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Best Things To Do in Vail

The majority of Vail's visitors come to tackle the slopes. The Vail Ski Resort boasts 5,289 skiable acres, making it one of the largest single-mountain resorts in the country. If that's not enough powder, head to neighboring Beaver Creek, which is quickly moving up the list of popular ski retreats. However, summer travelers shouldn't rule Vail out. With the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and the Holy Cross Wilderness Area just a short drive from town, the region boasts ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in balmy temps, too.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated June 28, 2017

  • #1
    Hiking
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    Hiking
    free
    #1 in Vail
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Though Vail's ski terrain receives much of the spotlight, the area's many hiking trails are just as impressive. If you've got a car, you may want to consider driving to Eagles Nest or Holy Cross – two wilderness areas with impressive trails well-suited for backpackers. If you're hoping to trek closer to town, you'll find several trails on Vail Mountain, accessible from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Here, you'll find trails ranging from short 1-mile hikes (Eagle's Loop and Fireweed) to more intermediate treks (Berrypicker and Ridge Route). Though you will have to pay for the gondola ride ($36 for adults; free for children accompanying a paying adult), the hiking trails won't cost you a thing to access.

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  • #2
    Vail Ski Resort
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    #2 in Vail
    Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Boasting 5,289 skiable acres, a vertical drop of 3,450 feet and 31 lifts, the Vail Ski Resort is massive. And Vail's 195 trails cater to a wide variety of skiers, with well-tended slopes for novices and rugged runs for experts. But what's even more impressive is that all of this primo powder is found on one mountain, making this one of the largest single-mountain resort in the country. Across its terrain are four parks that range in difficulty from beginner to advanced, along with several upper alpine areas called bowls. After the snow has melted, the resort offers a bevy of summer activities, including hiking, biking, zip lining, alpine coasters, and the perennial traveler favorite, gondola rides up to Vail Mountain's summit.  

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  • #3
    Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
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    #3 in Vail
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's no secret that Vail was the preferred vacation spot for former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty. In fact, Betty Ford became known by locals as the "First Lady of the Vail Valley" because of her efforts to help this mountain community flourish. In honor of her generosity, the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation created this beautiful botanical garden in her name. Visitors to the garden can enjoy stunning views of the Rocky Mountains while strolling through brightly colored flowerbeds, streams and waterfalls. 

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  • #4
    Holy Cross Wilderness Area
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    #4 in Vail
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Straddling the Arkansas River about 30 miles south of Vail, the Holy Cross Wilderness Area makes for a great daytrip during the warmer months. Encompassing an impressive 122,797 acres of rugged Colorado scenery  including jagged mountains, lush valleys and verdant aspen forests  the park is home to 164 miles of hiking and biking trails. Just make sure to bring your camera: You're sure to come in contact with a few elk. 

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  • #5
    Beaver Creek Resort
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    #5 in Vail
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located about 13 miles west of Vail in Avon, Colorado, the Beaver Creek Resort is the newer kid on the block. Still, since it opened in 1980 Beaver Creek has earned a reputation as a premier ski destination that rivals the heavyweight Vail Ski Resort (even though they're both owned by Vail Resorts). Today, Beaver Creek offers winter travelers 1,815 acres of skiable terrain (about half of which is devoted to novice and intermediate skiers), 150 trails and 4,040 feet of vertical rise. Plus, the renowned ski and snowboard school makes this venue a great place to spark your kids' love of snow or to refresh your own skills. Past visitors also recommend stopping by just to stroll around Beaver Creek's three villages, which are known for their contemporary atmosphere and wide variety of shops and restaurants.

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  • #6
    Eagles Nest Wilderness Area
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    #6 in Vail
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Covering nearly 133,500 acres of the Gore Mountain Range just north of Vail, the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area is not for the faint of heart. This park's 180 miles of trails traverse rugged mountainsides and can expose hikers to a whopping 5,684-foot change in elevation. But those who do take on Eagles Nest's intense terrain will be rewarded with spectacular photo ops of alpine lakes, snowcapped peaks and towering evergreens. There are several multiday backpacking hikes along the Gore Range Trail, but if you're looking for a more moderate and shorter trek, heed the advice of recent travelers and consider the 7-mile Upper Piney River Trail, which takes visitors to Upper Piney Lake, with waterfalls along the way. The Vail Recreation District also offers a variety of guided hikes through Eagles Nest and Holy Cross. You can make reservations in advance on the Vail Recreation District website

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  • #7
    Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame
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    #7 in Vail
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Before hitting the slopes, consider taking a quick tour of the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame. This small facility in central Vail pays tribute to the region's reputation as a winter wonderland. The museum's exhibits focus on the development of the area ski resorts (and the evolution of the sport in general), as well as other favorite slopes found throughout the state. Visitors also learn about how the U.S. Forest Service  particularly the 10th Mountain Division, the ski troopers of World War II  has worked to ensure the safety of skiers for decades. Afterward, take some time to honor the people that have helped make Colorado a skiing haven at the hall of fame.

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  • #8
    Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
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    #8 in Vail
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for former President Gerald Ford, this outdoor performance venue plays host to some of Vail's most popular events, including the Vail Dance Festival and the Bravo! Vail music festival. However, according to previous audience members, what makes this amphitheater special is its setting on a hillside in the Rocky Mountains.

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  • #9
    River Rafting
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    #9 in Vail
    Recreation, Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're looking for an adrenaline-fueled, warm-weather activity, you may want to heed the advice of recent visitors and book a river rafting and tubing trip. Not only does Vail Village boast its own whitewater park, but there are also a variety of Class I to Class V river trips on the nearby Eagle, Colorado and Arkansas rivers.

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