Purpose Driven

Trails for those who like a mission when they go hiking.

By Cindy Hirschfeld Photography by Zach Mahone October 10, 2016 Published in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Vail Nature Center

Local traffic only

The first two miles of the East Lake Creek Trail, south of Edwards via Lake Creek Road and West Lake Creek Road, are popular with locals for good reason. It’s only a fifteen-minute-or-so drive from Edwards but feels farther away. The route is blessed with an abundance of flora (shady lodgepole pine, smatterings of wildflowers, aspens that form a golden canopy in early fall). And there’s an easy-to-reach turnaround point. The first section descends gradually to East Lake Creek, where the trail then enters the Holy Cross Wilderness. Many hikers turn around here, but more intrepid ones could continue all the way to Upper Camp Lake, 12.5 miles in, for an overnight backpack trip.

Best workout

The hikers-only Berrypicker Trail on Vail Mountain could just as well be called Buttkicker. You can start at the base of either Gondola One in Vail Village or the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead (the two routes converge about a third of the way up the mountain). From either point, it’s almost four miles to trail’s end. The route gains a substantial 2,000-some feet of elevation as it traverses and switchbacks up the front of the ski area. Ultimately you’ll top out at Eagle’s Nest, where you can catch your breath, grab a drink, and then rest your legs while riding the gondola back down.

Across I-70 from Vail, the North Trail provides close-to-town hiking, as it contours across twelve miles of south-facing hillsides. (Note that the trail is closed through the spring until June 15 for elk calving.) That proximity also makes it popular among both hikers and mountain bikers. With several points of access, you can easily hike shorter sections of it. One option that’s about three miles: From Exit 173, head east on the North Frontage Road for a half-mile to Buffehr Creek Road. Turn left and park at the pull-off a half-mile up, just past the bridge. From here take the well-maintained Buffehr Creek Trail, which will join up with the North Trail after half a mile. Along the way, you’ll traverse an aspen grove, follow switchbacks up a moderate climb, and ultimately descend to Buffehr Creek Road. turn left and then park at the pul-off a half mile up, just past the bridge. from here take the well maintained Buffehr Creek Trail, which will join up the North Trail after a half mile. Along the way, you'll travel an aspen grove, follow switchbacks up a moderate climb, and ultimately descend to Buffehr Creek, passing a beaver pond en route. The creek is your turnaround point. 

Follow the Leader

Quartered in a farmhouse just across Gore Creek from the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the Vail Nature Center offers full and half day hikes fro adults from June-September, as well as family hikes that highlight wildflowers, beaver ponds, or streamside paths around the Vail. 970-479-2291; vailrec.com/naturecenter

On Vail Mountain guided hikes led by certified naturalist take place twice daily during the summer, Wednesday-Saturday, and can include an optional lunch.970-754-0015; vail.com

From June 14 through September 1, the Beaver Creek Hiking Center runs daily and weekly hikes on the ski areas summer trail system and beyond,  including private customized treks. The hike include transportation, backpack/hiking boot/hiking pole rentals, rain gear and snacks. find the hiking center the Summer Adventure Center on the Starbucks plaza level of Beaver Creek Village. 970-754-5373; Beavercreek.com

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