Trail of the Week: Meadow Mountain
With most of Vail’s higher-elevation trails closed for elk calving season until June 20th and so many other high-altitude favorites still covered in snow, Meadow Mountain Minturn offers one of the few trails in the valley that is open and ready for hikers. And because of its modest elevation gain, it’s an enjoyable trail for both runners and out-of-town visitors, with switchbacks that make it a popular option for mountain bikers.
Meadow Mountain's most-trafficked trail begins at the south end of the parking lot and starts as a long road up with switchbacks that take you through rolling meadows dotted with remnants of log structures dating from the open space's early history as a lettuce farm. Above the first broad meadow, the trail meanders through clusters of aspens and more meadows, maintaining a gradual incline (at mile 2.4, the trail splits; continue straight up the trail—do not take the left fork). In the last half mile or so—the most difficult part of the climb—the trail ends at the mountain's summit at the Line Shack, an old one-room cabin where you can picnic as you savor views of both the mountain (and remnants of overgrown ski runs—this was a family run ski area from 1964-1971) and Gore Range and Beaver Creek before making your way back down the way you came.
- Trailhead: Trail #748
- Starting Elevation: 7,750 feet
- Ending Elevation: 9, 756
- Roundtrip Distance: 9.4 miles
- USFS Recreation Sheet With Map
- Season: Year-round
Take exit 171 for Minturn/Leadville off of I-70. Right after exiting, turn onto Highway 24 toward Minturn, and you’ll immediately see a large parking lot next to the US Forest Service's area headquarters on your right with a bus stop and a gravel park-and-ride lot. Start on the trail nearest to the white house at the end of the parking lot.
Dogs are welcome on the trail, but keep in mind that there's very little water and practically no shade. If you decide to bring along your pup, make sure you bring plenty of H2O to spare.
- A hat
- Layers (weather can rapidly change)
Meadow Mountain does connect to the West Grouse Creek Trail, which is another option for more of a loop on the way down, if you're good at route-finding, and have a map of the area (pick one up at the US Forest Service office at Meadow Mountain) and ideally a GPS receiver (do not rely on your cell phone for navigation, as service is spotty in this area!). Grouse Creek also has a bit more shade and water for you (and your furry companion) to get a break from the heat. Be mindful that runners, hikers, and mountain bikers all frequent this trail during the summer months.