Hiking in Colorado: 5 hikes, 4 wildflowers and a dozen places to apres near Vail
Fuel To Pack On Your Hike
0-2 hours: Water, some crackers and a couple granola bars.
2-4 hours: More water, some fruit, trail mix and chips or crackers.
4-6 hours: Lots of water, with a full lunch that includes a sandwich, fruit, electrolyte drink and a salty snack.
Source: Pete Petrovski, Beaver Creek Hiking Center
Hiking trails in Colorado offer explorers of all abilities thousands of miles of trails to hike and the chance to stroll at any pace through the Rocky Mountains.
If you’re visiting or if you live here, then there’s always more to explore. Summer in the mountains means hiking as much as possible, so here are some quick tips on where to go, flowers to look out for and places to head after a simple stroll or a full day on your feet.
5 Local Hikes
It’s Pete Petrovski’s first season as the director of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center, but he’s lived in the area for quite a while and knows the hiking trails through and through. He and his team at the Beaver Creek Hiking Center offer scheduled and private hikes, including off-property 14er trips. Also this year, Hike & Wine will take patrons from Beano’s Cabin to Beaver Lake. Check out more at BeaverCreek.com/the-mountain/hiking-summer.
Here are Petrovski’s recommendations for local hikes, listed from easiest to most challenging:
1. Five Senses Trail
This hike heads out from the Beaver Creek Village area to some fishing ponds on a smooth and easy path. It’s 2 miles roundtrip, with informational signs along the trail. Grab a “hikeology” book from the Beaver Creek Hiking Center to keep kids even more engaged on the journey.
2. Village Loop
Start this trail from Beaver Creek Village and combine it with Buddy’s Way to make a loop, or more ambitious hikers can hit Aspen Glade, along with Cinch, Allie’s Way and the Overlook Trail to add more adventure. This hike provides a lot of options and potential bailout points. It can range from 1 mile to 6 miles roundtrip.
3. Piney River Falls
Head out of the valley for one of the most beautiful destinations in the state that can be accessed by a car (with high clearance). Drive up to Piney Lake, located 11 miles out of town from Red Sandstone Road, and park at the trailhead to start out on this 6-mile trip to the falls and back. The trail stays along Piney Lake, then heads into an open meadow and up into the forest. At every fork, stay right, and once you reach an overlook point looking back at the valley and the lake, you’re about 15 minutes from the falls.
4. Whitney Lake
One of Petrovski’s “faves,” Whitney Lake is 5.2 miles roundtrip. To get to the trailhead, head to Minturn and then south on U.S. Highway 24 for about 13 miles to Homestake Road. Continue southwest about 5 miles on this improved dirt road to the small parking area on the left across the road from the trailhead. The trail will take you almost 3 miles uphill, gaining nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. Cross Whitney Creek on four large rocks, and then onward for about three-quarters of a mile to the lake.
5. Nolan Lake
This hike is almost entirely uphill on the 6-mile trek in, but the reward of reaching this alpine lake is well worth the effort. The trailhead is near Eagle, off of Brush Creek Road on the way to Yeoman Park Campground (the trail will be on the right before you get to the park). It takes 3,000 feet of elevation gain to reach this spot, which sits right at the base of the New York Range. It’s where the wildflowers are abundant now, too.
4 Wildflowers You May See
Jaymee Squires is the director of graduate programs at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, and she also really knows her wildflowers. Head into Walking Mountains to peruse their flower books, and take advantage of their guided nature walks and hikes throughout the valley. Learn more at WalkingMountains.org.
Here’s some insight from Squires on some local blooms. All flower images by local photographer, Rick Spitzer.
This plant flowers from the bottom-up, and it’s said that when the last bit flowers on the top, we have reached the end of summer. You can also peel off the outer stem of fireweed and fry up the inner stem with garlic. Find these flowers growing along Gore Creek and other wetland areas.
2. Cow Parsnip
Another flower that likes being near water, cow parsnip is very tall with a bunch of tiny white flowers on top. While the leaves on these look tempting to use as toilet paper, Squires said the seemingly soft surface actually has little barbs, so beware.
A family member to the revered columbine (Colorado’s state flower), monkshood generally grows in marshy areas and is often spotted on trails in alpine areas. These purple flowers actually resemble a monk’s hood. They are poisonous to eat but beautiful to see.
4. Wild Roses
The flowers of the wild roses may be gone for the season, but their rose hip fruit is still available to harvest. These are said to have as much vitamin C as an orange, and you can pick them to steep for tea.
Hot Spots To Apres-Hike
We polled some of our locals online to get a feel for where people are enjoying post-activity replenishment. Here’s the intel on where the locals go:
“Up The Creek, it’s amazing and right on the Gore.” — Jenny Klingmueller Hochtl
“Sure do like that deck at Pendulum for a post-hike glass of vino and a snack!” — Cathy Cohn
“Bol … great food, great cocktails and fun people watching!” — Paula Turner
“Mountain Standard!! It’s a beautiful covered patio close to Gore Creek. I have many guests sit and drink and nosh while they watch their kiddos play in the creek.” — Arianne Hughes
Eagle-Vail and Avon
“VBC (Vail Brewing Company) — the Eagle-Vail location has a great food truck and the Vail location has an awesome deck. And there is beer there.” — Walt Bleser
“Boxcar — great patio and cocktails! Plus I treat myself to their soft pretzel and trop of dipping sauces post hike. Nomnomnom.” — Lauren Ciarallo
“eat + drink patio lounge is perfect after Lake Creek or any other Edwards hikes. Six roses by the glass and hula hoops to loosen up those hips!” — Pollyanna Forster
“Hovey & Harrison in Edwards recently opened and it’s the best thing that’s happened to this valley in a long time! I’m sitting here now writing this article (yes, this one), post hike, on the patio alongside many happy customers. As they say here, Eat Real Food!” — Kim Fuller
“Well post bike I love Bonfire because of their Glutart Ale.” — Kristen Caples
“Dusty Boot Roadhouse because they give money and muscle to support trails! Also, Tiki Bar.” — Amy Berger Cassidy
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