Until now, fall has been one of the Vail Valley's best kept secrets. As it turns out, locals and visitors alike can't help but share breathtaking pictures of the foliage. They also can't stop talking about the abundance of activities we have. So, the secret's out!
If you want to experience the best of the season like a local, we are here to help.
Hands down, the best leaf peeping drive you can do in a day is Independence Pass. Commonly done as either an out-and-back route or a loop through Aspen, the views do not disappoint. You will be treated to incredible wilderness views, often without a man-made structure in sight. We are all for "being present in the moment", but you will not want to put your camera down. You'll want to capture these memories. There are countless opportunities for breathtaking photos and fun mini-hikes. Despite a dry summer, the aspens have mustered a vivid show full of every shade of gold imaginable.
Start on Route 6 East and continue through the town of Minturn, which is full of unique shops and restaurants. Once you pass Minturn, Route 6 becomes Route 24. Follow it up, up, up into the White River National Forest. Enjoy the splendor of nature and make your first stop the historic Camp Hale.
Constructed in 1942 and decommissioned in 1945, Camp Hale was a training ground for perfecting mountain warfare techniques. The elite troops who trained there were some of the first of the present-day United States Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Troops endured freezing temperatures and fierce winter storms as they practiced mountain climbing, alpine and Nordic skiing, and cold weather-survival tactics at an altitude of 9,200 feet. Troops were recruited primarily from colleges and ski clubs, with the thought that it might be easier to train warfare skills than ski techniques. This first group was deployed in World War II to the mountains of Italy and Austria. Although Camp Hale hasn’t been used for training for decades, the 10th Mountain Division is still a point of pride for Coloradans. The modern-day division has been involved in many important missions including Operation Desert Storm and Hurricane Andrew relief efforts.
Next stop, Twin Lakes. Just past Leadville on Route 82, Twin Lakes is a postcard waiting to be captured. Park in the large lot just off the road and take a 5 minute walk to the shore.
Continue on Route 82 to the top of Independence Pass and the Continental Divide. Although this route is paved the whole way, it can be a bit tricky. Stay alert and take the hairpin turns slowly, as there are not always guard rails. Here, you are located in the exact spot where the water flow direction changes. On one side, all eventually flows to the Pacific and on the other, all flows to the Atlantic. However, there is no need to be a geography buff in order to enjoy this site. Being at 12,095 feet in elevation with 360 degree views, that should do the trick.
At this point, you can choose to turn back the way you came, or continue on to Aspen. There is a quicker way back from Aspen via I-70, but the circular trip will still take you 5+ hours with photo stops.
If you have chosen to continue on to Aspen, make a point to stop off at The Grottos and the Ice Caves. A 1.1 mile beginner hike will reward you with waterfalls and caves carved by rivers. You will not be disappointed.
There are several hiking options nearer to the hotel where you can explore the fall foliage.
The Aspen Glade on Beaver Creek Mountain is a moderate level mixed-use trail. You'll spend your day meandering through technicolor aspen trees in awe of what nature has to show you. The trail can be connected to a number of other popular hikes including Allie's Way and Cinch. While you're in Beaver Creek, stop in the Beaver Creek Chophouse for lunch on their slopeside patio.
Other scenic trails to try: Paulie's Plunge, Missouri Lakes, Booth Falls, Beaver Lake
Eagle County is full of opportunities to ride both mountain bikes and cruisers. For those who prefer to cruise, the Eagle Valley Trail is your top option. Borrow a bike from our Gear Garage and start peddling on the path directly out our back door. For those interested in some more adventure, rent a mountain bike from The Kind in Riverwalk and head towards some local favorite trails: Village to Village, Berry Creek, Mud Springs, and Boneyard.