Eagles Nest Wilderness Area

#6 in Best Things To Do in Vail
Eagles Nest Wilderness Area picture
Patrick_Lienin/Getty Images

Key Info

Route 9

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.3scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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

Eagles Nest Wilderness Area is open to visitors year-round, although winter travelers should be cautious when hiking in heavy snowfall. The best hiking weather usually occurs between June and September (higher elevation passes may not be accessible early or late in the season thanks to heavy snowfall). There is no entry fee required to explore the park. For more information, visit the White River National Forest 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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