Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

#3 in Best Things To Do in Vail
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens picture
Daderot/Wikimedia Commons

Key Info

530 S. Frontage Road

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Parks and Gardens, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.6scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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. 

Recent visitors raved about the gardens, complimenting their well-maintained plants, stunning mountain views and the Education Center's interactive opportunities for children. Some visitors warned that those prone to altitude sickness may suffer some symptoms here as the gardens are located 8,250 feet above sea level, making it the highest botanical garden in the United States. Drinking plenty of water (which is available to purchase in the on-site gift shop), will help combat the effects.

You'll find the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens nearby the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater at the foot of Vail Mountain. The garden is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Admission is free, but you might want to bring along some souvenir money for the gift shop. Public and private tours are offered June through August Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m., beginning at the Education Center. The fee is $5. During the winter, there are also guided snowshoe tours through the gardens' winter Tree Trail. Snowshoes are available for both adults and children; the cost is $5. You can also take a self-guided snowshoe tour during the hours that the Education Center is open: Monday-Saturday10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can learn more about the gardens and see a calendar of events by visiting the official website.

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#1 Vail Hiking

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.

If you'd rather not pay the gondola fee, you'll find several hikes on National Forest Service land that are accessible via Vail's free bus system, including Bighorn Creek, Booth Creek, Deluge Creek, Gore Creek, and Pitkin Creek, among others. Recent visitors especially liked the Booth Falls Trail, which sits a little more than a mile from Interstate 70 in East Vail. It's a steep trail, but a favorite among travelers for its wildflowers, waterfalls and view of the Gore Range. You can also sign up for a guided hike of the area with an interactive hiking expert. For more details, visit the Vail resort website.

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