Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about mushroom hunting in Vail, Colorado helpful.
Colorado is home to more than 2,000 varieties of fungi, second only to the Pacific Northwest. It is estimated that 50 to 100 varieties of mushroom found in the state are edible. But keep in mind, some varieties are poisonous, lethally toxic, may make you hallucinate or cause stomach pains so it’s not recommended that you go out mushroom hunting without an experienced guide or advanced knowledge of your prey. Mushrooms may be small but they demand a lot of respect.
See Also: Best Mushroom Hunting Supplies
(Boletus rubriceps) Porcini are large, hearty, popular mushrooms that are perfect for a main dish. The King Bolete (Boletus edulis) is a prized wild porcini mushroom found all around the world with excellent nutritional properties.
(Cantherellus roseocanus, C cibarius) A delicate, thinner mushroom found near the moist, mossy edges of Colorado’s conifer forests. They thrive in the high country above 10,500′ near streams, fallen trees and moist areas.
(Morchella esculentoides, Morchella brunnea, Morchella eximia, M sextelata, M exuberance, M tomentosa)
Yellow, Black and Burn Morels have a distinct honeycomb cap and are hollow on the inside. They are generally found in the spring near disturbed ground such as burn sites, old logging areas and storm-blown downed trees. BEWARE there are many look-a-like morel species that are not edible.
(Sarcodon imbricatus) is easily identifiable as it really does look like an actual hawk’s wing and does not have any poisonous look a likes. It is prolific here and again grows in the same areas as porcinis and chanterelles.
This delicious mushroom is easy to identify once you have experience but can be mixed up with other orangish gilled mushrooms that can be found in the area and can be poisonous.
Puffballs are an edible mushroom but only young specimens should be collected, because once the spore mass begins turning yellow they become unsuitable for eating. When, the mature mushroom is compressed a smoke-like cloud of spores is ejected.
(Clavariadelphus ligula) Generally, these unique, capless fungi can be found anywhere from June to September. Avoid brightly colored corals as only white, beige or yellow corals are edible and too much may upset your stomach.
(Pleurotus pulmonarius, P populinus) The aspen oyster mushroom, is a gilled fungus that is native to North America and is found on the dead wood of aspen and cottonwood trees.
(Auricularia auricula) Another springtime variety of mushroom that can be found the world over. The fruiting body resembles a human ear with brown coloration. Can be found growing on decaying hardwoods and conifer logs.
Mushrooms are not a seasonal crop; they grow based on certain conditions. They emerge depending on ground temperature, precipitation and sunlight after precipitation. Mushrooms also prefer certain trees habitats and have a preference for soil type, moisture, intensity of light, temperature, slope and of course, wildfire activity
Mushrooms like heat AND moisture. Put those two things together and you will find mushrooms, usually lots of mushrooms.
Mushroom hunting season in Colorado begins in April and lasts through October but the season starts a bit later up in the mountains. The peak of mushroom activity is usually in August as long as all conditions have been met. The best time to hunt is after a warm, heavy rainfall.
Mushrooms on the western slope of Colorado are generally found between 7,500 and 10,000+ feet in elevation. North-facing slopes are most productive, followed by east, south and finally west facing slopes. Mushrooms generally grow in the same areas year after year, so finding a prolific spot one year can mean a treasure trove of mushrooms annually for years to come.
Mushroom’s mycelium and tree roots share a special symbiotic relationship whereas each exchanges nutrients to each and heavily rely on each other. Mushrooms can be very picky about which types of trees they partner up with. So coniferous and hardwood forests are a great place to start.
If morels are your jam, in the year (or two or three) following a burn you can expect a morel mushroom bonanza. In the spring, in the West and under the right conditions thousands of delicious morel mushrooms will carpet charred forest floor. With Colorado experiencing an increase in wildfire recently it is sure to be a promising spring.
Burn Morel Maps – An excellent way to track burned areas throughout the entire country is with a Burn Map from Modern Forager. They spend hours curating and sorting through the fires – removing inaccessible (or unlawful) areas for picking. They rank fires in each state and focus on “A” rated fires which are sure to produce lots of mushrooms if the weather cooperates.
A prolific mushroom spot is a secret, a big secret, and not many people share their spots (it’s kinda like…no friends on a powder day). So although we will not tell you exactly where to find mushrooms we will tell you popular places where people find success so you can discover your own personal mushroom stash.
White River National Forest is the most visited national forest in the nation. It encompasses 2.3 million acres with eight Wilderness areas, 10 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet and 2,500 miles of trails, and is perfect for a fungi adventure! The White River National Forest requires a permit before you start harvesting. Read more about Mushroom Collecting Permits or visit the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District at 24747 U.S. Highway 24 in Minturn, CO.
When mushroom hunting in the White River National Forest, or other federal or state lands, a permit is required. The permit is free, and for personal use, you can gather up to 5 gallons per day with a seasonal maximum total of 67 pounds.
Popular mushroom foraging areas in the Vail Valley include: Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek Mountain, Vail Pass, Shrine Pass, Tennessee Pass, the Black Lakes region, the Homestake area, Tigiwon Road, Vail Pass, Charles and Nolan lakes regions.
Although it is recommended to use a guide or knowledgeable person when you are foraging, it is not an easy feat to find an experienced guide in the Vail valley. However, there are some local resources that can help educate you about safe, edible mushrooms.
Mountain Wolf Jeep Adventures, Timberline Tours and Sage Outdoor Adventures all offer jeep tours of the area. Their knowledgeable guides know tons about the local flora and fauna including mushrooms. Ask ahead when you are booking a tour to request a guide with mushroom experience. These guides may or may not be edible mushroom certified so this is best if you already have knowledge and experience picking edible mushrooms.
Walking Mountain offers private guided hiking tours in the area. Schedule a private hike and ask them if they have a certified/knowledgeable mushroom guide available. Check their online calendar to see if they are offering any mushroom walks, lectures or films. Walking Mountain Science Center offers many natural science and sustainability programs to explore nature, gain a scientific understanding, and learn about the wonders of the mountains. They are a valuable resource about mushrooms and other flora in our area, ask them! Find out more at: www.walkingmountains.org
Although they have been taking a hiatus during the covid-19 pandemic, the CMS usually offers regular mushroom forays to their members and member’s guests. Outings include a Foray leader and assistants who instruct the appropriate methods of collecting, and then let participants fan out in small groups to search for specimens. At an appointed time, they reconvene and the leaders provide further instruction in correct procedures for identification. Visit the Colorado Mycological Society’s website for more details on mushroom forays..
Every year the ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies) Mushroom Fair offers a two-day exploration through meadows and forests to discover the hiding places of the elusive mountain mushrooms while learning about the ecology, natural history, and general biology of fungi. With the expert guidance, you will learn identification techniques, examine mushrooms in their natural habitats, learn how fungi contribute to ecosystems, and appreciate the incredible variety and beauty of Colorado’s fungi. Visit their website for more information at www.AspenNature.org
If you have been bitten by the foraging bug and want more information about mushrooms you may want to turn to an informative on-line class. If you want to educate yourself more about Colorado’s edible gourmet mushrooms such as morels, oysters, porcini and chanterelle then you have to check out the online class by Trent and Kristen Blizzard of Modern Forager.
Learn when, where and how to forage for mushrooms. Topics include identification, habitat, etiquette, preservation and cooking. Trent is the co-founder of Modern Forager and author of Burn Morels – A Modern Foragers Guide to Finding Mushrooms. He is a CDPHE certified Wild Mushroom Identification Expert and will teach you how to safely locate and pick your own gourmet mushrooms and find your own secret spots.
Mushroom festivals are a great way to learn more about the scientific, medicinal and culinary aspects of mushrooms while having a ton of fun. They are a great way to meet people and explore this incredible resource.
For more than a decade the annual Eagle Mushroom Festival has been bringing notable national experts in mushroom and wild food foraging, cuisine, cultivation, preservation and adventuring to the charming mountain town of Eagle, CO. The perfect way to a celebrate the natural world and its bounty in our mountain community. www.eaglemushroomfest.com
Since 1981, the Telluride Mushroom Festival has been celebrating all things mycological, from the newest advancements in mushroom science to their famous (and delicious) mushroom cook-off. This annual festival is a can’t-miss event for mushroom enthusiasts in one of the most beautiful areas on earth. www.tellurideinstitute.org/telluride-mushroom-festival
Buena Vista, Colorado hosts the annual King Boletus Mushroom Festival every August. This fun-filled festival offers tons of comraderie and education and delicious food for those who love all things fungi. Enjoy two-days of mushroom seminar s with classroom lectures and mountain mushroom hunting forays. Perfect for mushroom hunters of all ages and levels of experience to share their passion, tips and success stories. Read more at www.buenavistaheritage.org
Attendees of the ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies) Mushroom Fair will enjoy a variety of classes and workshops to learn about a variety of mushrooms, including types that can be eaten. They also encourage you to bring your own mushrooms–to share and learn about.
Connecting with local clubs or online Facebook Groups is a great way to meet other fungi lovers and like-minded pickers. As a member, you can learn more about mushrooms, ask for mushroom identifications, enjoy mushroom recipes and even dare I say…share secret mushroom harvest spots.
The Colorado Mycological Society is a group of like-minded scientists, naturalists, chefs, writers, artists, gardeners, cultivators, hikers and admirers who’ve come together to share their passion for mushrooms. Visit their website at www.cmsweb.org
PPMS has been leading forays, educating the curious, hosting mushroom-themed dinners and bringing mycology experts from all over the world for classes and lectures. Topics range from mycoremediation, how to grow mushrooms at home, medicinal and healing powers of mushrooms, to the identification of common and not-so-common local species. Located in Southern Colorado. Find out more or become a member by visiting their website at www.pikespeakmyc.org
A wonderful community that celebrates the relationship between fungi, the planet, and humans starting here, with the Western Slope of Colorado. They educate the public through forays, classes, and informational sessions about the many benefits of mushrooms. Click here to visit their Facebook Page
You don’t need a lot of tools for a successful mushroom foray, but some items are essential:
We hope you found this article about mushroom hunting in Vail, Colorado helpful. Please share YOUR favorite adventures while mushrooming in the high country. We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and stories related to all things fungi. And remember, NEVER eat a mushroom you are unsure about.
We work hard to ensure all information is correct but if there is an error in what we’ve written let us know in the comments below.