn't want to overdo it in a single day.
Lionshead Rock Trail
Lionshead Rock trail, also located in White River National Forest, was a very short drive from Vail. Its 4 miles required a good amount of effort, as it was uphill most of the way.
The Lionshead trailhead fooled us at first because it was labeled "Game Creek" at the point where we entered. We later realized that Game Creek trail leads to Lionshead Rock by veering off to the right after reaching the creek, about a half mile from the trailhead.
There were some muddy areas, so we wished we had bought waterproof hiking boots before heading up there. I wouldn't have expected residual runoff during that time of the year, but what would a visitor from the Sunshine State know about that?
We found this trail to be less popular than Booth Falls, in a good way. We came across some fellow hikers, but definitely fewer.
Much of the hike was wooded, but once we reached the rock and stood atop it, we were rewarded with a stunning view. The effort and time put into reaching Lionshead was well-spent.
Gore Creek Trail
Our favorite of all was Gore Creek trail, located in Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. There are a myriad trails to choose from in Eagle's Nest, and some blend together, but Gore Creek stands out to me. This trail spans about 13 miles (out and back).
After hiking on this trail a bit, we met up with a creek that ran alongside our path. The terrain alternated between forests and meadows dotted with wildflowers. At Gore Lake we were greeted by some curious mountain goats who looked down on us from the craggy rocks. That was a real experience we hadn't planned on.
We found that Gore Creek trail didn't demand too much effort; that is, until we approached Gore Lake. That's when we encountered steeper inclines and rocky places that required more caution.
It's been about a year since we visited Colorado's warmer season, but we keep talking about making it out there again. Like most people, our vacation days and travel budget aren't limitless so we have to make hard decisions; and giving up skiing is painful for us. We are by no means experienced hikers.
Maybe it's time for a permanent relocation.
Richard Remick works part time as an IT security consultant while traveling and exploring the outdoors. He spends most of his time skiing, hiking and camping in Colorado and when in Florida you can usually find him on the water either paddleboarding or kayaking. He writes about his travels on Outsidepursuits.com.