Yes, the Vail Valley is gorgeous, vibrant, teeming with adventure — and landlocked.

That there are no white-sand beaches to lounge on when the summer temperatures creep into the 80s might be Eagle County’s lone natural downside.

But let’s not overlook a splendid alternative: our mountains and valleys harbor hundreds of gleaming alpine pools of snowmelt, some high and remote, others a quick drive from civilization, and still others smack in the middle of the valley. Each represents not just a destination but an adventure hub unto itself. Whether you prefer to paddle, cast, camp, picnic, explore, or—for the Mainers among us—take the plunge, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the water.

It would take years and multiple pairs of hiking boots to visit all of Eagle County’s lakes, which exist large and small, green and blue, from the depths of the Sawatch and Gore ranges to easily accessed Nottingham and Sylvan lakes downvalley. Such was the inspiration for this guide: to help you sort through what to do when and where.
So grab a map, get acquainted with our suggested itineraries, and don’t be surprised if you arrive at your destination and elect to do nothing more ambitious than stand there and stare. After all, you’ll be beholding a scene that is both fleeting (thanks to our short summers) and sublime.

In This Feature:

Great Lakes: Best For Backpacking

For overnight camping, these are the lakes that make the trip worth it. Take a tent and extra food, because you won't ever want to go home.

06/01/2016 By Devon O'Neil Photography by Zach Mahone

Great Lakes: Best for Paddling + Swimming

The best places to bike, hike, paddle and boat this summer

06/13/2016 By Devon O'Neil Photography by Zach Mahone

Great Lakes: Best For Day Hikes + Mountain Bikes

The best places to bike, hike, paddle and boat this summer.

06/01/2016 By Devon O'Neil Photography by Zach Mahone

Great Lakes: Best For Long Hikes

The best places to bike, hike, paddle and boat this summer.

06/01/2016