Visiting Vail in the summer? These are the best things to do in Vail in summer.
Most people know Vail for its skiing and snowboarding (it’s the fourth-largest ski area in North America), but in the summer, it becomes the perfect playground for anyone who enjoys being outside. The weather is beautiful, averaging 75°F, so you can spend all day hiking, biking, fishing, or climbing, then wind down at a nice dinner or relax at a spa.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan an incredible summer vacation in Vail.
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Last Updated: July 11, 2023
What you need to know before visiting Vail in Summer
Temperatures: Average Highs are mid-70s, and lows are in the 40s at night. Dress in layers.
Elevation: Vail sits at 8,150 feet elevation. Give yourself time to adjust before strenuous activities.
Hydrate: Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps with elevation and altitude sickness. We carry our Lightweight Hydro Flasks on all our trips.
Public Transportation: Once you’re in Vail, there is a free bus service and many trails to take you through town.
Dinner Reservations: Making reservations are always a good idea since restaurants can get very busy.
15 Best Things to Do in Vail in Summer
210 Edwards Village Blvd # B-107, Edwards, CO 81632, map
A llama lunch is one of the unique things to do in Vail in the summer! We brought our two adorable llama friends, Roberto and Trace, to Camp Hale National Monument. After a short hike to a waterfall, our guide Rachel set up a picnic lunch for us. The llamas were so much fun to interact with. And P.S. Roberto loved eating dandelions.
To give you a little backstory, Paragon Guides started with backcountry skiing. The family loved backpacking, and when they visited South America with kids and experienced hiking with Llamas, they fell in love. Llamas help lighten the load when hiking or picnicking, and they are great in the Vail climate and terrain. They are also low-impact; unlike goats, they do not pull up the roots when they eat. Paragon has 7 in their herd and recently added two babies in training.
Local Tip: Be sure to ask to give them a treat at the end so you can feel how soft their lips are (and surprisingly not slobbery)!
520 E Lionshead Cir, Vail, CO 81657, map
Epic Discovery at the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola has fun activities for the whole family. The Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster was the second mountain coaster we’ve been on, and it was so much fun. On mountain coasters, gravity pulls you down the mountain, but you have a break to control your speed. If you full-send the ride, you get up to speeds of 27 mph. This one felt faster than the one we rode in Golden, BC.
In addition to the Forest Flyer, there is a zipline, bungee trampoline, climbing wall, and summer tubing. We were supposed to try the tubing hill, but it was still closed (scheduled to open mid-Summer). We’ll have to try it next time!
Local Tip: Ask them to give you plenty of space from the person in front of you if you want to go full speed down the mountain coaster. If they have a long line, they usually can’t do this. The afternoon is the busiest. We visited in the morning and didn’t have to wait to ride it.
See More: Recap of Our Endless Caravan
520 E Lionshead Cir, Vail, CO 81657, map
A Scenic Gondola Ride is the easiest way to get amazing views of the Vail Valley and there are two open from June 16-Oct 4, Gondola One and Eagle Bahn Gondola. We rode the Eagle Bahn Gondola, which takes you up 10,000 feet to Epic Discovery. At the top, you don’t get a view of Vail because of the way the hills are, but you get to see the surrounding mountains.
You can also have lunch here. Jacob got the chicken tenders which was standard. No complaints. But my Peach Pancetta Salad was surprisingly good for being a tourist spot.
When you’re ready to head back, you can go back down via gondola, but many people hike or mountain bike.
Pro Tip: You can get a $25 lunch voucher for only $20 when you buy a package.
210 Edwards Village Blvd # B-107, Edwards, CO 81632, map
Before our Llama Lunch, we spent the morning rock climbing with Paragon Guides. They can take you climbing in different areas, but we went to Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument – Colorado’s newest national monument.
Camp Hale was the 10th Mountain Division’s base, the first and only mountain infantry in the Army, who fought in World War II. The area we climbed is the same place the 10th Mountain Division trained to climb too!
The routes range from 5.6 to 5.9, and we even saw a group climbing blindfolded, which is a popular thing to do here since it’s beginner climbing. With Paragon, they typically only do top rope. If you want to lead, you’ll need to hire a separate guide or book multiple days so they can gauge your skill level. We also checked out some miscellaneous boulders. See the different climbing areas here.
Fun Fact: The 10th Mountain Division veterans used their skills after they returned from the war to lead the growth of America’s skiing industry. They founded or managed over 60 ski resorts.
700 Red Sandstone Rd, Vail, CO 81657, map
Piney River Ranch is a beautiful place to go canoeing, SUP on a lake, hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. It’s also a popular wedding venue, and when we posted about it, several friends told us they had or almost had their wedding here.
I was happy to see the mountains still had some snow during our visit in late June, but we were also a couple of weeks early for peak wildflower season.
Although close to town, the road to Piney River Ranch is unpaved and takes around 45 minutes to drive so give yourself plenty of time. Also, if you’re using google maps, the address pins where the road turns into a dirt road, but if you search ‘Piney River Ranch,’ it will pull up the parking lot. Download offline maps of the area since you won’t have service.
Photo Tip: This is one of the photogenic spots in Vail, and if you’re a photographer, it might be worth booking a stay here. Piney River Ranch is only open to the public from 9 AM – 6 PM, so you can only get sunrise/sunset shots if you stay on the property. Typically, the lake is calmer in the morning and picks up in the afternoon.
There is plenty of hiking trails in the Vail area. There are leisure, well-paved trails to challenging ones. Here are some of the popular hiking trails in the area.
Gore Creek Path (Easy, 1.8 mi point to point, 209 ft elevation gain) – was a pleasant paved stroll we took daily from Lionshead Village to Vail Village.
Meadows Loop and Ridge Trail (Easy, 3.2 mi loop, 475 ft elevation gain)
Shrine Ridge Trail (Moderate, 4.3 mi out & back, 1,030 ft elevation gain) – Had signal at Shrine Pass Parking, where there are also pit toilets. We were too early for wildflower season, and the trail was wet and muddy from the snowmelt.
Upper Piney River Falls Tail (Moderate, 5.9 mi out & back, 728 ft elevation gain) – The main hike at Piney River Ranch
Lost Lake Trail (Moderate, 7 mi out & back, 941 ft elevation gain)
Beaver Lake Trail (Strenuous, 6.3 mi out & back, 1,689 ft elevation gain)
Berrypicker Trail (Strenuous, 7.9 mi out & back, 2,286 ft elevation gain) – A great option at the top of Vail Mountain
Notch Mountain Trail (Strenuous, 9.6 mi out & back, 2,857 ft elevation gain)
East Lake Creek Trail (Strenuous, 18.3 mi out & back, 3,129 ft elevation gain)
Pro Tip: If you easily get lost like me, download AllTrails+ to have the trail maps offline.
241 S Frontage Rd W #8150, Vail, CO 81657, map
If you want to experience a slice of Europe in the US, Vail has a mix of Bavarian, Swiss, and Tyrolean-inspired architecture. We always ended our evenings in town, grabbing dinner and walking around town. During the summer, you will also find live music on the streets.
Pro Tip: The main parking lots for Vail Village and Lionshead are free during the day in the summer. There is also a free bus that takes you around town.
We never had any interest in mountain biking until we visited Vail. We thought, “Wow, Colorado is for mountain bikers. Everyone around us has a bike!” There are trails for different skill levels, and you can even bring your bike on the gondola to the top of Vail Mountain and ride their downhill trails. Here are some of the most popular bike trails:
Gore Creek Recreation Trail (Easy)
Vail Mountain Trails (Green to Black)
The North Trail (Intermediate)
Vail Pass Bike Path (Difficult if Riding Up, Intermediate if Riding Down)
Buffehr Creek Trail (Difficult)
Local Tip: Watch for bike dismount zones in Vail Village, where you must walk your bike.
522 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657, map
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is one of the highest botanical gardens in the world, featuring alpine plants and flowers. When we walked by the Education Center, we thought the gardens were tiny, but there was much more to see on the other side of the playground.
Local Tip: They have multiple events throughout the summer, including cooking demonstrations, sustainable landscape talks, garden tours, and more.
231 S Frontage Rd E, Vail, CO 81657, map
The Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame is open daily and free to visit. It’s right under the Visitors Center so it’s easy to find. It’s a great spot to learn about the history of snowsports and a nice break if the sun is too intense in the middle of the day.
Local Tip: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they offer history walking tours at 11 AM. It’s $10 per person and kids are free.
See More: Recap of Our Endless Caravan
Fishing and fly fishing are popular in the summer. Every lake, river, or creek we passed by, we saw people fishing. Here are some popular areas:
Eagle River – wild brown and rainbow trout with calm waters great for fly fishing (the waters are calm after peak run-off – usually around early to mid July)
Colorado River – plenty of public land access
Gore Creek – a favorite spot for fly fishing with multiple access points
Nottingham Lake – 15-acre artificial lake great for large trout and crayfish
Calling all yogis! Every Saturday from mid-June to late August, they host yoga sessions at the top of Vail Mountain. They provide yoga mats if needed, and you can buy a pass for the class only or purchase it with the Scenic Gondola Ride.
14. Vail Spas
Vail has no shortage of beautiful spas to relax in, which is well deserved after adventuring in the mountains. Here are some of the best spots:
RockResorts Spa at the Arrabelle – 10,000 sq ft space.
Sonnenalp Spa – Facials, massages, and full-body dry brushing treatments.
Spa at Four Seasons – Body scrubs, healing massages, and salon services. It also has indoor hydrotherapy, a steam room, and a dry sauna.
The Spa at Gravity Haus Vail – If you’re looking for performance-based treatments.
15. Golfing in Vail
The Vail Golf Club offers an 18-hole, par-71 course at 8,200 feet in elevation. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and incredible scenery, it will be hard not to enjoy your time on the course. The golf season typically starts mid-May and runs through early to mid-October.
More Things to Do in Vail in the Summer
Off-Road Jeep Adventures
Spice Rub Class at Four Seasons
Vail Farmers Market – Sundays from 6/18-10/8/2023
Vail Nature Center
Map of the Best Things to Do in Vail in Summer
Seasonal Events / Summer Events in Vail
GoPro Mountain Games (June)
Vail Arts Festival (June)
Vail Craft Beer Classic (June)
Farmer’s Market & Art Show (June to October)
Bravo! Vail Music Festival (June to August)
Hot Summer Nights (June to September)
Vail America Days Celebration & Parade (July 4th)
Vail Jazz Festival (July to September)
Dance Festival (July to August)
Vail Wine Classic (August)
Kids Adventure Games (August)
Getting to and Around Vail
Most people fly into Denver (DEN) and make the roughly 2-hour drive to Vail. You can also fly into Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), which has more limited flights (see details here). If you fly into EGE, it’s only 30 miles from Vail, and full-service transportation options are available.
From the East, you can access Vail via Interstate 70 through Denver. Vail is less than 100 miles away from Denver.
From the West, take 1-70 eastbound through Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs. Vail is a 50-minute drive from Glenwood Springs.
If you’re coming from the South, you have multiple options. Take 1-25 north to Denver, then go west on 1-70. OR you can also take Highway 522 to Highway 17 for a more scenic route.
From the North, take 1-25 south to Denver, then 1-70 west.
Getting Around in Vail
Once you arrive in Vail, you can get free daytime parking in Vail Village and Lionshead Village. If you are driving an RV or Trailer, there is parking for oversized vehicles on N. Frontage Road in West Vail for $35 per 24 hours (max five days).
There is also discounted Satellite Parking with bus service from 7 AM to 11 PM at Red Sandstone Park and North Frontage Road (across from the West Vail Mall).
A free bus makes multiple stops in town. We stayed in West Vail near Lionshead Village and walked to Vail Village along the Gore Creek Path each evening.
Best Places to Eat in Vail Colorado
We cross-referenced reviews and friends’ recommendations to share the best places to eat in Vail, Colorado.
Places We Tried or Spots Recommended by Locals
Alpenrose (, German) – Owned by the Thoma Family, who came here from Germany. We grabbed an early dinner here and enjoyed the Caesar Salad. We also tried the mini beers (it’s actually a shooter with whipped cream on top). Our friend mentioned the Käsespätzle is amazing here.
Annapurna Nepali and Indian Cuisine (, Indian/Nepalese) – We were craving rice for lunch, which hit the spot. We ordered basic dishes like Masala, Vindaloo, and Garlic Naan.
Barrio Social (, Tapas Bar) – Newest restaurant in Vail featuring Spanish and Portuguese wines, tapas, and plancha dishes. Our faves were the Razor Clams and Charcuterie Board.
Deca + Bol (, New American) – We enjoyed the Roasted Cauliflower, Elotes, and BBQ Chicken Flatbread. You can also go bowling after!
La Nonna (, Italian) – La Nonna is Rachel, our Paragon Guide’s fave spot. She is a pescatarian, and so is the chef, giving plenty of delicious options for those with dietary restrictions. It was only open for dinner, and we only had time for lunch, so we didn’t get to try it.
More Places to Check Out
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits (, Distilleries) – local distillery
El Segundo (, Mexican)
The Fitz (, American)
Flame Restaurant (, Breakfast & Brunch)
Frost Bar (, Cocktail Bar)
The George Restaurant & Pub (, American)
Leonora (, Tapas Bars)
The Little Diner (, Diners)
Ludwigs (, Breakfast & Brunch)
Mountain Standard (, New American)
Rimini Gelato (, Ice Cream)
Root & Flower (, Wine Bar)
Slope Room (, New American)
Swiss Chalet (, German)
Sweet Basil (, New American)
Up the Creek (, American)
Vail Brewing Co (, Breweries)
Vintage (, Breakfast & Brunch)
Local Tip: It’s always wise to make reservations since restaurants can get busy during dinner. Also, some spots are open for dinner only.
Where to Stay in Vail
We stayed at The Antlers at Vail, a condominium hotel in Lionshead Village. These spaces had a full kitchen and plenty of room to spread out. It is perfect for a workcation or digital nomads like us, especially if you want extended stays. It feels more homey, but you still get hotel amenities like daily housekeeping, a year-round outdoor pool, hot tubs, saunas, a fitness room, and a business center. See a complete list of complimentary amenities here.
Ditch the car. Once you arrive in Vail, use the trails or free bus system to get around.
Give yourself time to adjust. The elevation is higher than most of us are used to. It’s best to give yourself a day before doing any strenuous activities.
Pack layers. It’s warm during the day but cool at night. The best is to have a lightweight jacket.
Bring a daypack for your extra layers and any other items you need.
Apply and reapply sunblock. The sun feels intense at this elevation.
For more info and resources, visit Discover Vail’s website here.
Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.
Download these helpful language apps.
Find a great deal on Vail hotels.
Arrange a rental car for your trip.
Have you been to Vail in the summer? Which activity would you be most excited about?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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