Our expert offers her inside tips for a few of the myriad outdoor adventures available to sportsmen and women of all ages during a Vail summer vacation.
You will often hear it said that people come to Vail for the winter and stay for the summer. It makes sense. With plenty of sunshine and clear mountain air, every day is a play day.
For those on a family vacation, there is so much going in the villages of Beaver Creek and Vail that it would be easy to go no further than a spa or to ride bikes with the kids to the miniature golf center near your hotel to keep the young ones entertained. But I encourage you to journey into the backcountry to find what really inspires those who make the Vail Valley their home.
This mountain community is home to a long list of impressive trout streams. Your best bet is to hook up with a local guide and take his or her advice on the best place to lay your line. My family has fished just about every river and several high mountain lakes and always had a good experience.
Some day trips with a guide may include fishing on the Eagle River along I-70. Last summer, my son and I went out with a guide from Gore Creek and we were initially disappointed to be fishing within a half mile of the freeway. Yet before the day was over we landed numerous beautiful trout and forgot all about the road. Decide which will be more important to you—high mountain ambience or the best bet for the most productive fishing day—then let your guide suggest your destination.
Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Offers free daily casting clinics at 10:30 a.m. during the peak summer season. www.gorecreekflyfisherman.com
Fly Fishing Outfitters. The Vail area’s only Orvis Dealer and Orvis Endorsed Guide Service. Locally owned. www.flyfishingoutfitters.net
Half day trips start at $225; full days begin at $325. License, flies and gratuity not included.
Enjoy an easy trail ride, a half-day outing through aspen groves and sage hillsides or something a little more unusual with Beaver Creek Stables. For those with family member who like riding and fishing, combine the two and head to Beaver Lake on horseback for an afternoon picnic, then fish the lake for trout. Children ages 7 and older are welcome.
The stable also makes it possible for toddlers to get comfortable in the saddle. We took our 3-year-old niece for a turn on the gentle ponies in the stable’s small corral. Best of all, it’s free.
Get an up close look at the backcountry without the effort of riding or climbing to a high altitude. Take the whole family on an off-road Jeep or Hummer tour and you will enjoy beautiful wildflowers and extraordinary vistas. (We’ve used this outing as a great way to get outside when the group includes various ages and levels of fitness.) Take a sunset tour for the best chance of seeing wildlife—deer, elk, hawks, marmots and more. It’s important to stay hydrated in the high elevation, so bring your own water.
The Vail Valley has plenty of rafting options for the whole gang from mild to wild. There is a trip for every family member’s appetite for adventure.
The closest option is the Eagle River—just a stone’s throw from Vail, Beaver Creek and Avon. The Lower Eagle section is a family favorite with easy to manage class II-III rapids. For a high-octane adventure, try the local top pick beginning outside of Minturn; Dowd Chute offers class IV rapids and a thrilling ride. It’s always best to check with the guides on how fast the rivers are running when planning a family trip. Half-day outings begin at about $43 per person.
We’ve spent many a chilly morning teeing up at The Vail Golf Club. (You’ll peel the layers away as the sun rises.) A championship par 71, the course is laid out at 8,200 feet. It’s family-friendly and the views are spectacular. Added ego bonus: Golf balls really do fly an average of 10 percent farther in the high elevation.
The course fills up fast and morning tee times are most popular, so plan in advance. Guest tee times may be reserved up to six months in advance with a credit card guarantee. Greens fees: Adults, $80 for 18 holes plus cart. Juniors, $55 plus cart.
For reservations call 888-709-3939, or visit www.vailgolfclub.com for more information and to check Web specials.
For years we have headed up the 10 miles of dirt road to picnic, hike and when the kids were older paddle a canoe on the picturesque Piney River Lake. With the jagged peaks of the Gore Range as your backdrop, this magnificently beautiful spot provides the whole family an opportunity to appreciate the alpine air while engaging in a range of activities.
Enjoy an afternoon on the lake casting a fly, slip into the saddle for a ride through some magnificent Colorado country or settle in under a tree with a good book. The Piney River Ranch now has a restaurant that serves up tasty summer barbecue specials—burgers, ribs, chicken and salty fries. Enjoy the grub at outside picnic tables and drink in the views.
Too tired to head down the mountain after a full day of fun in the sun? Sack out in a yurt, a tee pee or one of four lakeside cabins.
Piney River Adventures, www.PineyRiverAdventures.com. Yurts from $20 per person/per night; teepees from $20 per person/per night. Cabins from $110 per night. Reservations: tel. 970-477-1171. Horseback riding with Triple G Outfitters: tel. 970-477-1171.