Ticket for Adventure
Some recommended experiences for your Vail Valley vacation
Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Visit Vail Valley – The Official Visitors Guide
It is very common to have rain at one end of the valley, and sunshine at the other.
If inclement weather rolls in while you’re in Vail, check the weather in Eagle — and vice versa. Chase the sunshine!
If you want to get off the beaten path, there’s no more magical spot than Piney River Ranch. Just 12 miles north of Vail Village (about a 45-minute drive, sometimes replete with moose sightings), it’s a popular spot for canoeing and stand up paddleboarding (SUPing), hiking, camping and wildlife viewing with the added bonus of spectacular views of the peaks of the Gore Range.
Piney River Ranch rents canoes and SUPs, and you can take a leisurely tour of the lake before heading to the restaurant for some pulled pork or carnitas tacos and a beer on the porch.
If you want a more adventurous route to the top, hop on your mountain bike. It’s a full-day mission, but here’s the route: ride up son of Middle Creek to Lost Lake then ride down to Piney Lake. After you’ve taken in the scenery (and perhaps a beverage), you can ride back on Buffehr Creek.
Explore the Wild West
Found just 30 minutes west of Vail, 4 Eagle Ranch pays loving homage to Eagle County’s ranching history. The property sits in the middle of a wide, pristine valley, where summertime horseback rides and ATV tours, and wintertime sleigh ride dinners are paired with stunning views of New York Mountain to the south and Vail Mountain to the east. The ranch’s “First Thursday” events celebrate the tradition of country dancing. Line dancing instruction kicks off the evening, followed by a live band and a la carte buffet. Take some time to check out the valley’s only winemaking operation, Vines of Vail, which operates out of 4 Eagle Ranch.
The ranch is also the home base for Zip Adventures, Vail’s first zipline criss-crosses Alkali Creek Canyon. Further downstream, the creek feeds into the Eagle River and carries kayakers, rafters and fishermen to Eagle and beyond. The ziplines vary in height and length, with some offering a nice cruise and others a free-for-all of speed and daring. Some adrenaline junkies have clocked in at 50 mph, which feels a lot faster when you’re airborne. The longest of the lines is 1,000 feet while the highest is 200 feet above the ground. Zippers do some light hiking between the waypoints, where they climb onto a wooden stand and strap in. The trips are always done with a guide, and take a little over 2 hours.
Those interested in the history of the valley can take a scenic drive and explore the area’s mining — and soldiering — roots. Hop in the car and head to Minturn, a funky little town with a big backyard. Keep going and you’ll find Gilman, an abandoned mining town that sits just before the Red Cliff bridge. Though the ghost town is off limits to visitors, it is easily photographed from the road.
Vail’s history is inseparable from that of the 10th Mountain Division, the mighty ski troopers that helped win World War II. A sculpture depicting a 10th Mountain soldier sits next to Vail’s covered bridge. And on select Fridays throughout the ski season, take in a 10th Mountain Legacy Parade, which includes skiers dressed in traditional uniforms in a Torchlight Ski Down to the base of Gondola One, followed by a parade of military veterans. And if you wander south along Highway 24 and you can discover Camp Hale, where many of those soldiers trained in the snow.
Hop back in the car and keep driving until you find Leadville. The “highest incorporated town in North America,” Leadville has a mining museum. Better yet, take a ride on the Leadville and Colorado Southern Railroad (LC&S), which runs routes in the San Isabel National Forest, 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley. On the ride passengers learn about Leadville and its legends, such as Molly Brown, Augusta and Baby Doe Tabor, the Guggenheims and Doc Holiday.
Though skiing and snowboarding are the lifeblood of the valley, there’s more to do on the snow. Try a moonlight snowshoe tour with Walking Mountains Science Center. Naturalists will guide you on a captivating journey into the night; you’ll also learn about the habits of nocturnal animals along the way.
Or, in the light of the day, head over to the Vail Golf Club and Nordic Center. During the summer months the golf course is one of the more picturesque in the Valley, offering views of the Gore Range. But during the winter, it becomes a wonderland for cross-country and skate skiers, snowshoers and even snow-bikers — and they rent all the gear too.
An Authentic Backcountry Adventure
Sage Outdoor Adventures is your ticket to pristine and inspiring outdoor activities, from snowmobiling to rafting, side-by-side RZRs, 5 stand sporting clays, fly-fishing and horseback riding.
Darryl and Cole Bangert, co-owners and father/son team, have been backcountry and river guides for over 40 years. Joe Tomasic, general manager, has been with the pair since 1997 and helped open Sage in 2008.
All land-based tours operate on a 6,000-acre private mountain situated near Castle Peak, north of Wolcott. Sage snowmobilers, ATVers and horseback riders have this mountain all to themselves.
Sage hires its guides based on personality and core values. These knowledgeable, passionate and friendly guides usher small groups on trails through forests of aspen, juniper, sage and pine, dotted with sparkling ponds and creeks. This guarantees an intimate backcountry experience with stunning views, including the grand overlook on Red Canyon Cliffs, which sits above a 2,400-foot chasm.
In addition to over 85 miles of custom-built four-wheeling and snowmobiling trails, the company owns conveniently located river rafting outposts on the Eagle, Arkansas and Colorado rivers. Sage’s whitewater rafting program is the most thought out, family friendly and professional experience in Colorado.
Fly-fishing on 7 miles of private water is one-of-a-kind— with its access to the most pristine landscapes, tall trees and cliff sides— takes place on the exclusive Piney River. It’s the “Holy Grail” of fly-fishing rivers intended for experienced fly fishers.
“Our main goal is to connect people with nature and hope they disconnect from their daily grind for at least a few minutes,” Tomasic says. “We take people to amazing locations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to.”
I frequently hike the beautiful North Trail which is perched above West Vail and the scenic Gore Creek Valley. With amazing views of the Gore Range’s rugged peaks one can also view the town center of Vail and the trail runs on Vail Mountain. The wildflowers are spectacular and the views stretch for days. After the hike, it’s fun to hop on a free bus from West Vail into Vail Village and enjoy a delicious meal on Vendetta’s patio. Surrounded by flowers, the patio scene is a hot spot that attracts locals and visitors, who are known to bring their dogs on occasion. Try the stuffed shells. They. Are. Amazing.
Mountain Youth, Eat Chat Parent
Community Impact Award Winner
For downvalley humans, it’s pretty cool when elk decide to hunker down around Eagle for the winter. For the elk, it’s more of a lesser-of-two-evils situation.