For those of us living in sunny Southern California, a trip to Vail, Colo., typically means snow-covered mountains and fresh powder for skiing. I have no doubt the winters are magical, but as my family recently discovered, this famous mountain resort is pretty spectacular in the summer, too.
A friend’s wedding brought us to Denver in June. While in the Mile High City for the first time, we decided to take the two-hour drive to Vail, which is known for its ski and snowboard terrain. Once the snow melts, the warmer months here are all about hikes, bikes, good food and nature at its very best.
Casual luxury wrapped in nature
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Vail, which helped us feel like we were a million miles away from work and responsibilities. The resort is a wonderful mixture of relaxed luxury set at the base of the gorgeous Vail Mountain and the banks of Gore Creek.
One of the most unique features of the Grand Hyatt Vail is that the creek runs right behind it, providing guests with the incredible sound of rushing water. While letting these sounds wash over us, we enjoyed making s’mores at the main fire pit, reading alongside the infinity-edge pool and soaking in the outdoor hot tubs surrounded by towering trees. My daughter and I also took a complimentary yoga class one morning at the fitness center, and we had lots of laughs playing family foosball in the game room.
Follow the trail to village life
A wide, paved path that runs between the creek and the hotel will take you to Vail’s two charming villages: Lionshead Village and Vail Village. It’s about a 20-minute walk to Lionshead Village and another 10 minutes to the center of Vail Mountain Village. The resort also offers a free shuttle to the two villages, but — if you’re able — we highly recommend the walk along the creek. It’s the best way to take in the natural beauty surrounding you.
Taking this walk every morning to get breakfast in the village became one of our most memorable activities of the day. The first morning back in L.A., my daughter texted me that she woke up missing our creek walk to start the day. I felt the same way.
At the base of the mountain in White River National Forest sits the gorgeous town of Vail, filled with quaint shops, restaurants, Bavarian-inspired architecture and natural beauty. As we drove up to Vail from Denver, we all commented that even the pine trees growing in the forest seemed like they were somehow perfectly manicured.
Top of the world
For an unforgettable hike and views, take the Eagle Bahn gondola from Lionsgate Village. You’ll enjoy a spectacular and comfortable ride to the top, and once you’re there, you’ll have a network of hiking trials to explore with unparalleled views. Vail Mountain boasts more than 40 miles of biking trails, including popular freestyle trails, and more than 20 miles of hiking trails for all abilities.
Hiking trails start from both the top of Gondola One and Eagle Bahn Gondola. You can download the Vail Summer Trail map to find the best hike for your family. Just remember to take plenty of water with you. You’re at 10,000 feet elevation, so take it easy and stay hydrated.
During the summer months, you’ll find plenty of fun family activities at the top of the mountain as well. The Epic Discovery is a popular summer activity for families, with the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, summer tubing, zip lines, climbing walls and more.
For the best value, purchase your lift ticket and dining voucher together. Food and beverage prices at the top of the mountain are expensive, so the voucher is definitely worth it. You can also pick up snacks and sandwiches from the village and enjoy them at the top of the mountain. For more information on lift tickets and summer activities, visit vail.com.
Drinks with a view
Head to Remedy Bar at the Four Seasons Resort for appetizers, an early dinner and drinks. The best spot is at one of the firepit tables in the patio overlooking the slopes. The extensive menu includes a raw bar, poke bowl action station, soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches. There are also local favorites such as elk and black-bean chili and fire-roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese.
Don’t miss the resort’s famous “haut chocolat” with house-made marshmallows, chocolate tuile and Chantilly crème. The Four Seasons is located just steps from Vail Village.
Flavors of the world
The two villages offer a wide variety of dining options — from burgers and pizzas to trendy hot spots.
We had a lovely farm-fresh creekside dinner at the family-owned Up the Creek. The truffle frites, roasted beet salad and roasted ruby red trout were my favorites. We loved the freshly baked German pretzel and cheese dip at Alpenrose Restaurant, a 40-plus year establishment in the area serving German-Austrian fare.
After our hike at the top of the mountain, we devoured the chile queso nachos and caprese flatbread at Tavern on the Square.
Our mornings were all about the scenic walk to the village area and trying a new spot for a delicious start to the day. One day we savored a European-style breakfast served with elegant china at Ludwig’s terrace overlooking the creek. Located inside the family-owned Sonnenalp Hotel, the signature buffet includes made-to-order eggs, hash browns, French toast, waffles, quiche, blintzes, cheese, yogurt and fruit — all served with old-world charm.
Another morning, we grabbed a table underneath a tree where we could still hear the creek, and enjoyed coffee, breakfast burritos and crepes at the Big Bear Bistro, a local favorite serving breakfast all day.
Getting to Vail
Summer season typically runs from May through October with special concerts, arts and cultural fairs.
Vail does have its own airport, Vail Eagle County Airport, with direct flights from L.A. We flew in and out of Denver International Airport, which offers good flight options from LAX and Burbank. The two-hour drive from Denver to Vail is easy and scenic.
Elena Epstein is Creative Director of L.A. Parent.