Vail, Colorado, is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain, home of the massive Vail Ski Resort. Set within White River National Forest, the town is a gateway for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. It’s also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals. Gore Creek, popular for fly fishing, runs directly through the town center.
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Elevation: 2,484 m
Population: 4,735 (2021)
Area code: 970
ZIP code: 81657
History of Vail
Pete Siebert and Earl Eaton were the driving force behind the development of Vail in the mid-20th century. Both men returned from serving in World War II, and quickly became part of the up-and-coming ski resort scene. They decided Vail Mountain would be the perfect spot for a new resort after summiting it together in 1957.
After initial investments and obtaining a permit for the land from the United States Forest Service, they began construction in 1962. They didn’t have instant success, but slowly they grew in size until finally in 1989, Vail was declared the largest ski area in North America.
A decade later, Vail purchased Breckenridge and Keystone, expanding their operation even further. Since the 1990s, they have been continuously updating facilities, chairlifts, and ski runs to create a world-class skiing experience. They are now the fourth largest ski area.
Main Attractions of Vail
Vail Ski Resort – With over 5,000 acres to ski on, there’s always a new run or powder stash to find. It’s the largest ski resort in the state. Biking and hiking are popular on the mountain in the summer, as well as the thrilling Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster.
Vail Village – The charming Disney World-like village is a picturesque place to meander. Window shop, check out the stunning architecture, and grab a patio table for an afternoon glass of your choice. Continue your tour over to Lionshead Village. Between the two of them, there are hundreds of shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Recreation at Vail
- Traverse across Vail’s epic back bowls on the Two Elk Trail. With two trailheads to start from, an East and West, this is one of the best mountain biking trails in Eagle County. It’s also a great hiking trail, though a bit long at 11.8 miles.
- Ride the paved 9-mile Vail Pass Bike Path from near the summit of Vail Pass down to Copper Mountain.
- Between Minturn and Red Cliff, take County Rd 707 to Halfmoon Campground or primitive car camp anywhere on that road. It’s best to have a high-clearance vehicle as the road can be bumpy.
- Hornsilver Campground is off of US 24 south of Vail just past Red Cliff.
- Just after Hornsilver CG take a right on Homestake Rd to Gold Park Campground or primitive car camp anywhere along that smooth road. It’s ten miles back to the reservoir.
- If you continue south on Hwy 24 past Hornsilver, you’ll pass Yoder Gulch Rd. Take a right and pull over at any spot on that road.Keep going on Hwy 24 and you’ll hit Camp Hale Memorial Campground just before Tennessee Pass.
- There’s also primitive camping in the Red and White Mountain wilderness north of Vail. Take exit 173 onto North Frontage Rd. At the traffic circle, stay on N Frontage Rd. Turn left onto Davos Trail and a quick right on Cortina Ln. Follow that for 0.5 miles then take a slight right onto Buffehr. Follow that into the woods where camping is everywhere.
- Gore Creek begins high above the town in Vail Pass and goes west past town. Although it’s not a big river, it does hold big fish.
- Eagle River flows through Minturn, south of town. There you’ll find bass, crappie, Northern pike, and walleye depending on the season.
- For an easier day, stroll through the two lovely interconnected villages in Vail.
- In the summer, ride the chair lift up, and hike along the peaks of the ski resort, such as Berrypicker Trail.
- Upper Piney River Falls is a popular 6 mile out and back trail with views of the Gore range and plenty of aspen trees.
Accommodations at Vail
The Arrabelle at Vail Square – This hotel might have the best location in town, situated right at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Also features a huge spa, tavern, and apres-ski deck.
Four Seasons Resort Vail – A luxury 5-star accommodation with an award-winning spa, heated pool, and stone fireplaces in every room.
Grand Hyatt Vail – 4-star ski-in/ski-out property located at the base of Vail Mountain. It has 285 rooms and choice amenities, like on-site dining, spa, and swimming pool.
The Sebastian – Located in the heart of Vail Village, this unique boutique hotel is a foodie’s dream. Their on-site restaurant Leonara serves up local, sustainable alpine-inspired dishes. If you’re just in the mood for a craft cocktail, Frost Bar has you covered.
Sonnenalp Hotel – Choose from gorgeous views of Vail Village or Gore Creek in this European-style hotel. There is also a neighboring hotel under the same affiliation with even more amenities for guests to enjoy.
The Hythe – Dubbed as a “luxurious alpine hideaway”, The Hythe combines an atmosphere of wellness and adventure. Most notably they offer a variety of “experiences” to guests, including rock climbing, helicopter ski tours, and mushroom foray.
Tivoli Lodge – A reasonably priced 4-star hotel with an awesome location. You can ski in the back porch and walk a half block from all the shopping and dining of Vail Village.
Dining at Vail
The George – This basement bar combines the charm and comfort of an English pub with the extravagance you’ll find everywhere in Vail. You can play a game of pool during happy hour while you order your King Crab legs from the gourmet kitchen.
Sweet Basil – Iconic restaurant in Vail Village since 1977. This upscale dining experience features an inventive menu based on fresh foods and international tastes.
Almresi Vail – Cozy spot serving up European-inspired dishes in a rustic cottage-inspired setting.
Joe’s Famous Deli – The perfect stop on your way to the slopes to pick up a classic hoagie, baked goods, and more.
Apr – Taste of Vail – Premiere upscale food and wine with all the flair of Vail, held in early April.
Jun – GoPro Mountain Games – High-intensity celebration of sports, arts, and music.
Jun-Jul – Vail Lacrosse Shootout – An annual 10-day sports event for players ages 17 – 70 that takes place at multiple fields in Avon, Edwards, and Vail.
Jun-Aug – Bravo! Vail Music Festival – The best orchestras perform at various locations in the Vail Valley throughout the summer from late June to early August.
Jul-Aug – Vail Dance Festival – Witness eleven days of professional dance in the mountains held from late July to early August.
Aug – Kid’s Adventure Games – The largest adventure race for kids held in Vail and Fruita featuring obstacles such as a giant slip n’ slide, mountain biking, and ziplines.
Sep – Vail Film Festival – Annual 4-day film event showcasing independent films and screenplays.
Sep – Gourmet on Gore – A 3-day open-air festival in Vail Village centered around good food, wine, beer, and music.
Dec – Vail Snow Days – Free music concert weekend to kick off the ski season in mid-December.
Activities near Vail
- Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster
- Gondola one and Eagle Banh Gondola
- Two Elk Trail
- Vail Pass Trail
Cross Country Skiing:
- Vail Nordic Center
- Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In (8mi)
- Vail Valley Escape Room (10mi)
- Camp Hale (21mi)
- Eagle River
- Eagles Nest Wilderness
- Holy Cross Wilderness
- White River National Forest
- Gilman (13mi)
- Radium Warm Springs – (47mi)
- Glenwood Hot Springs Pool – (61mi)
- Iron Mountain Hot Springs – (62mi)
- Yampah Vapor Caves – (61mi)
- Beaver Creek Village (13mi)
- Solaris Plaza Ice Skating Rink
- Vail Square
- Vail Whitewater Park
- Colorado Ski & Snowboard
- Gore Creek
- Fremont Pass (30mi)
- Shrine Pass (17mi)
- Tennessee Pass (33mi)
- Top of the Rockies Byway (8mi)
- Vail Pass (14mi)
- Beaver Creek Ski Resort (13mi)
- Copper Mountain Ski Resort (20mi)
- Ski Cooper (29mi)
- Vail Powder Guides (14mi)
- Vail Ski Resort (<1mi)
- Roger’s Snowbike Rentals (37mi)
- Rocky Mountain Adventure Rentals (8mi)
- Avon (10mi)
- Beaver Creek (11mi)
- Breckenridge (38mi)
- Copper Mountain (20mi)
- Dillon (32mi)
- Dotsero (42mi)
- Eagle (30mi)
- Eagle-Vail (8mi)
- Edwards (14mi)
- Frisco (26mi)
- Glenwood Springs (60mi)
- Glenwood Springs (60mi)
- Gypsum (37mi)
- Keystone (38mi)
- Minturn (8mi)
- Red Cliff (16mi)
- Silverthorne (30mi)
- Wolcott (20mi)
- Blue Sky Limo DIA Airport Shuttle
- Bustang Bus
- Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) (35mi)
- Eco Transit
- Epic Mountain Express (to Denver Airport)