If you’re an outdoors-lover searching for things to do in Vail, set your sights on Vail Mountain’s Nature Discovery Center. Part of the Walking Mountains Science Center, this unassuming mountaintop yurt is packed with cool exhibits about local wildlife like ravens, weasels, lynx and black bears.
But the best part of the Nature Discovery Center experience is, of course, found outside on a variety of different hikes and adventures … all free! Grab your binoculars, lace up your boots and take a look at the fun that awaits.
Nature Discovery Center Hikes & Snowshoe Tours
What’s better than a free guided tour? How about a free guided tour led by a naturalist trained in interpretive education? You’ll explore some of the loveliest hiking in Vail on these memory-making excursions. Along the way, learn about the plants and wildlife that call the mountain “home,” as well as summer ecology and how animals adapt to the season. In winter, the powdery landscape transforms hikes to snowshoe tours. Regardless of the season, you can expect plenty of majestic mountain views.
In summer, two tour types are offered:
- Easy Guided Nature Hikes: On this tour, a naturalist from the Walking Mountains Science center will lead you through the forest. It lasts about an hour and is a good option for most ages and ability levels.
- Moderate Guided Nature Hikes: This 1.5-hour outing is a little more challenging and is best for those ages 12 and up. Your naturalist guide will lead you on a tougher 2-mile hike. You’ll find the work well worth it as you learn how mountain ecosystems work.
Winter offers a delightful snowshoe excursion:
- Guided Snowshoe Tours: See Vail in its winter finery as your guide leads you through snow-covered forests to overlooks boasting truly magical vistas. This tour lasts about 1.5 hours and covers varied terrain. It’s available to folks ages 10 and up and is suitable for most ability levels.
Occasionally, special themed Vail hiking tours — such as those exploring how nature inspires music — are offered, so keep an eye out for those, too. And if you’re still itching to play in our stunning outdoors, join Vail Nature Center for wildflower walks, campfire talks and creekside nature tours.
Note: The Nature Discovery Center’s days and hours of operation can vary depending on the season; always check their official site and events calendar before booking your tour. Registration is required for all tours.
You’re in for a treat because the only way to reach the Nature Discovery Center is on a scenic gondola ride. Catch the Eagle Bahn Gondola from Lionshead, and enjoy the sweeping views on the way to the top of Vail Mountain. The center is a green yurt that’s just a short walk away from the Eagle’s Nest building.
Know Before You Go: All visitors must purchase a Scenic Gondola Ride ticket in summer or have a valid lift ticket/season pass in winter to ride the gondola.