The mountains and forests around Vail, nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest, almost demand that you spend time outdoors, and it doesn't hurt that every season offers opportunities to get out and breathe in the fresh air. Spring, summer, fall, and winter alike provide a variety of outdoor adventures in this quaint town that is beyond bountiful.
In spring, hike to discover colorful wildflowers, fly fish, or ride the white waters of the rivers in a raft or kayak. Bike, hike, paddleboard, raft, and camp underneath the endless stars in summer. Enjoy the crisp fall air while on the trail of your choice, or take in autumn's foliage while horseback riding or Jeeping. Winter brings best-in-class skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, as well as chances to toss snowballs or ice skate. And when spring rolls back around, the cycle repeats itself.
Vail's Contemplative Spring Outdoor Activities
As winter comes to an end, there is a period on the mountain known as spring skiing, when snow still covers the ski slopes, but afternoons start to hit enjoyably warm temperatures. Skiers can make turns on the hill in the morning and then head to the golf courses in the afternoon.
As spring progresses, the ski lifts take a break. The snowmelt nourishes the wildflowers and then runs off into the rivers to create ideal conditions for whitewater river rafting. Bikers tune up their bikes and hit the roads and trails as soon as they open and are in good riding condition. Be sure to check for and respect seasonal closures to allow wildlife migration and calving before hitting the trails.
Spring really brings a refresh to this charming mountain town. Time slows down between the end of ski season and the beginning of summer break. For those looking for serenity and natural beauty, this could be a great time to visit.
An Abundance of Vail Summer Outdoor Fun
There was a time when the beauty of summer in Vail was a secret, but, as some locals say, "You come for the winter, but stay for the summer." Outdoor summer mountain seekers frequent the Bavarian villages nestled at the mountain's base for easy access to an endless list of outdoor activities.
The Eagle Bahn Gondola out of Lionshead Village transports riders on a lovely trip to the top of the mountain, where they can visit the Nature Discovery Center, meander miles of hiking trails, or get an adrenaline rush at Epic Discovery. This mountaintop playground offers mountain tubing, challenge courses, zip lines, an alpine coaster, and more.
Of course, hiking and biking trails really come to life as summer washes over the Rockies. Whether you take on one of the many trails on Vail Mountain or make a short trek to some other unique spots in the area, you will find incredible beauty (and maybe wildlife, too!) around every bend in the trail.
One of the most remarkable things that Vail has to offer is the chance to delight in the never-ending stars shining brightly in the night sky while camping. Visitors can also rent a cabin or tent at Piney Lake for a comfortable glamping experience with nature at your fingertips and the brightly lit Milky Way just above your tent. Once the sun rises, take a stand-up paddleboard or canoe out on the glassy lake reflecting the majestic peaks of the Gore Range.
Looking for a more exciting water experience? Though rafting begins with the spring run-off, white waters can be found throughout the summer. Local outfitters offer experiences across all levels of rafting on the nearby rivers.
Serene Autumn Activities in Vail
Summer in Vail may be a bustle of activity, but as the evening air begins to cool, things quiet down just a bit. But that doesn't mean that there are fewer things to do outdoors- it just means you may be able to enjoy favorite activities with more space to yourself.
Fall is an extraordinary time of the year in Vail. The aspen leaves change from their brilliant green to a golden yellow. The sun rays shining through the golden leaves as you hike, bike, or horseback ride is a beautiful sight. This may just be the best time of year to have a local outfitter take you out into the White River National Forest in an open-air jeep to leaf peep and spot wildlife.
Though it's not a traditional outdoor activity, visitors do enjoy dancing the afternoon away to Bavarian music at Vail's autumn Oktoberfest. Fall events in Vail are almost as abundant as outdoor adventures.
Exhilarating Outdoor Winter Activities in Vail
Vail was founded by skiers. With 5,317 skiable acres, including the legendary back bowls, skiing is what Vail is known for. Most winter visitors come to Vail in search of powder or turns on the wide-open groomed runs. But winter in Vail is about so much more than skiing and snowboarding.
Adults and kids alike can enjoy gliding on one of the outdoor ice skating rinks as snowflakes fall from above. Winter festivals also bring professional skaters to perform for free at the Solaris Plaza. Vail's indoor ice skating rink, Dobson Ice Arena, offers a unique activity -- ice bumper cars. Chase your friends or family around the ice in these cars made to bump into one another.
Enjoy skiing, but looking to really get your heart rate pumping? In winter, the Vail Golf Club becomes the Vail Nordic Center, where visitors and locals try new sports and participate in old favorites. Snowshoe, classic nordic ski, skate ski, or even ride a fat bike on snow-packed trails dedicated specifically to these unique bikes. Plus, the views of the Gore Range from here are stunning year-round, and winter is no exception.
Head up Vail Mountain on the Gondola to Adventure Ridge for some snow tubing. While there, make sure to check out the ski bikes as well. They're a fun way to make your way down the snow-covered runs each evening.
No matter the time of year, Vail has plenty of offerings to connect you with nature and the great outdoors.