After the snow melts, Vail offers a multitude of hikes throughout the Gore Range. The area’s most popular hike is probably Booth Falls and Booth Lake Trail, which can be reached via the East Vail exit from I-70 by heading west on Booth Falls Road, passing the Vail Mountain School and turning right towards the trailhead parking. The trail snakes through aspens, boasts vast scenery and reaches a waterfall after about two miles and more than 1500 feet of elevation gain.
For the more intrepid hikers, continue on another two miles and another 1500 feet of climbing to reach Booth Lake. You’ll pass through a grove of the Colorado blue spruce and, in the spring and summer, meadows of wildflowers. Bring plenty of water and pack a lunch – it's worth it – but plan up to six hours of the round trip to Booth Lake.
Another local favorite is the Piney Creek Trail that you can reach from Red Sandstone Road just off the Vail exit from I-70. Follow the signs to Piney River Ranch and park in the public lot just before the fence. This hike is over five miles and can take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on your pace and leisure.
The key feature on this hike is the rock formations of red sandstone, cliff walls and rugged spires carved by the forces of nature over thousands of years. The hike includes a great payoff view of the valley and Gore Range with Piney Creek Falls just another 10 minutes beyond the look-out and an ideal spot to turn around.
Further afield, Hanging Lake is a magnificent hike that is shorter, a bit more touristy, but well worth the 35-minute drive from Vail including a trip through the scenic Glenwood Canyon. The exit for Hanging Lake can only be accessed heading east on I-70, so coming from Vail, you have to exit at Grizzly Creek, turn back east and then take the Hanging Lake exit, which leads you to the parking lot.
The trail is steep and rocky, but only about one mile long following along Dead Horse Creek. The scenery is stunning and the last stretch includes a railing, as you reach the top. The U.S. Forest Service recently completed an upgrade to the boardwalk and retaining walls around the lake last year, so things have been spruced up. The lake has incredible travertine rock and is visited by nearly 100,000 hikers each year.
For those more interested in high speeds in the summer, Vail has a full range of mountain biking trails across the mountain, which can be accessed from the Eagle Bahn Gondola with a day pass for $27 that includes bike haul. Riders can choose trails of all levels from winding gravel traverses for beginners to the old World Cup racing trail called ’94 Downhill that is only for experts with full pads and proper mountain biking equipment. Or pop into one of Vail’s nine sports specialty and bike shops and ask about the latest, best trail to bike. A lot of them will probably recommend Lost Lake Loop, one of the top rides in all of Colorado.