Best Vail Hiking Trails (for Kids)

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Welcome to ThinkVail – We hope you find this article about the best Vail hiking trails for kids helpful.


Summer is a magical time here in the Vail valley and one of the reasons for that is because of all the GREAT hiking that is found literally, right outside your front door.  No matter where you are staying in Vail, a great hike is just minutes away. Hiking is the perfect way to get away from it all, listen to the sounds of nature, enjoy beautiful views and a wonderful way to focus on what’s important.

Kids are natural hikers, so get them outside and teach them how to enjoy nature and explore their surroundings. Kids of any age can go hiking. If they are too small to hike on their own, Mom and Dad, can load them up in a kiddie backpack so they can start to get a feel of what hiking is all about and know what to expect.

If your kids’ are walking then it’s all about finding the right type of hikes and opening their eyes to the joy of being outside. (This is easier said than done in the age of video games.)

Whether you live here or are visiting the Vail area, here are some great kid-friendly hikes to help you and your family safely explore.

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See also: Challenging Hikes in the Vail Valley


What You Need-Essential Gear for a Hike

Hiking fun and you don’t need a lot of gear but there are some important items that you must have for a fun, successful hike.

  • Sturdy Hiking Boots  You’re in the Rocky Mountains, there are rocks, boulders, scree, rivers, streams, steep rises and of course mud puddles. Keep your feet and your kids’ feet dry and protected. Always wear closed-toe, sturdy shoes when hiking.
  • Short Sleeve T-Shirt  It gets hot here, it’s always nice to be able to take layers off to cool down
  • Sweatshirt  The weather changes on a dime and the temperature drops as you go up in elevation, always have a second layer that you can put on to warm up.
  • A light Rain Jacket  Plan on some rain every day between 1-5 pm
  • Snacks  Because everything is better with snacks
  • Water  At altitude you just need more water and you can’t believe what a thirst climbing up even a small hill can generate.
  • Sunscreen 8150 feet in elevation, means we are super close to the sun and you will burn more easily here than at sea level
  • Hat/Visor A great way to keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes.

See also: BEST Lightweight Hiking Gear


Easy Hikes on Vail Mountain

Vail Mountain offers fun interpretative hikes where kids can go at their own pace while reading stories about native animals and the environment. Two of these hikes take place on Vail mountain so you will need to take the gondola and buy a lift ticket to access these trails easily. Strawberry Lane starts at the base of the mountain so no lift ticket needed.

Also, at the top of Vail mountain is Adventure Ridge which is a big mountaintop kids’ playground so you can combine a hike with other fun activities like alpine slide, zip line, mini golf, climbing wall, rebound trampoline, motor tours and more, and make a whole day of it.

  • Eagle’s Loop A lovely, short ridgetop loop with wonderful views of Mount of the Holy Cross. The trail is 1 mile (1.6 km), 15–20 minutes and perfect for smaller kids.
  • Fireweed Trail A beautiful wooded trail between Eagle’s Nest (Eagle Bahn Gondola) and Mid-Vail (Gondola One). In the early fall the spectacular Fireweed flower is brightly in bloom. This trail is 1 mile (1.6 km), 30–40 minutes, one way. Perfect for kids that are a little older or put younger children in a kid carrier.
  • Strawberry Lane A lovey moderately trafficked, out and back trail located on Vail Mountain. It joins up with the popular Berry Picker trail that is a little more challenging. This trail starts off steep without to much shade and then winds through a shadier area with trees, streams and gorgeous wildflowers. This 2.6 mile trail gets you mid-mountain and you can either hike down or take the Gondola back to the base of the resort. An ideal hike for all skill levels.

Easy Hikes in Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek, Vail’s sister mountain just about 10 minutes to the west also boasts some wonderful kid-friendly trails. Some of these trails start right at the base of the mountain so you won’t even need to buy a lift ticket. Beaver Creek also offers other kid friendly activities at it’s base so aside from the hiking kids’ can also do mini golf, gold-panning, a ropes course and a climbing wall.

  • Creekside Loop– This beginner trail is perfect for a family outing. It is a gentle loop that passes through Creekside Park with a playground, picnic tables and restrooms. 1.5 miles makes it easy on kids’ feet as well as short attention spans. Approximately 45-60 minutes.
  • Discovery Loop Another great beginner trail, this is an easier interpretive hike that explores the cultural history and the indigenous animals of the area. 1.5 miles, 45-60 minutes, great for kids’ of all ages.
  • Five Senses Trail– This beginner trail is another perfect family outing and is sure to be a big hit with the kids’ as there is LOTS of water involved. Start at the base of Chair #6, and you cross Beaver Creek and then follow the road to Flood’s Fishing Ponds and then onto the trailhead to Beaver Lake. The hike is approximately 1 mile and takes 45-1.25 hours to complete.
  • Spruce Saddle Loop– This is an easier, mid-mountain interpretive tour at Spruce Saddle. This hike teaches kids’ (and you) about local flowers, trees and wildlife. Approx. 1 mile and take 30-60 minutes to complete.

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Guided  Hikes in Vail & Beaver Creek

It’s really nice to go hiking with a guide especially with kids. Guides know exactly where they are going and what to expect. They have been trained to find interesting items along the trail like seasonal wildflowers, migrating birds, the neighborhood wildlife, and stories and legends regarding the area.

It makes hiking so much less stressful, so your family can just enjoy their time together. Guides also have any gear or items that may be needed for the hike that you didn’t think of. Private hikes can be a little expensive but they customize the hike to your groups abilities and take the planning and worry out of your family hike.

Local outfitters who offer family-friendly guided hiking trips are:

  • Beaver Creek Hiking Center
  • Walking Mountain Science Center
  • Paragon Guides

ALSO: AllTrails.com, is a wonderful resource for all types of hiking throughout the United States including Vail & Beaver Creek.


Beaver Creek Hiking Center

The Beaver Creek Hiking Center is great resource to get your family on the trail. The Hiking Center is located at the base of Beaver Creek next to the lift ticket office.

  • Family Private Hikes The whole family will enjoy up to a 3-hour hike with a dedicated guide whose goal is to instill a love of hiking and the outdoors in all participants. The price includes lift access, lunch and a digital memento photo.
  • FREE Guided Hikes  The Nature Valley Hike is a FREE, easy hike. To join this hike, meet daily at 11am outside of Spruce Saddle Lodge. No reservation required.
  • Colorado Adventure Hikes Experienced Beaver Creek Hiking Center guides will lead hikers up legendary Colorado 14ers and 13ers. These Hikes are more technical and can be intense.
  • Weekend Hike & Wine Join a Beaver Creek Hiking Center guides Saturdays and Sundays and hike through Beaver Creek Mountain’s breathtaking scenery and finish your hike at the Osprey’s Fireside Grill to enjoy a charcuterie & cheese plate, a wine tasting and a delicious, gourmet dessert.

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Guided Hikes & Walking Mountain Science Center

Walking Mountain Science Center offers a daily, all-ages, hour-long, gentle, educational hike for FREE. Learn about the ecology and animal adaptations of this mountain environment. 3 locations, Avon, The Nature Center on Vail Valley Drive and the Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola (you will need to buy a lift ticket and ride the gondola)

  • Free Hike at Walking Mountain Science Center in Avon A daily hike through aspen and streams at our Avon location. This hike teaches hikers about the ecology and animal adaptations. Come and spend an hour outside with appropriate clothing, hiking shoes and water and learn about this beautiful area. Perfect for families.
  • Free Hike at Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola – This is a wonderful hike but you will need to purchase a lift pass and ride the gondola to be able to access this hike. Informed guides will tell you all about the forest atop Vail mountain as well as the flora and fauna that makes it s home there. 1 hour perfect for families.
  • Free Hike at Vail Nature Center on Vail Valley Drive The whole family can enjoy an hour-long guided walk with a naturalist to explain the flora, wildlife, geology and history of the area. The nature center is also very close to the Betty Ford High Altitude Gardens so enjoy a walk through the gardens before or after your hike at the Nature Center. Kids will love both of these activities and there is a playground in the area as well.
  • Guided Half-Day Family Hikes These morning hikes are geared for children 8+ and are offered weekly. Every week offers a new location around the Vail valley to explore. These are generally at a very casual, leisurely pace and are good for families. In comparison to other guided hikes, these are very affordable, usually around 30.00 per person

Paragon Guides

Llama Lunch Hikes These unique hikes are tailored to your interests and your children’s ages, and abilities. Half day hike includes a picnic lunch, guide, llama, snacks and water. Kids LOVE the llamas! Younger kids can take shorter hikes while older kids can enjoy longer hikes. Perfect way for families to get together and spend a day outdoors, the llama makes it a day your kids will NEVER forget. These hikes can be expensive but they do sell out every year.


Kid-Friendly Hut Trips

The 10th Mountain Hut Association is a non-profit organization that manages a system of 34 back-country huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, connected by 350 miles of trails. These huts (cabins or sometimes yurts) provide a unique opportunity for hikers to enjoy nearby hiking trails while staying in a rustic, safe, comfortable shelter.

Although the hut system is usually identified with adult trips that can be quite challenging, they do offer some family-friendly hut trips that are perfect for the whole family. Here are two that are accessible by car in the summer (well within a quarter of a mile of the hut) and two that have just short hikes to reach the cabins. This is the perfect experience to introduce your kids to hiking and enjoying the great outdoors!

Huts You Can Drive To:

  • Shrine Mountain Inn – You can drive to Shrine Mountain Inn although non-motorized travel is encouraged.  Most huts can be access by 4-wheel drive roads during the summer months. There are lots of trails in the area, as well as, cool rock formations and awesome views. Shrine Mountain Inn consists of 3 separate cabins with hot & cold running water, flush toilets, wood burning stove, cook oven, stove top, shared grill and sauna.
  • Peter Estin Hut – in the summer, enjoy easy access to this hut by driving in from either Sylvan Lake or Yeoman Park to the parking area approximately 1/4 mile from the hut.  From the hut you can hike to the Charles Peak summit, explore old mining cabins and enjoy incredible views.

Huts with a Short Hike

  • Continental Divide Cabin and Point Breeze Cabin are only .8 mile hike so it is easy for most kids or an easy hike with a kiddie backpack for Mom or Dad. The huts sit just a few hundred yards from each other. Both sleep 8 people.  For Kids, they offer 2 portable cribs, a high chair and a potty seat. Outside, there is a nearby tipi and a children’s fort. Enjoy the hike to Slide Lake from the hut. The closest town is Leadville, CO.

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See Also: Best Trekking Poles for Women


Comments

We hope you found this article about the Best Vail Hikes for Kids helpful. These are easy and fun hikes for children and for those that are a kid at heart. Please leave a comment if you see any errors, omissions or if you have a story about hiking in Vail, Colorado or local hiking guides. We’d love to hear about it. Thank you for reading.

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Related Articles: The Best Child Carriers for Hiking


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  • I grew up in Colorado, and as a family we were always hiking and fishing. I don't remember where all we went, so this is helpful! My son and I are headed to Colorado next month, and this is such great information for us as we both do love to hike.

    • I am so happy that that you found this information helpful. The Vail Valley is a wonderful place to hike and fish along with many, many other outdoor activities. Feel free to take a look at the article about Fly Fishing in Vail, Colorado to find out where to go and local outfitters that can make your fishing day a success.

  • Thank you for this nice article. I believe many of society's problems stem from us having lost contact with Nature. Hiking is a great way to connect.

    • Thank you for your comment, yes I agree that getting back to nature is so important to our well-being and it is so important that we make sure our kids love nature and hiking is a great way to achieve that end!

  • I enjoy hiking very much, It's so relaxing to me. I usually go with a group of friends, we camp somewhere for the night and hike during the day. I'll share this with them, maybe vail hiking trails is next.
    This is a great guide and some useful tips!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Emma,
      I know, I love hiking as well and I am trying my best to get my kiddo to love it too. The Vail valley is a great place to camp and hike with tons of trails close by. I am so glad you enjoyed the hiking tips, it can be hard hiking with kids.

  • It's amazing to think of all the wonderful and often free things there are to do when living in a mountain area. We live just a short drive from Vail and yet there are so many things to do we have never gotten to any of the ones on your list. Since Aspen is nearer to us we do spend a lot of time there. Thank you for this great list. I am sure we will reference it often.

    • Hi Maryann,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Aspen is only about 2 hours from Vail, Colorado so hopefully you'll make a day trip to come visit. Yes, there is a lot of things to do in the Vail valley especially with kids and many are free.

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