Some vacation destinations are thought of as strictly winter or strictly summer, but as I discovered during my trip to Vail in June, those beliefs aren’t always accurate. I mean, for a ski destination known the world over, the city offers some astoundingly fab activities in the summer months (and because it’s not their busiest season, lots of places offer lower rates and prices — score!).
Let me put it this way: I don’t ski, and I’m still making plans to go back next summer because I couldn’t fit all the awesome things I wanted to do into the three full days I spent there. Not even close. And it’s not because it wasn’t accessible — one of the coolest things about being there was that almost everything was right outside your door.
A block or two in one direction and I was at the base of Vail Mountain with my choice of several trails to run or hike. Five minutes in the other direction put me right in the heart of the village with an assortment of shops and restaurants. And, because I stayed right at Vail Mountain Lodge, I had a sweet fitness center with loads of cool classes and a spa within the same building.
So! For this Fit Bottomed Tour, I’m giving you a mix of suggestions from different people. Some are based upon my own incredible experience, but I also talked to a few people who live there and work at the Vail Vitality Center: Jeff Morgan, the director; Ellen Miller, their outdoor fitness expert, and Angel Muzic, sales manager, Pilates instructor and personal trainer.
Fit Bottomed Tour of Vail: 7 Things to Do in Summer
1. Running Trails: Booth Falls and Vail Trails. Jeff recommended these as great, well-kept ascending trails with a reasonable distance (out and back is 4.6 miles for Booth and about a 10k for Vail). With the elevation, you might find that you can’t run at quite the same capacity as back home, but it’s also a pretty great reason to take it a little slower than usual to take in the sights. For the record, I had a little trouble finding Vail Trail (I found one sign, but … it didn’t quite get me there), so when seeking these out, it’s worth having more than a foggy idea of the direction in which it should be, because there are a lot of trail options!
2. Hiking Secret: Ride the Lifts! Of course you’re welcome to hike up to the top of the mountain and hike right on back down, that’s not the only option. The ski lifts work all summer long and are an awesome resource for hikers. You can take the lift up to the top for a fee, or, if you’d prefer, you can hike to the top and take it down at no charge. Going up you’ll be restricted as to what you can take with you — no dogs, for example — but coming down, that’s not the case. Cool, right?
3. Drink With the Locals: Garfinkles. I didn’t get a chance to check this out, but it was recommended by a few people, so I have faith it’s worth a stop. It’s bar food, sure, but they carry a nice local beer selection, and trust me, you’re not going to starve — there are plenty of food selections coming right up. And if you’re looking for a trendier bar option, check Matsuhisa (and probably order some black cod while you’re there — it’s a Chef Nobu restaurant!) or Frost.
4. Done Hiking? Try Biking. You can get around the mountains on two wheels as well as on two feet, and there are a couple of places to rent bikes nearby that were recommended: Venture Sports in Avon and Pedal Power Bike Shop in Eagle. And mountain biking isn’t your only option, either! If you’re more into road biking, the Vail Pass (the old highway leading to Vail) is extraordinarily beautiful and offers you plenty of paved miles away from car traffic.
5. Seek Adventure: Rafting, Rock Climbing and More. Looking for something to brag about back home? Paragon Guides has plenty to choose from: Hiking, alpine ascents, rock climbing, fly fishing and even … llama trekking? Yes, llama trekking. Or, if you prefer your adventures a bit on the damp side, hit up Lakota Guides for some whitewater rafting. I saw numerous rafts floating down the river during my trip and can’t wait to get my chance.
6. Top (and I mean “Top”) Meditation Spot: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. At the end of a truly amazing guided hike on Berry Picker Trail with Ellen Miller, we ended up wandering through the world’s highest botanical garden. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is beautiful, tranquil, and a perfect spot to meditate, stretch or just take a break. And, like everything else, it’s right there. Of course, if you’re more into chilling out in an indoor setting, you could opt for yoga at Vail Vitality Center and a treatment at their spa. We all have our own ways of relaxing, you know?
7. Java Fix: Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s. Warning to early risers: Neither coffee shop opens terribly early here (go ahead and ask me how I know), so if you’ve got an adventure slated to start at dawn, brew your own. But, if you have time, both of these coffee shops are great local places with plenty of tasty options, both in terms of coffee and food. I had a tasty smoothie from Loaded Joe’s and heard good things about Yeti’s Grind’s grub as well, which is nice because Vail has many, many lovely restaurants, but not a ton of places to swing by to grab a quick bite.
8. Fresh and Tasty Food: Oh, So Many Options! Personally, I got to try three fab restaurants: Sweet Basil, Matsuhisa and Terra Bistro, all of which you can get the scoop on here. Northside Coffee Kitchen also came highly recommended, as did bōl and Bully Ranch. But, really, this town is full of foodies who dig healthy eats, so you don’t have to try too terribly hard to find the perfect option for you.
Have you ever been to Vail? Did I miss any of your favorite fit activities or restaurants? —Kristen