DIRECTIONS: This hike starts by taking the Eagle One Gondola located in Vail Village to Mid-Vail. The trail starts right next to the Gondola Station and is easy to find. In the summer, day use parking is free in the Vail Village parking garage but you need to purchase a lift ticket to ride the Gondola. Be sure to check the website for prices and services.
Vail Mountain Resort of one of the world's most famous destinations for winter sports and skiing. However, in the summer, the resort becomes a vacation destination for tourists looking for luxury accommodations and a taste of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. That being said, Vail is often overlooked by locals and Colorado's resident hikers. With so many options for hiking and wilderness experiences, why would anyone want to hike on a ski mountain...turns out there are many reasons.
Vail offers unique hiking opportunities, especially for kids or anyone who want to hike at 10,000 feet without a large elevation gain. The top of Vail Mountain has a summer hiking trail system that is accessed by two Gondolas, basically taking the approach out of the hike.
The Meadows Loop is one of the easier hikes at Vail Mountain and at 2.5 miles, was a great option when I visited the resort with my five year old "hiker in training." Kids will love this trail because they get to ride on a Gondola...adults will love this trail because the views of the Gore Range and the Mount of the Holy Cross are spectacular.
The trail is well signed, well maintained, and easy to follow. However, it is more difficult then it might sound on paper. The trail starts by climbing steeply from the Gondola Station, weaving through meadows and pine forest. In all, the trail gains roughly 700 feet in the first mile or so, all above 10,000 feet...not exactly an easy hike. The landscape is beautiful but not exactly wilderness. In the summer, Vail resorts does a lot of maintenance that can't be done during the winter so construction and noise from trucks and diggers is common.
If you can overlook the mechanical intrusion, then the landscape is phenomenal. In the summer, the winter ski runs become meadows filled with wildflowers. The meadows provide near constant views of the Gore Range's rugged peaks. At the "top" of the loop, you get a wonderful view of the Mount of the Holy Cross standing tall at 14,005 ft, but you need to walk 20 feet off trail to see it. Vail Mountain is also filled with Aspen trees as are the surrounding hillsides of Vail Valley. Visiting the resort in the fall is a must.
Although expensive (at the time of this report, an adult lift ticket is $42 but includes a complementary kids lift ticket) Vail Mountain is a great place to visit and hike. There is abundance of restaurants, bars, ice cream, breweries...all the things that keep kids and their parents happy. Also, the resort is far less busy in the summer than the winter. Not wilderness...but still very much Colorado.