Visualize that quintessential scene from The Sound of Music. You know, the one where Julie Andrews is singing her heart out, spinning in a field of wild flowers with a mountain range as the backdrop. Now, add even more striking mountains, more wildflowers and the distinct feeling you can see to the ends of the earth, and you are at the Shrine Mountain summit.
Who Can Go?
Named for its unobstructed view of the Mount of the Holy Cross, Shrine Mountain can easily be hiked in an afternoon. It is suitable for almost all ages and fitness levels. Dogs and even horses are allowed to join the fun.
The trail head is located off Exit 190 on I-70 at the top of Vail Pass and 2.3 miles down a dirt road. That's about 35 minutes from The Inn at Riverwalk. The dirt road itself is a bit dusty and full of pot holes, so we suggest an AWD vehicle, or at least something durable. Roll down the windows, drive slowly around the limited-sight turns and mind the divets. It should take you 10-15 minutes before you see the parking lot to your left. There are plenty of spots, but you may need to park along the road when arriving mid-day. There are some *rustic* restrooms just before the trail head.
The trail is considered easy to moderate, consisting of mostly rolling hills and a steeper incline just before you reach the peak. At 4.2 miles round trip, the views far exceed what you might expect for so little effort. The trail is about 85% in direct sunlight, so lather on the SPF, carry water, and sport shades or a hat.
*Tip: The trail begins at 11,089 feet in elevation and ends at 11,747 feet. That means the air is quite "thin". If you are having trouble adjusting to the altitude, skip this hike or wait a few days until you are acclimated.
Hands down, this hike is best experienced mid-July through mid-August, peak wildflower season. A myriad of pink, yellow, purple, orange, blue and white spreads on all sides of you almost the entire hike. There are a few ponds and a babbling brook to add to the whimsicality of this trek. Every way you turn, you are rewarded with a unique view. You have Copper Mountain to the southeast, the Gore Range to the north, the Flat Top Mountains to the west and the list goes on. Try not to get dizzy from spinning in all directions.