The number one outdoor adventure for visitors to Vail, Colorado during the summer is hiking. Although my stay centered around the GoPro Mountain Games, I made a point to enjoy at least one hike, so I went on a Berry Picker Trail Vail adventure.
I asked at the front desk at the Antlers at Vail where to find the closest and best hiking trail. They immediately recommended the Berry Picker Trail. This trail goes from the valley to the summit of Vail Mountain.
Berry Picker Trail Vail
The Berry Picker Trail basically goes straight up Vail Mountain; therefore, it is not for the faint of heart trail and going down not for the faint of kneesl. There are two spurs beginning in Vail. One starts from the gondola in Lionshead and the other starts closer to the village and they intersect about a mile up the mountain. This is perfect because no matter where you are staying in Vail, there is an adjacent trailhead.
It was a brilliant sunny day when I started. I followed cascading Gore Creek before crossing the creek at a bridge and proceeded to the trailhead. The trail began in a swath of open land where the ski trails are. I was a little concerned that I would roast in the sun, but the trail darts in and out of the woods, so there is abundant shade.
The trail wasted no time in providing magnificent views. The snow capped Gore Range hovered over the village and picturesque Vail became smaller and smaller as the trail progressed up the mountain.
Darting in and out of the woods
Once the trail diverged into the woods it was like a different world. Even though the village was less than a mile away, you felt like you were in a wilderness. The vegetation was a lush green and streams cascaded down the mountain.
There were a lot of people hiking the mountain, but there were stretches that sometimes lasted 15-20 minutes where I had the trail to myself. This was on a weekend in one of the busiest times of the year, so I am sure it is even less crowded during the week and on other non festival weekends.
Beautiful views of Vail Valley slow you down
My time going up the mountain was slow going. The main obstruction that hindered my time was spectacular scenery. The views of Vail valley were incredible, and I knew it would only get better as I climbed.
About 2.5 miles up the trail I passed a sign that said the rest of the trail had spots of snow and mud. I thought about turning around, but I figured I had only .7 miles to go, so I kept going. Besides, it was unique for a Midwesterner to see snow in June.
The trail was extremely well marked at the beginning, but the last half mile was not as clear. At this point though the destination is pretty simple. You just go up until there is no more mountain left. I climbed over a few snow drifts and it did get a little muddy, but soon I could see the buildings at the top of the mountain and there were access roads to hike on.
Enjoying the view of Mount Holy Cross from the top of Vail Mountain
The best part about the summit is the view over the other side. I was glad to finally get one of those outstanding Colorado Rocky Mountain views. For three days my views consisted of Gore Creek, the Gore Range, and one side of Vail Mountain.
These views rocked, but I longed to get on top of the mountains and get a sweeping panorama of white capped peaks. I was not disappointed and hummed a little John Denver underneath my breath.
There is an overlook that looks over Mount Holy Cross, Beaver Creek, and the vast wilderness surrounding it. While scanning the splendor of this vista, I stood in awe of one of Colorado’s 53 14,000 foot peaks or fourteeners as they call them here.
I could have spent the rest of the day soaking in this sensational perspective, but I was on a time frame. I needed a beer or two in the hot tub before my next GoPro class, so I turned around and hiked down the mountain. One day I hope to return and climb Mount Holy Cross.
What goes up must come down the Berry Picker Trail Vail
It was time to descend the mountain as I had dawdled on top enough. I passed a few tired people hoping to hear good news that the top was just around the corner. I told one lady she had a mile to go and her face dropped. A few minutes later, I came around the corner to see her two kids clearly not having fun.
I sailed down the mountain although it did take a toll on my knees. This was no problem as the final destination for my hike was a hot tub overlooking Gore Creek, so I knew that would cure my soreness.
I enjoyed the variety between hiking in the woods and then the open sections on the ski trail with breathtaking views. This was a nice mixture of experiencing the woods and then when the trail emerged onto the ski runs, you had awesome views of the Gore Range and the village below. Also, the elevation gain was in some ways gradual.
At times the trail seemed to go straight up, but then it would level out for a bit and allow you to catch a breath before it began the next stage of the inevitable climb upward.
Berry Picker Trail Vail hiking tips
- To avoid those sore knees, consider hiking up and riding the gondola down. The Lionshead gondola or Eagle Bahn Gondola is open June through September. For more information click here.
- Give yourself 2-3 hours to get up depending on your physical condition and 1.5 – 2 hours back down
- The hike is short, but strenuous if not in shape
- There is water available at the top, so you can refill your water bottle there as well as enjoy a beer or glass of wine at the Eagles nest
The #Vailsummer initiative sponsored my trip to the GoPro Mountain Games. Thoughts on the trail, my photographs, and my sore knees (soon to be soaked in a hot tub) remain my own.