It’s one of the most spectacular times of the year for hiking: Aspens are turning the slopes into blazing rivers of gold and there’s a perfect crispness to the air. It’s an exceptional time to be outside. At Walking Mountains Science Center, Fall Color Hikes are in full swing with certified interpretive guides taking small groups of hikers on half or full day excursions. And though there are plenty of opportunities to just enjoy the hike, guests are encouraged to put on their naturalist caps, too.
“We'll obviously talk about fall colors,” explained Nathan Boyer-Rechlin, Community Outreach Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. “There's so much interesting science behind (the changing colors). This year we're talking a lot about why some of the trees dropping their leaves? Why is fall coming later this year, or what makes the colors that you see in the forest?”
Combining a guided, backcountry hike with insight into the natural world and answers to often pondered questions is what sets Walking Mountains’ programming apart. It’s their mission, after all.
In 1998, Kim Langmaid, Walking Mountains Science Center’s founder and vice president of sustainability programs, created Gore Range Natural Science School after realizing that Eagle County needed region-wide, environmental science education. Though reaching students was a main goal, she understood that families and adults in the community would also benefit from reconnecting with the outdoors and creating environmental stewardship. As the program expanded, so did the audience and in 2011, Walking Mountains Science Center opened its campus in Avon. Since then, Walking Mountains merged with The Eagle Valley Alliance of Sustainability in 2013 to further expand sustainability programming.
Now, Walking Mountains offers year-round programming at four locations to more than 4,000 students annually in 23 public and private schools in the Eagle Valley. Outside of the schools, Walking Mountains serves residents and visitors in the Vail Valley through adult and family programs in natural science and sustainability.
“When we started (in 1998), we reached 900 people,” said Paul Abling, marketing and communications director at Walking Mountains. “Last year we reached 169,000.”
Abling said that Walking Mountains’ mission, “To awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education,” guides the programming. As the community has grown, so has the organization and the various types of activities that Walking Mountains can offer, expanding beyond schools into the community at large.
The Fall Colors Hikes will continue through October, hitting the trails at various locations around the valley from East Lake Creek up to New York Mountain and beyond. The programs from Walking Mountains are a unique amenity for all members of the community, so sign up and take a hike – you never know what you might learn.
When you go:
Walking Mountains Science Center’s Fall Color half day hikes take place on Mondays and Wednesdays; full day hikes take place on Tuesdays. Hikes depart at 7 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. (depending on hike location) through Oct. 31. Cost is $30 for half day hikes and $80 for full day hikes. walkingmountains.org