Explore world-class hiking trails in the Vail Valley, surrounded by the White River National Forest and Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Some of our favorite trails are Beaver Lake Trail, Village to Village, Hanging Lake, Missouri Lakes and Booth Falls. While trails are most often hiked in warmer months, we offer snowshoes for those brave enough to traverse them during the winter.
Visualize that quintessential scene from The Sound of Music. You know, the one where Julie Andrews is singing her heart out, spinning in a field of wild flowers with a mountain range as the backdrop. Now, add even more striking mountains, more wildflowers and the distinct feeling you can see to the ends of the earth, and you are at the Shrine Mountain summit.
Who Can Go?
Named for its unobstructed view of the Mount of the Holy Cross, Shrine Mountain can easily be hiked in an afternoon. It is suitable for almost all ages and fitness levels. Dogs and even horses are allowed to join the fun.
The trail head is located off Exit 190 on I-70 at the top of Vail Pass and 2.3 miles down a dirt road. That's about 40 minutes from The Inn at Riverwalk. The dirt road itself is a bit dusty and full of pot holes, so we suggest an AWD vehicle, or at least something durable. Roll down the windows, drive slowly around the limited-sight turns and mind the divets. It should take you 10-15 minutes before you see the parking lot to your left. There are plenty of spots, but you may need to park along the road when arriving mid-day. There are some *rustic* restrooms just before the trail head.
The trail is considered easy to moderate, consisting of mostly rolling hills and a steeper incline just before you reach the peak. At 4.2 miles round trip, the views far exceed what you might expect for so little effort. The trail is about 85% in direct sunlight, so lather on the SPF, carry water, and sport shades or a hat.
*Tip: The trail begins at 11,089 feet in elevation and ends at 11,747 feet. That means the air is quite "thin". If you are having trouble adjusting to the altitude, skip this hike or wait a few days until you are acclimated.
Hands down, this hike is best experienced mid-July through mid-August, peak wildflower season. A myriad of pink, yellow, purple, orange, blue and white spreads on all sides of you almost the entire hike. There are a few ponds and a babbling brook to add to the whimsicality of this trek. Every way you turn, you are rewarded with a unique view. You have Copper Mountain to the southeast, the Gore Range to the north, the Flat Top Mountains to the west and the list goes on. Try not to get dizzy from spinning in all directions.
This popular hike is moderately strenuous with some steep uphill portions and rocky paths. There are also sweeping views, open meadows, river crossings, and aspen glades. Booth Creek Trail gives you a little bit of everything.
If you look at the USDA quick sheet for this hike, you will notice it looks much longer and much more difficult than we are going to tell you. You do have the option to hike past Booth Falls and up to Booth Lake, which is stunning. That being said, the lake hike will take the better portion of your day. We suggest hiking to Booth Falls and doing an about face in the direction of downtown Vail with the intention of eating your way through the streets.
The distance from the trailhead to Booth Falls is about 2.5 miles, giving you a nice 5-mile hike round trip. Elevation gain is about 1,500 feet. The nice feature about this trail is the grade is mixed. You start with a steeper climb, mellow out into meadows and forest and end with a steep climb. You’re getting close to the waterfall after you walk through two significant meadows separated by an aspen glade, then start the last ascent to (seemingly) nowhere.
Power through that last climb and you will find yourself atop a 60-foot waterfall. Peer over the edge to see a rushing river powered by snow melt. The falls are most impressive in the summer and they start to calm down come August, when there is no more snow melt contributing to the river’s volume.
*tip: Bring kids ages 7+ but keep them back from the edge once you reach Booth Falls. There are no fences or guard rails. Keep following the trail to find multiple view points which are less precarious than the initial overlook.