Taking in all that stunning mountain scenery doesn’t have to be strenuous. Go on an easy Vail hike or stroll, with little to no elevation gain. Try these low-impact paved paths and trails with Leave No Trace Principles in mind:
East Vail Portion of Gore Valley Trail
Gore Valley Trail is a beautiful, shared hiking and biking path meandering across 12 miles of bike lanes, streets and standalone trails. Along this East Vail stretch, you’ll pass below a vibrant, red-sandstone cliff band while following Gore Creek. The easy walk leads to the bloom-bestrewn meadows and fluttering aspen groves on the east end of a golf course. Pack a picnic for this one with goodies to-go from a Vail Village restaurant.
Vail Recreation Path
Vail Recreation Path is the perfect way to explore Vail by foot (or bike — find bike-rental information). Passing through the middle of town, the trail winds from West Vail to East Vail, following the rushing Gore Creek with 1,100 acres of open space. The path stretches for 15 miles and is surrounded by 350,000 acres of national forestland. Sections of the path are “improved gravel” and parts are completely paved. Enjoy nature and the sound of the creek just steps away from the Village life.
Vail Nature Center
Vail Nature Center (part of Walking Mountains Science Center) is a 1940s homestead perched between a mountain meadow and the forested bank of Gore Creek. Generally open from mid-June through early September (depending on the weather, of course), here you can explore 7 acres of alpine beauty in the heart of Vail. This tranquil gem is the perfect spot to adventure across a web of trails hugging Gore Creek. Don’t forget to wander inside and learn from the exhibits and well-informed staff. Programs include hiking, wildflower viewing, stargazing and creekside nature tours.
Join the Vail Nature Center staff on a leisurely (and free!) one-hour wildflower walk through thick forests and grassy meadows to learn about all the flora that carpets the mountains. See wildflower walk dates and register.
Go with a naturalist at Vail Nature Center for a meandering, one-hour nature walk to learn about Vail’s local wildlife and unique ecology. This walk is fun for all ages and free to enjoy. See nature walk dates and register.
Creekside Nature Tours
Take a casual stroll along Vail’s streamside paths (you’ll hear the rushing water as you walk!) to the Vail Nature Center. Tours depart from the Walking Mountains Science Center booth at the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show. This all-ages tour is free, too. See the tour calendar.
Nature Discovery Center
Take a soaring Eagle Bahn Gondola ride (out of Lionshead Village) to the Nature Discovery Center yurt for natural-history exhibits featuring wildlife like black bears and weasels. It’s found next to the Eagle’s Nest building at the mountaintop. Free nature hikes — and snowshoe tours in winter — are based here as well.
Easy Guided Nature Hike
Be led by a local expert on a free, educational hike through the aspen-laden forest atop Vail Mountain. This hike is appropriate for most ages and abilities. See the hike calendar and register.
Moderate Guided Nature Hike
For those looking for more adventure than relaxation, join the Nature Discover Center for a 2-mile guided hike designed to explore Vail Mountain’s high-elevation ecosystem. This guided hike is appropriate for ages 12 and up and is free. See the hike calendar and register.
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Appreciate the highest botanical gardens in the world that happens to be tucked away right here in Vail. Walk the verdant grounds to discover a one-of-a-kind collection of alpine, sub-alpine and other mountain plants and flowers that includes the state flower — the white-and-blue columbine. The gardens are open daily for on-your-own strolling or a tour. Visit the Education Center to learn about the alpine environment and plants from around the world via informational and sometimes interactive exhibits.
Storywalk® Book at Bighorn Park
Vail Public Library installed a picturesque StoryWalk at Bighorn Park in Vail called “The Gruffalo.” This outdoor exhibit is an innovative and delightful way for children — and adults — to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. As you walk the tranquil trail, you’ll be directed to the “next page” in the story.