Vail’s aspen-filled forests provide a spectacular sight for hikers in the fall when they burst into a golden glow. The villages’ proximity to the nearby 166 miles of trails is unmatched, with several trails conveniently located on Vail Mountain. Other trailheads are easily accessible on the Town of Vail’s free public transportation system and other trails are only a short drive away. Cool weather, stunning views and countless opportunities for leaf peeping make Vail the ideal spot for fall hikes. Read below for our favorites this time of year.
Lost Lake Trail
A great hike for the whole family is Lost Lake Trail, located about nine miles north of Vail Village. The windy and bumpy road up to the trailhead is worth it for the golden aspen groves, views of the Gore Range and a picturesque lake. The 3.75-mile out and back trail is nearly a level footpath that winds through trees that open up at Lost Lake. The lake is a popular recreation area for campers and off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, boasting views of Piney Peak at 11,559 ft and Cottonwood at 11,400 ft.
Bighorn Cabin/Creek Trail
Hikers looking for more of a challenge will love the Bighorn Cabin/Creek trail located on the north side of the Vail Valley. Parking at the trailhead is limited, but it is easily accessible using the East Vail bus route. The yellow stand of trees during the first half-mile provide a nice distraction for one of several steep parts of the 10.3-mile roundtrip trail. Hikers will pass an early silver camp, acres of Bracken’s fern and a rocky outcrop overlooking Bighorn Creek before nearing the cabin. A final push over a lung-buster ridge rewards hikers with expansive views and a quaint cabin nestled among massive peaks.
The North Trail
The North Trail system is a lengthy trail located on the north side of Vail with several access points that make it convenient for hikers interested in a short or long trek. Split into three sections, the North Trail is 12 miles long from east to west and is a result of the Town of Vail and Forest Service teaming up to create an accessible hike for visitors, locals and people of all ages. In the fall, colorful tress line segments of the trail drawing hikers into a peaceful stroll while they take in views of aspen-covered Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek Resort, the Sawatch Range and the Gore Range along the way.
Strawberry Lane to Berry Picker
Golden Peak on Vail Mountain is aptly named for the hue visitors will see in the fall and Vail mountain is home to several trails that can be paired with an easy ride down on the gondola. Strawberry Lane to Berry Picker is a heart-pumping trail that winds through the tree groves and meadows that are typically blanketed in snow and filled with skiers and snowboarders in the winter. The trail ascends about 2,900 feet over 4.5-miles but is worth it for stunning views of the valley and surrounding Gore Range. Hikers can return the way they came or take Eagle Bahn Gondola down from the top of Eagles Nest. Before departing, hikers should be sure to take in the beauty of Mount of the Holy Cross at 14,009 feet and the other peaks of the Sawatch Range.
Game Creek Trail
Located near the top of Vail Mountain’s Eagles Nest area is Game Creek Trail that provides hikers with some solitude and several glowing aspen groves. From Eagles Nest, the trail descends 3.6-miles down into the town of Minturn, which is just a short drive from Vail. Hikers should follow the Eagles Loop trail to the road descending the valley and stay left at the trail fork to hit Game Creek. This descending route is fairly easy, but individuals looking for a challenge can start the trail in Minturn to hike up 2,399 vertical feet through the canyon to the top of the ski resort.
If you’re looking for a way to complement your day exploring leaf-loaded trails with a splurge-worthy, professionally packed picnic, check out this 5280 Magazine article featuring 3 Vail hikes and picnic pairings.