Best of the Vail Valley

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Advisor - Charlie Gaffney
Curated By

Charlie Gaffney

  • Active Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Outdoor & Nature

  • Wellness Travel

  • Colorado

  • Countryside

  • Hiking

  • Mountains

Hiking on a green mountain in Vail.
Curator’s statement

Vail is one of those special places that truly has it all and then some. With epic mountain vistas throughout this magical valley, you quickly understand why they call it "like nothing on Earth." Between food festivals, concerts and world class restaurants and spas, there's plenty of ways to unwind after a day in the great outdoors.

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Day 1: Arriving in Vail

A lake in Vail with green mountains.

Get acclimated to the altitude and stay hydrated! You'll likely arrive in Vail midday. Check into your hotel and then walk over to Mountain Standard or Alpenrose for dinner. I would eat everything on their menus if I could. They change seasonally, and always delight and surprise!

Check out some stores and art galleries as you explore the village on your first evening!

Day 2: Hiking

A green lakeside in Vail.

For those in search of 360-degree views and summertime wildflowers, look no further than Berry Picker Trail. This is a challenging, but very rewarding hike that starts in Lionshead Village and leads you to Eagle's Nest Ridge. Berry Picker is a mix of challenging uphills, flat portions and beautiful scenery.

At the top, check out the activities at Eagle's Nest Ridge, from ziplining, to summer tubing and mountain coaster-ing, there's something for everyone. This is also a great opportunity for family pictures with a stunning background. The Mt. of the Holy Cross overlook is breathtaking and accessible for everyone, including Grandma and Grandpa, thanks to the Eagle Bahn Gondola.

Take the gondola down and refill your tank at lunch in Lionshead. I'd recommend Tavern on the Square (delicious poutine), El Sabor (best margaritas in town) and Alpine Pizza Company.

Walk to Pepi's for dinner. You can't leave without trying the schniztel! This is an iconic, authentic Austrian restaurant/ hotel and is most recognized as the yellow building with the international flags next to the clock tower.

Day 3: A Day at Piney River Ranch

Views of Vail and a river in the mountains.

Trek to Piney River Ranch, the most breathtaking oasis in Colorado! Nestled at the foot of the Gore Range, this is a can't-miss destination. It's located 12 miles from West Vail at the end of Red Sandstone Road and takes around 45 minutes from the start of the dirt road to arrive at the trailhead/ lake. Trust me - this is worth it!

There, you can paddleboard or canoe, go horseback riding or hike Upper Piney Falls. Majestic at every corner, you'll want to soak up every minute you have! Grab a bite at The Lodge Restaurant & Bar where they're serving amazing BBQ with unobstructed views. Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen.

After feeling like you've been in "The Sound of Music" all day, round out the experience with dinner at the Swiss Chalet. This is quintessential Bavarian style and probably one of the best dining experiences in Vail- fondue and raclette!

Day 4: Eat & Relax

Hiking views of the mountains in Vail.

After a couple days of getting radical in the Rockies, it's necessary to unwind. I'd recommend playing a round of golf at the Vail Golf Club and/ or a spa day at the Sonnenalp. Get to the spa with plenty of time ahead of your treatment and enjoy the sauna, steam-room, jacuzzi, indoor/outdoor pool and more. The spa backs up to Gore Creek and is extremely picturesque. You'll leave relaxed and glowing!

Walk to an early sushi dinner at Matsuhisa. The food and drinks here are a treat! Afterwards, catch a concert at Gerald Ford Amphitheater.

Day 5: Get on the River

White-water rafting on red boats in Vail.

You can't leave Colorado without spending some time on the river! We've had some of the best times on the water with SAGE Outdoor Adventures and Lakota Guides. Rafting is a true Colorado experience and a really great way to soak in the views on your last day.

Later, grab some bites and bowl a few rounds at DECA+BOL! I still have dreams about their short rib sliders. I think the best way to experience this spot is ordering food to your bowling table, and sharing lots of places. But don't fill up too much! Sweet Basil for dinner is the best place to spend your last night in Vail.

Advisor - Charlie Gaffney

Travel Advisor

Charlie Gaffney

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Colorado.