Experience the region’s natural beauty when you embark on some of the best Vail hiking trails. The stunning scenes of gorgeous landscapes are sure to inspire you. Climb up towering mountain peaks, hike down into breathtaking valleys, and admire the local flora and fauna that make Vail so special to us. See for yourself why many of us came for skiing but stayed for the mesmerizing mountain scenery.
Read on for some of our favorite trails. Then, be sure to request a copy of our complimentary Vacation Guide for authentic local suggestions on where to go and what to do during your vacation here.
10 of the Best Vail Hiking Trails
We have a lot of hikers on our staff. In fact, some even volunteer as search and rescue members. We love to get out and explore the backcountry. Among all of us, we’ve probably hiked almost every trail in the area, and then some (we do go off-trail occasionally). Here is a list of our favorites, on-trail, of course, and categorized by area:
East Vail Hiking Trails
1. Booth Falls/Lake (East Vail)
Some staff members consider Booth Lake to be the best lake in the Vail Valley, and they’ve hiked to most of them. If you’re up for it, we recommend the lengthier hike (4.1 miles) to the lake, which is considered a more strenuous hike. There is also a shorter option to Booth Falls. This hike is just two miles long and is considered to be more moderate in difficulty.
2. Gore Creek/Lake Trails (East Vail)
The beauty of the Gore Creek/Lake Trail is that you can go for as short or long as you like. It takes roughly 5.5 miles to get to Gore Lake, and there is breathtaking scenery the entire way. You’ll spend most of the hike listening to the sounds of Gore Creek as you walk beside it, and there is lots of shade to keep you cool in the warmer months.
3. Deluge Lake Trail (East Vail)
Excellent for bird-watching, the Deluge Lake Trail is a lengthier option for those looking for a more strenuous hike. This nine-mile trail is moderate and features a lake as well as other natural scenery. It is also dog-friendly, which is an additional perk!
Minturn Hiking Trails
4. Lake Constantine (Minturn)
Though it takes a little while to get to the trailhead (it’s an eight-mile drive up to Forest Service road #707/ Tigiwon Road in Minturn), this Lake Constantine hike is absolutely stunning. This trail leads you on a short three-mile hike or so to the lake. It’s also a great spot to camp if you are backpacking!
5. Notch Mountain Trail (Minturn)
Notch Mountain Trail is considered to be a longer, more challenging hike. It will take you roughly five miles to reach the Notch Mountain Shelter. This trail delivers some of the most gorgeous, high alpine scenery and one of the best views you’ll find of the famous Mount of the Holy Cross. You’ll be singing “Rocky Mountain High” all the way up. It is an eight-mile drive up Tigiwon Road to the trailhead, so plan to get an early start for this one. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also do a side hike of Notch Mountain (13,237 feet) from the shelter.
6. Grouse Lake Trail (Minturn)
There is no need to drive up Tigiwon Road for this one. The Grouse Lake trailhead is located just before the town of Minturn. One staff member states, “When I first moved to the valley, it was by far my favorite hike, and it still holds a special place in my heart. It is 4.6 miles to the lake, which, in my opinion, is one of the prettiest lakes in the valley.” Need we say more?
West Vail Hiking Trails
7. Davos Trail (West Vail)
Davos Trail is 5.4-miles long and is another staff favorite and part of Vail’s North Trail System. One staff member says she likes it for Vail’s views, the wildlife (she always sees at least one deer), and because it is her dog, Lily’s, favorite trail!
Vail Pass & Vail Hiking Trails
8. Shrine Ridge (Vail Pass)
Shrine Ridge is a great hike mid-summer during wildflower season when the meadows are awash with color. Temperatures cool down the higher you go (starts around 11,000 ft), and in a short 2.1 miles, you have 360-degree views, including Copper Mountain, Mount of the Holy Cross, the Gore Range, and Vail’s Back Bowls.
9. Berry Picker Trail (Vail)
Berry Picker Trail is a 7.9-mile trek that leads you through fields of wildflowers in the summers and forests of golden yellow aspens in the fall. You can access this trail year-round, and it is also dog-friendly. It is considered to be more difficult than some of the other trails on this list.
Piney Lake Hiking Trails
10. Upper Piney River Falls Trail (Piney Lake)
For a more moderate hike, the Upper Piney River Falls Trail is a beautiful 5.9-mile option. We recommend this hike, especially in the fall. You won’t believe the gorgeous colors of the aspens this time of year. This trek is a real leaf-peeping treasure.
Vail Hiking Trail Difficulty & Maps
Eagle’s Loop (1 mile | elevation gain: +31 ft.) – Great for families with young kids. Located at the top of Vail Mountain, it requires a ticket purchase to ride the Eagle Bahn gondola. View Eagle’s Loop trail map.
Meadow Loop (2.1 miles | elevation gain: +482 ft.) – Another good one for families on Vail Mountain. It starts at Mid-Vail and requires a ticket purchase to ride Gondola 1. View Meadow Loop trail map.
Lost Lake (3.73 miles one way | elevation gain: +808 ft. – 416 ft. = +392 ft.) – The trail follows a ridge dividing the Piney and Red Sandstone drainages while traveling though lodgepole pine and aspen groves. It gradually climbs 600 feet to the trail’s high point and then drops slightly to Lost Lake. Local tip: Bring bug spray! View Lost Lake trail map.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hiking is one the best ways to explore the Vail Valley and offers so many benefits. It’s good exercise, requires no special skills, is free and the mental health benefits of being in nature are all there for the taking.
Yes, we do! See our tips below:
- There’s a saying in Colorado “that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes!” Bring a daypack, and make sure you have extra layers and rain gear at the minimum. If you’ll be at higher elevations, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a stocking hat and gloves.
- Also, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water, extra food, a map, a first aid kit, a headlamp or flashlight, a knife, and matches or a fire starter. In other words, the 10 essentials (including the extra clothing mentioned in the first bullet).
- Unless the hike is on Vail Mountain or has a trailhead in Vail accessible by bus, you will need a car to get to the trailhead. All trails we listed can be accessed in a 2-wheel drive vehicle. Some trailheads will take extra time to get to, so make sure you plan for that in your schedule.
- The mountains are known for the possibility of afternoon storms, so it’s best to start your hike in the morning and be back below the treeline before storms roll in.
There are hikes to suit every ability level, every schedule, and every objective. Between our team, we’ve hiked almost every trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness.
- Have small kids? There are hikes for you.
- Want to hike to a high mountain lake, scenic overlook, through a field of wildflowers, or to a historical site? There are hikes for you.
- Only have an hour to kill or have you set aside a whole day? There are hikes for you.
A Stay in Gorgeous, Luxurious Accommodations at the Lodge at Lionshead!
Now that you know more about the best Vail hiking trails, it’s time to start planning the rest of your getaway! Make the most of your vacation full of exciting outdoor adventures when you stay with us at the Lodge at Lionshead. Our gorgeous property sits on a beautiful slice of Colorado wilderness and is situated along the scenic Gore Creek. We’re just east of Lionshead plaza, which makes our location convenient, but still far enough to feel quiet and secluded.