Go Take a Hike — In Vail

Taking a day to go hiking is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. In the midst of the Rocky Mountains in Vail, Colorado, the majestic views are beyond compare. Clear your mind as you explore the wilderness. We have highlighted a few popular trails in the White River National Forest.


The National Forest Service provides detailed information on all of the hiking trails in the area. The Park Rangers ask that you consider buying a hiking certificate. The $1 fee goes to the Vail Mountain Rescue fund which offers assistance to hurt, lost, or stranded visitors.

Many of the day hikes in the White River National Forest are easily accessible through Vail’s free bus system. For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service at 970-827-5715 or visit their website.

The following trails are in close proximity to Vail and can be trekked in one day. With each trail, we have provided a link to a US Forest Service document that provides a detailed description of the trail, complete with directions to the trail and a topographical map of the area.

Lost Lake Trail

This trail is one of the easiest in the area. Traveling west to east, the trail spans 3.73 miles one way. It follows a ridge from west to east along the lodgepole pine and aspen groves. Hikers will enjoy the smell of wildflowers while catching a glimpse of local wildlife as they cross Red Sandstone Creek. Ideal conditions occur between June and September. At its highest point, the elevation on this trail reaches 10,248 ft.

Upper Piney River Trail

Traveling east to west, this relatively easy trail features several gorgeous views. Spanning 2.8 miles one way, the trail begins in an open meadow above Piney Lake and Piney River, the trail continues into aspen groves and ends at the cascading falls. Hikers can also spend some time fishing at Piney River along the way. The peak elevation along this trail reaches 9,727 ft.

Shrine Mountain Trail

At an amazing elevation of 11,747 ft., this trail offers hikers a spectacular view of their surroundings. It was established by the Ute Indians and used by early settlers. Beginning in a southwest direction, the trail leads through the meadows and then heads west into a pine forest. There is a steep climb upward before turning northwest to reach the peak and enjoy the marvelous view. This trail is easy to moderate in difficulty and spans 2.1 miles each way.

Bowman’s Shortcut Trail

This beautiful trail takes you through the woods into a large open meadow. Enjoying the grand view of the Gore Range, you will continue on to Two Elk Pass. Spanning 4.2 miles each way, this moderately difficult hike reaches peak elevation at 10,987 ft.

Pitkin Creek Trail

Be ready for this slightly difficult 4.5 mile trail. It starts right off with a steep climb out of the valley. As you enter the forest, the trail levels out and your effort is rewarded by the spectacular view of a waterfall on Pitkin Creek. Climbing upward again to a peak elevation of 11,400 ft., you will reach Pitkin Lake placed neatly beneath a grey granite arc.

Gore Creek Trail

One of the most popular trails in the area, Gore Creek Trail spans 5.48 miles each way. It provides a moderate challenge for day hiking but comes with a just reward. Running beside Gore Creek, the trail then graduates from meadows to aspen groves and then conifer forests. Continuing to climb, the trail ends at Gore Lake where hiker can find respite and maybe even do some fishing. At its peak, this trail reaches 11,390 ft. elevation.

We spend so much of our time rushing from here to there and worrying about how things might turn out. Why not take some time out to get away from it all. Spend some time hiking in the mountains of Vail and enjoy the beauty of nature. What have you got to lose?