How to keep hiking in the Vail Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic |

How to keep hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic

With business, restaurant and mountain closures, it might feel as though, even if it was appropriate to leave the house, there wouldn’t be anything to do besides push through crowds at Walmart. But there’s still a chance to get outside and do an activity that gets blood flowing and keeps people of all ages entertained: hiking.

“Hiking, outdoor recreation are great things to do with your family and we encourage that in the coming days and weeks,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press conference last week.

Similarly, in a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the department stated that along with practicing social distancing and self-quarantining, residents and visitors in Eagle county should “continue healthy, non-group activities like walking, hiking, jogging, cycling and other activities that maintain distance from other people.”

Trails may get a bit more crowded with schools canceled and many out of work or working from home. Still maintain 6 feet of distance between your party and others.
Casey Russell |

I went on a 4-ish mile hike yesterday, and didn’t even need to drive to the trailhead, which can be pretty easy especially if you live near the North Trail system in Vail. I walked from my house to the Davos Hill Climb in West Vail, which starts at the intersection of North Frontage Road and Arosa Drive (parking is available). You could also start at Davos Trail Road, where there’s a parking lot in a cul-de-sac.

There are a few switchbacks on the aforementioned trail, and it’s a bit rougher, but quite beautiful. The latter is well-packed, but there will be more people. Both trails merge and continue for another 1.5-2 miles from there, so you can even experiment and take one trail up and the other down. The trailheads are less than a mile from each other, so if you parked, you can get to your car fairly easily. I recommend starting with the first trail and ending with the second trail because your walk to your car will be downhill.

Finding a trailhead

These images from the Davos Hill Climb reflect conditions as of Sunday, March 16. Snowshoes aren’t necessary, but yaktraks or spikes would be helpful. The trail is doable without.
Casey Russell |

New to the area and don’t have go-to trails? Here are my favorite ways to find spots.


Everyone knows about this app, so I won’t go too in-depth, but make sure you click over to map view and scour the nearby area, since you’re not really supposed to leave Eagle County at this time, per the CDPHE release. This app’s best feature is its difficulty rating, which is accurate most of the time.

Hiking Project

Basically AllTrails, but way better. I frequently find that there are more trails listed on this app, and I prefer the interface – it feels faster and less clunky to me. I like using this app to track where I’m at using geolocation in real time. Of course, that feature only works when I’m not too deep in the woods.

How to take great pictures on your hike

Another photography tip is to use subjects in the foreground to frame the background. In this image, the tree and its needles frame the trees in the background.
Casey Russell |

In the age of ever-present technology, it’s hard to not want to capture your hike with a tiny digital image. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to take those amazing pictures on your iPhone, here are some photography tips to help you get the perfect shot.

Hold your camera horizontally

For the love of everything that is good in this world, turn your phone horizontally (unless your subject warrants a vertical, like trees at a close range). There’s a reason they call it landscape orientation.

Rule of thirds

Draw a tic-tac-toe board visually across your viewfinder/screen, (or turn on Grid when using your camera). Try to capture your most important subject in one of the areas where the lines intersect. That’s the rule of thirds – threes are pleasing to the eyes.

Check your light

On iPhones, turn on the grid by going to Settings > Camera > Grid. Then, when in the Camera app, tap the screen to get the yellow box that focuses and sets exposure.
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Especially with phone cameras, you need a ton of light to ensure it will be that high resolution that phone manufacturers promise when selling you the thing. Personally, I like to shoot in the same direction that light is illuminating, so the sun is behind my back. It ensures your subject won’t be too washed out or dark, and you won’t get light glares, unless that’s something you want to capture.

Plus, try tapping your phone screen to focus on one exposure (amount of light the camera is letting in to create the image) and adjusting it until your screen shows you the most pleasing image.

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