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Top 10 Colorado Summer Activities for Families in Vail

Surrounded by towering mountains, vast forests and rushing rivers, Vail is filled with outdoor adventures for the ultimate family summer vacation. Start making memories with our top 10 kid-approved Colorado summer activities for families.

A family of hikers pauses to look up at the sky as the sun begins to set near the ski chair lift on Vail Mountain in Colorado.

1. Explore Vail Mountain on a Family Hike

Kids and hiking don’t always go hand in hand, but on Vail Mountain you’ll find plenty of hikes perfect for a family outing. Try a shorter path with views of the babbling Gore Creek or a high-mountain trek through wildflower meadows that adults will find rewarding, and kids will actually enjoy.

A family mountain bikes in the summer sunshine down a single-track dirt trail through the Vail Mountain in Colorado.

2. Biking in Vail

In Vail, there are plenty of opportunities for biking with the kids. Keep it easy and casual with rides along paved routes that follow the peaceful creek or wind through town. Thrill-seeking families will revel in the miles of Colorado mountain-biking trails with challenging ascents and zippy downhill tracks lined with aspens. No matter whether you opt for road or mountain, biking is a wonderful way to explore Vail and the mountains on two wheels.

A group of people wearing red helmets and life vests float down rushing waters near Vail, Colorado.

3. Enjoy a Family Float or Paddling Excursion

When the snow melts, the rivers near Vail fill with rushing water and turn into a Colorado-whitewater-rafting haven. You’ll find options for all-day, half-day and shorter trips through the rapids on the Eagle and Colorado rivers. You can also choose a leisurely float trip if that’s more your speed. The Shoshone Trip through Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River is a classic and lets kids as young as 5 years old don a life vest and experience the power of the river. There are many private outfitters to guide you down the rivers, whether this is your first trip or 10th.

A group of people ride brown horses along a grassy hillside in Vail, Colorado. Trees stand in the background and clouds fill the sky.

4. Horseback Ride in Vail

Giddyap! The West and the mountains can’t be fully experienced without horses, and Vail’s the spot to saddle up with the whole family. Vail Stables offers guided trail rides through awe-inspiring scenery right in Vail. Want to introduce kiddos to a four-legged friend? They’ll love the pony rides and small petting farm with its rambunctious goats.

Piney River Ranch also offers several riding options and pony rides for younger cowpokes. Or, experience authentic ranch life with horseback and wagon rides at 4 Eagle Ranch and Bear Cat Stables, just outside town.

A parent and their child zip around the curved track of the alpine coaster at Epic Discovery near Vail, Colorado.

5. Find More Outdoor Thrills Atop Vail Mountain

Take Gondola One for a panoramic ride to Vail Mountain summit where exciting family adventures await at Epic Discovery. You’ll love the summer tubing, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, alpine coaster and more. Packages are available and can be customized to include lift tickets, activities and even lunches. Head up mid-morning, as thunderstorms can build in the late afternoon and cut your outing short. Be sure bring extra layers since temperatures run cooler at higher elevations.

A young child leads a tall, mostly-white llama by a rope through the forest near Vail, Colorado.

6. Book a Llama Trek With Paragon Guides

Take your family’s hiking experience to the next level with a llama trek through Vail’s backcountry. Llama trips range from easy walks to challenging climbs and can be adjusted to your family’s adventure level, ages and abilities. Personality-packing llamas will light up your kids’ faces with their entertaining ways. Paragon Guides will even supply water, snacks and picnic lunches.

A parent and their teenager both wear water waders while standing in a river near Vail, Colorado. They fish together with a mountain peak behind them.

7. Fishing on Vail’s Gold Medal Waters

Along with its famous ski slopes, Vail is also hot spot for avid anglers. Stay close to the villages by fly fishing Gore Creek’s Gold Medal Waters. Surrounded by Vail’s serene forests and majestic peaks, fishing is an ideal way to introduce your kids to the peace and quiet of the forever sport.

For the best Vail fishing experience, we suggest hiring a fishing guide to take you to the local honey holes, show you the best flies for tempting catches and help you perfect your techniques. A morning, afternoon or full day on the water trying to reel in the big one with your kids will be a day well spent.

At Pirate Ship Park in Vail, Colorado, kids romp and play on a life-size pirate ship complete with plank and climbing nets.

8. Play at Vail’s Playgrounds & Water Features

Vail’s playgrounds and splash spots are an ideal spot for active kiddos to burn off some excess energy. At the base of Gondola One, Pirate Ship Park is popular for its life-sized pirate ship along with swings, climbing nets and a plank to walk. Watch your kids become pirates before your eyes.

Pro tip: Put your feet up and keep an eye on things from the Los Amigos deck while sipping a margarita.

With its climbing wall, slides, swings and cozy hideaways, Ford Playground will keep the kids occupied for hours. In Lionshead, youngsters can investigate Sunbird Park’s three giant cocoon-like birds’ nests with connecting bridges and slides, then cool off in the nearby jumping fountains.

On a hot day, The Children’s Fountain in Vail Village has three fountains for splashing around and a shallow area for wading. Before they get soaked, duck into Fuzziwig’s Candy Shop for a delightful sugar rush. Naturally, Gore Creek has many places to dip in toes and cool off. A few of the easiest places to access the creek are in front of Mountain Standard, below Ford Playground, in front of the Vail Public Library and along the bike path in front of the Lion Square Lodge.

Two paddleboarders make their way across the vast lake near Piney River Ranch close to Vail, Colorado.

9. Paddling & More at Piney River Ranch

Piney River Ranch is a must-see gem set on the edge of Piney Lake at the foot of the Gore Range. This 40-acre retreat is an essential family trip just 12 miles outside of Vail. Hike the 5.9 miles round trip to Piney Falls, canoe or paddleboard on the lake, cast a line or simply soak in the spectacular views. The on-site Lodge Restaurant & Bar serves delicious barbecue on their sunny outdoor patio, so no need to worry about packing along food. The unpaved gravel road from Vail to Piney Ranch is accessible by any vehicle — just take it slow and enjoy the scenery. It’s all part of the adventure.

10. Explore & Learn at Vail Nature Center

At Vail Nature Center, a preserved homestead set in the heart of Vail, you’ll find creekside trails and wildflower-filled mountain meadows. Plus, explore exciting edu-tainment opportunities for curious minds of all ages with hands-on exhibits and programs, including hiking, morning bird walks, beaver pond tours, stargazing and nature tours.

Whatever you choose to do, no visit to Vail is going to feel long enough. There’s a lifetime of memories to make and you might just find yourself planning your next trip before you leave.

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