Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to content

Discover Vail’s Best Hikes for Views, Waterfalls and Wildflowers

Vail, Colo. – Hiking is a favorite activity among locals and visitors to Vail and with 166 miles of trails throughout the valley, it’s no wonder why. Vail Village’s proximity to trailheads is unmatched, with several trails available on Vail Mountain, other trailheads are easily accessible on the Town of Vail’s free public transportation system and a handful of other trails are only a short drive away. Stunning views, water and flora dot the landscape with options for beginners, families and experienced backpackers.

Great Views 

An easy and accessible hike is the Ridge Route to Ptarmigan Loop, conveniently located atop Vail Mountain. Hikers can take the Eagle Bahn gondola up to Eagle’s Nest with an outdoor patio perfect for grabbing a bite to eat before or after the hike. The trail weaves through ski runs, wildflower meadows and shady groves until it intersects with Ptarmigan Loop after 1.4 miles. The flat 1.2-mile Ptarmigan Loop leads hikers to Ptarmigan Point at 10,977 ft and offers stunning views of Mount of the Holy Cross (14,009 ft), Meadow Mountain, the Gore Range and Vail’s famous Back Bowls.

Bowmen’s Shortcut is a relatively moderate hike located off of Vail Pass with a summit that’s often considered “Top of the World.” The 8.5-mile loop trail brings hikers in and out of dense forests along the rolling ridgetop until it opens up at the “Top of the World” meadow, boasting 360-degree views of the Sawatch Range, Gore Range, Ten Mile Range and Vail ski area. Hikers can return the way they came or head to the resort by taking Two Elk Trail at Two Elk Pass and following the Two Elk Connector to the ski area.

Beautiful Wildflowers

Shrine Ridge Trail off of Vail Pass is a family-friendly 4.4-mile roundtrip hike that takes hikers across meadows, pine forests and eventually to the top of Shrine Mountain. The high elevation trail is best used in mid-to-late summer when it boasts fields of wildflowers. Colors of yellow, pink and purple flowers pop against the landscape and complement the expansive views from Shrine Ridge.

Located on the east end of Vail Valley, the 7.3-mile Gore Creek Trail immerses hikers into alpine splendor in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. The trail is named after the creek it climbs alongside, which is the same creek that runs through Vail Village. After winding through the forest, the trail opens up to meadows filled with wildflowers. Those interested in a challenge can continue straight ahead to Red Buffalo Pass or take the difficult trail up to Gore Lake.

Picturesque Waterfalls

Perhaps one of the most quintessential Vail hikes is Upper Piney River Trail, located about 15 miles north of Vail Village. The windy and bumpy road up to the trailhead is worth it, as the trail starts at Piney Lake which perfectly mirrors the Gore Range spread out in the distance. The 6.1-mile out and back hike is a great option for hikers of any level as it is smooth and gently ascends with only a few steeper pitches throughout. Winding through meadows, the trail gradually climbs into aspen groves, which turn beautiful orange colors in the fall. Once hikers enter the evergreen forest, they’ll soon reach cataracts, or cascades, that rush through the narrow rock chasm that is Upper Piney Falls. This is a great spot to rest or even have a picnic with ample space to spread out.

Although the entire trail is 9.8 miles out and back, Pitkin Creek Trail boasts a beautiful waterfall 2.5 miles in with fewer crowds than its neighbor Booth Creek Falls. The first half-mile of the trail is the steepest, but also leads hikers through a picturesque, dense aspen grove. After the initial pitch, the trail winds through grassy meadows and stands of lodgepole pines until it reaches Pitkin Falls.

There are several resources for additional area hikes including The Vail Hiker, the Vail Mountain hiking map and apps like The Hiking Project or All Trails.

Discover Vail in the spring, summer and fall. There’s no place like Vail for year-round recreation, outdoor pursuits and cultural experiences in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Nestled at the foot of Vail Mountain just two hours west of Denver, Vail’s fresh air, rugged beauty and charming pedestrian villages await visitors. Discover quaint Bavarian villages where outdoor activities abound and the performing arts flourish. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, family activities, world-class events and everything in between.

For more information on summer adventures in Vail, please visit

Media Contacts: Kristin Yantis & Corinne Baud, Malen Yantis Public Relations,

[email protected], (970) 949-7919