There aren’t many more spectacular outings in Colorado than a hike to Hanging Lake!
The Vail area is home to some of the most spectacular hikes in Colorado and Hanging Lake is arguably at the top of that list based on its popularity. A hike to Hanging Lake is geologically interesting because the lake was formed by travertine depositions. The natural geologic and hydro-logic processes continue to operate as they have done for thousands of years. The lake also boasts a thriving hanging garden plant community. Hanging Lake was designated a national natural landmark in 2011.
Heading on I-70 West toward Glenwood Springs you take exit 121 and then loop back around heading east on I-70 to exit 125 where Hanging Lake is located. Rangers now manage the parking lot, which does fill up early. We arrived just after 8 am and were told a 10-30 minute wait depending on when people come down. It was probably closer to 30 minutes but well worth the wait and well managed. There was a line of cars waiting when we left. It is probably better to get there early but if you are lucky you might be able to time it right for a short wait later in the day too.
It is a fairly steep up hill trail, rated as moderately difficult. There is a short walk on the bike path to the trail head and there is plenty of shade once you get on the trail. It is 3.2 miles total with about a 1,000 foot ascension. If you are a first time hiker, or not used to the altitude it may be challenging. As could be guessed by the wait for a parking spot, the trail is heavily trafficked. No solitude here. You’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring water, and maybe even a picnic lunch or snacks to enjoy while you take in the views up top. Highly recommend this hike. It is relatively short for a spectacular payoff at the lake.
Ski season is around the corner. We in Vail will be able to start our quest for epic powder in less than a month. But, there are so many more things to do in Vail than just ski.
While the Antlers at Vail may be your lodging choice in Vail, we like to think that we are so much more than a hotel. We like to think that we make your condo at the Antlers your home away from home, and that we welcome you as a part of our family. And, that includes sharing our favorite Vail activities, and in this case, trails. Below is a summary of some of our favorite snowshoe and hiking trails. But, we have many more to share, so if you are looking for something different just ask our front desk.
Antlers at Vail Trekking Guide: Our Favorite Snowshoe and Hiking Trails
The Antlers at Vail provides a multitude of complimentary amenities for guests including FREE snowshoe rentals and hiking poles! We have selected a few of our favorite trails below to share with you. Please ask the front desk for additional suggestions or a detailed Vail Mountain trail map.
Self-Guided Snowshoe Tours:
Old Vail Pass- East Vail Length: 4.16 MI one way (6.7KM) Difficulty: Easy Elevation Gain: 1,015 FT Trail Use: Light to moderate Access from Vail: Exit I-70 at East Vail (Exit 180) and drive 1.9MI East to the end of the plowed South Frontage Rd, just past Main Gore Drive.
Considerations: This was the route that Old Hwy 6 took over Vail Pass before I-70 was built. Before that, this route was used by the Ute Indians. Today, be aware that the snow may be thin during the early winter and spring months due to the pavement below the snow.
Directions: Snowshoe 0.4 MI toward the bike path gate. (Snow may be thin under the highway bridge). Go past the Gore Creek trailhead and campground but don’t tour the drainage due to avalanche danger. The old Vail Pass route is a good mid-winter trail that is gradual and scenic.
Meadow Grouse Loop- Minturn Length: 6.45 MI loop (10.38KM) Difficulty: Moderate Trail Use: Moderate Access from Vail: Travel West on I-70 to Exit 171 for Minturn (Hwy 24) and turn right at the stop sign (South). Continue underneath the interstate and on the right turn into the Forest Service parking lot. The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot near the white house.
Trail Highlights: Start at Meadow Mountain, follow the trail up for about 0.8 miles to the Grouse Creek connector on the left. Follow the trail southeast to the West Grouse Creek trail, turn right. You will soon reach a junction where the Grouse Lake Trail goes left, but stay right on the West Grouse Creek Trail. The trail stays left of the creek- note the ridge across the creek. It will remain steep until you approach a junction with a logging road. The creek, which is well below until this point, becomes nearly level with the trail. Watch carefully here for the snow-covered road. Turn right onto the road and you will soon find yourself on the Old Meadow Mountain Ski Area runs. You have the choice for following the Meadow Mountain Trail back down to the connector you took earlier or following the old ski runs back down to the base.
Guided Snowshoe Tours: (A safe way to get familiar with terrain.)
Nature Discovery Center (2pm daily)
Join a Walking Mountains Naturalist for an introductory educational snowshoe through the forest atop Vail Mountain. Learn about winter ecology and animal adaptations as you gaze at majestic mountain views. Call 970-754-4675 for details.
Walking Mountains Science Center (Monday – Saturday at 2pm)
Join the science center for a gentle educational hike through aspen and riparian communities. Walks will be conducted on snowshoes as necessary due to snow levels. Call 970-827-9725 for details.
The Vail Nordic Center is located on the Vail Golf Course and offers easy, intermediate, and difficult terrain. Daily groups leave at 10am. Call 970-754-3200 extension 4 for details.
*All the Vail Mountain ski terrain is open for snowshoeing. For safety reasons, please go before or after lift operation hours.
Vail Mountain Hiking Trails
Eagle’s Loop Green: Short ridge-top loop with great views of Mount of the Holy Cross – 1 mile (1.6 km), 15-20 minutes
Lower Fireweed Green: Beautiful wooded trail between Eagle’s Nest and Mid-Vail – 1 mile (1.6 km), 30-40 minutes, loop with Upper Fireweed – 2.2 miles (3.5 km), 1 – 1.5 hours Berrypicker Blue: Starting at Lower Fireweed, this intermediate trail winds down from Mid-Vail or Eagle’s Nest to Vail Village or Lionshead, picnic at Minnie’s Deck along the way – 4.6 miles (7.4 km), 2-3 hours.
Ridge Route Blue: Intermediate ridge climb from Eagle’s Nest to Wildwood and back with spectacular views – 2.8 miles (4.5km), 1.5-2 hours
Bad Simba Black: Steep side trail formerly part of Lionshead Loop – .75 miles (1.2 km)
Other Area Hiking Trails
North Trail (Beginner)
This version of the North Trail begins at the Red Sandstone trailhead on Red Sandstone Rd. From the trailhead, ride west above Vail up countless switchbacks. After 2.0 miles riders will come to an intersection with Buffehr Creek trail. Stay left and continue down a loose and rocky descent. Reaching the bottom, riders will cross Buffehr Creek and traverse around some beaver ponds to an intersection. Follow the signs to continue on the North Trail. The trail begins to climb again with more switchbacks and great views of the Gore and Sawatch Ranges. Eventually, the trail will start to contour and the ride becomes quite enjoyable as it passes through lush aspen groves. In the height of summer, the wildflowers through this section are very impressive. The trail will start to descend towards the Davos trailhead. Stay on the main trail and ride to an intersection with the Davos Hill Climb. Turn right and ride the dirt road (FS 781) 0.42 miles to a gate. Go through the gate to access the last singletrack section of the ride. Descend through the trees to the Trappers Run trailhead. From here, ride the North Frontage Road all the way back to Red Sandstone Rd and the start of the ride.
DIRECTIONS: Drive west on Interstate 70 to Exit 173 West Vail. Take the roundabout east past Safeway and City Market to Red Sandstone Rd. Turn left and drive 0.35 miles to the Red Sandstone trailhead.
Booth Creek Falls (intermediate)
Booth Falls trail climbs north through at a steep start and levels off through clover-scented woodlands. The trail emerges into a meadow full of wildflowers. The trek to the falls is steep but quick, sloping along a creek. The falls is a refreshing stop before heading toward the lake. Hikers will climb northeast into a deep forest where the creek reappears along the trail. As hikers move further into a meadow, look for the trail fork, just above 10,200 feet, where a path to the left takes hikers into the Piney Lakes region through the Piney Creek Trail. The trees will begin to thin and the terrain continually changes. The final climb to the lake is ruthless and difficult because of a rocky, washed-out path. But when hikers finally arrive at the lake, the views are heaven on earth.
DIRECTIONS: Drive about 0.9 miles west from Interstate 70 East Vail Exit 180 to the Booth Falls Road. Turn right and proceed to the end of the road to park near the fence.
When someone tells you to “take a hike” you’ll be thankful if you’re in Vail, Colorado, where the area’s abundant trails and paths are suited for people of all ages and athletic abilities. The Antlers at Vail hotel is a conveniently located home base for exploring Vail by foot or with one of the Antlers’ free loaner bikes, and summer rates start at just $168 for a studio suite.
The Antlers at Vail’s friendly staff is happy to recommend nearby trails and provide directions for guests who want to explore the area. These are some of their favorite jaunts close to the hotel:
The Antlers is located on Gore Creek, which winds through Vail and has a paved walking and biking path that’s perfect for exploring the area. Head east and enjoy a shady, easy walk to Vail Village, or head west to Donovan Park, a fun children’s park and play area.
Vail’s public art collection includes forty works ranging from paintings and sculptures to murals, playground components and site-integrated art. Art in Public Places offers free summertime guided tours including discussions of the history of the Vail Valley and the importance of site-specific art. For dates and times, visit www.artinvail.com.
Just 200 yards from the Antlers at Vail hotel, the Vail Gondola is ideal for those who prefer downhill striding to uphill climbing. Ride to the top and enjoy a scenic walk down the mountain trail, enjoying the Rocky Mountain vistas and wildflowers along the way.
Just east of Vail Village, the Vail Nature Center offers a variety of summertime nature walks, guided hikes and back country treks. For more information visit http://www.vailrec.com/hikingprogram.cfm.
The Antlers at Vail is a dog-friendly hotel, and Bighorn Park just east of the Vail Racquet Club offers over seven acres of leash-free terrain for canines and their owners. The northern half of Stephens Park in West Vail is also an off-the-leash zone.
Since 1972, the Antlers at Vail hotel has offered a unique Vail lodging experience in a relaxed mountain setting. The Antlers is the proud recipient of the Platinum Service Award Winner from the Vail Valley Partnership and was named the Vail Valley Green Business of the Year in 2009. With condominiums ranging from studio suites up to four bedrooms and plenty of space to spread out, each room at the Antlers offers all the comforts of home including fully-equipped kitchens, fireplaces, outdoor balconies, free Internet access and free parking. The Antlers Vail is conveniently located in Vail’s Lionshead area with numerous restaurants, galleries and shops within walking distance, and the free Vail town shuttle stops just footsteps away. For more information, call 1-800-843-8245 or visit the Antlers web site at www.antlersvail.com.
Skiing the Minturn Mile from Vail mountain down to the town of Minturn is one of the classic Apre ski activities in Vail. Be forewarned, it is for advanced skiers only that are familiar with the back-country, prepared for back-country skiing, can make quick turns in deep powder and are physically fit . It starts with a hike to Ptarmigan ridge on the West side of Vail’s Sun Down Bowl. After a break at the top it is time to head through the gate and some powder skiing. Make sure you have someone that is familiar with the trail and the area to guide you. Once you get all the way down you have a hike to the Minturn Saloon for some beer and margaritas. To get back to Vail grab the bus back or better yet, have a friend pick you up. You won’t be in any condition to drive anyhow…
Hiking Ptarmigan ridge
Hydrating before the run (is that Bob Grossman with us?)
Some soft snow on the way to Minturn
Careful for the tree wells. That’s Tom Schlader, our head engineer, on the right
Fancy Pass and Fancy Lake loop hike going to Missouri Lakes up in the Holy Cross Wilderness area is one of those “must do” type of Vail area hikes if you are spending a week or more in the Vail Valley. It is moderate day hike and takes anywhere from 4.5 to 6 hours. It is a 45 minute drive each way from Vail but well worth it. It is South from Vail on Highway 24 through the towns of Minturn and Redcliff. Get directions at the Antlers at Vail front desk. The trail starts at an elevation of 10,100 feet and can top out at 12,600 so you are quite high up.
Fancy lake (seen in picture above) is the first stop on this counter clockwise hike. But you can do the hike in either direction. You can do Missouri lakes first in a clockwise direction and then over Fancy pass, then down pass Fancy Lake and back to the trailhead.
Whitney Lake hike is a pleasant hike not far from the Antlers at Vail and the town of Vail Colorado. One needs to drive about an hour to get there. Head west out of Vail until you get to Dowd Junctino exit 171 off of I-70. Next head south for 13 miles on highway 24 heading through the town of Minturn, up over Battle Mountain pass. Cross the big green bridge (you won’t miss it), go another couple of miles and then take a right onto Homestake road. This road is numbered #703 by the forest service and again is about 13 miles south of I-70. When you turn onto homestake road you need to drive another 4.6 miles on this rocky (sometimes dusty) road. You’ll find the sign to the trail just on the right of the road with parking on the left side of the road. The trail head starts around 9100 in elevation and tops out at the lake at 10956. Length one way is 2.5 miles, so it isn’t TOO long. The views can be spectacular.
An often forgotten about hike is the Lionshead Rock hike out of Minturn Colorado. It is a short 15 minute drive from the Antlers at Vail condominiums. Drive west on Interstate 70 to Exit 171 at Dowd Junction and then head south on Highway 24 for a few miles until you arrive in the town of Minturn. Take a left right away upon arriving into town and go across the bridge by the Saloon. As you pass the Saloon, hang a right swinging around the building and go across the railraod tracks to Taylor Street. Head north on Taylor street passing a number of homes (and junky cars, fridges, old snowmobiles, sinks, dishwashers, chairs, dogs, etc) until you arrive at the far end (dead end). Find a parking spot and head to the Game Creek trail (to the East) and start going up the trail. As you go up and past the river for about a 1/2 mile you’ll hang a RIGHT onto the trail which will take you to the Lionshead Rock. It is about a 2 mile climb one way from the trail head.
Mt Sherman Hike (14,036′)
A decent short 14er for those who want to notch the first one on their belts. It takes about 4 hours to reach the top and return. The land may seem brown and lifeless compared to some other 14ers however; it is rich in mining history as can be seen from the scattered mining structures all around the area. This was one I could see from the ridgeline very near to the top of Sherman.
When my fellow Antlers employee Dan and I hiked it on June 27th, it still had snow fields to cross at the start of the hike. However, we got through easy enough without too much post holing (and a slight deviation from the trail that turned into a lot more work than expected… DANNNN). Still, the rest of the trail was clear and easy going once we started gaining elevation. The most exhilarating thing about this hike was the wind that day. Sherman is very very exposed so a windbreaker/rain jacket is a MUST or you will risk being exposed to the elements that make hiking very uncomfortable.
A little bit windy up there
Only 40 a minute drive away from the Antlers here in Vail it was definitely a great day hike and a good first 14er for any moderate hiker looking to reach the next level. Make sure to add to the wind walls when you reach the top and sign the registry!!!
After we added another foot or so it still wasn't very helpful
Just recently I took a hike up to Deluge lake with a few of my friends around town. It was a really awesome hike with plenty of great views. Early on I was a bit nervous because it took almost 45 minutes to really lose site of the highway (which when you’re hiking is not the view you expect). However, once we rounded a mountain side and started up the valley towards the lake I knew that the hike was well worth it. It was the kind of mountain valley you would see in a movie with green fields, white rocks, and Deluge Creek running down the middle. Although it was a more difficult hike, it was well worth the trip in the end. Definitely wait until July or later to do this trail as when we tried in early June we were stopped about halfway by the 4ft of remaining snow.
Bighorn cabin is a private property (although left open as a storm shelter) located at about 10800 feet in the Gore Range Wilderness. A good moderate hike and definitely one of the least steep in the area it is great for those looking to head into the mountains and photograph wildflowers, see some wildlife, and enjoy the great outdoors. The trail used to be a part of an old wagon trail so be sure to look for signs on the sides of the trail to be a part of the old homesteaders travels. You will reach some rock fields, to be sure of the way make sure to look for cairns (rocks stacked up like a tower). Not far from the Antlers in Vail this is a great hike accessible to all. One thing to remember is that parking there is limited so going early or taking the bus is recommended. Also, for the aggressive hiker this is a good way to reach the Grand Traverse which is a long ridge at the height of 12000 ft designed for mountain bikers and expert hikers.
Here is a terrain map provided by Google showing the basic route up to the cabin and some other trail heads in the area.