Experiencing Vail Valley for the First Time

There is a first time for everything, and meeting a new destination is no different. Learn the inside scoop right here before landing in Vail Valley, Colorado, and upon arrival stop by the welcome centers in Vail Village and Lionshead. Beaver Creek Guest Services also is available to make vacations as seamless as possible.

Where is Vail Valley?

Our philosophy is that nine great mountain towns located in the same county (Eagle County) can provide a really dynamite vacation experience by working together. Known as the Vail Valley, the area essentially runs along Interstate 70 for approximately 40 miles and includes Avon, Beaver Creek, Eagle, EagleVail, Edwards, Gypsum and Vail, along with Minturn and Red Cliff south on U.S. Highway 24.

To provide a broader visual, Grand Junction is approximately 150 miles to the west of Vail on Interstate 70, while Denver is 100 miles to the east.

Getting Around

If flying, the easiest option is purchasing a ticket to the beautifully renovated Eagle County Airport (EGE). Try to reserve a window seat as the views are spectacular! Chartered flights and private aircrafts fly into Vail Valley Jet Center.

Denver International Airport (DIA) is another option and entails a two-hour journey depending on weather and traffic. If you don’t want to do the driving yourself, book a ride with Epic Mountain Express or Peak 1 Express offering shuttle service to and from both airports.

Once in Vail Valley, taxis and services like Uber and Lyft have you covered and some hotels have free shuttles within a certain distance. Also, the Town of Vail Bus provides free service to and from Vail Mountain and throughout town, and ECO Transit, a regional bus service, charges modest fares and has routes that include Vail, Minturn, Eagle-Vail, Avon, Edwards, Eagle, Gypsum and Leadville.

Insider Tip: Do what the locals do, take the bus! It saves on parking costs, helps our environment, and is an easy and safe way to get from one place to the next.

Full Range of Lodging Options

One of the best things about mountain destinations is the variety of lodging ranging from condominiums, ranches and private homes to boutique hotels, full-service resorts and hostels. The size of your travel group, a kitchen to cook some of your own meals (or not!) and location will drive the decision.

Also, there are ski-in/ski-out options for ultra-handy access to the slopes as well as village lodging with in-town shuttles to local restaurants and grocery stores. Another way to narrow down the choices is the availability of heated pools/hot tubs, delicious on-site restaurants and top-notch spas and salons that offer all sorts of services.

Now, here’s a snapshot of what to do while visiting.

The Shopping Rocks

Roaming the shops and art galleries in Vail Village, Lionshead, Beaver Creek, Edwards Riverwalk, and the historic downtowns in Minturn and Eagle is all about merchandise thoughtfully curated by local shop owners; well-known brand-name stores like The North Face, Patagonia, Burton and Smartwool; and high-end selections at places such as Gorsuch, Kemo Sabe and The Golden Bear.

If you need clothing and gear for outdoor adventures, Vail Valley has you covered! How about a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry or home décor item that is sure to remind you of a trip to the mountains for years to come? You’ll find service dialed in at levels expected for communities that welcome guests from around the world.

The Culinary Scene

If unforgettable meals and beverages are part of your equation for a five-star getaway, Vail Valley has a wide range of culinary delights. From savory barbecue in Minturn and hearty and delicious sleigh-ride dinners with 4 Eagle Ranch and Bearcat Stables to restaurants owned and operated by some of the globe’s most talented chefs, expect a paradise for cuisine.

Also consider timing a visit with one of the popular local food and beverage events throughout the year like Beaver Creek Winter Culinary Weekend, Taste of Vail, Vail Craft Beer Classic, and Beaver Creek Wine and Spirits Festival. Farmers’ markets in Edwards, Minturn and Vail on summer and fall weekends also are truly delicious.

The Amazing Outdoors

Whether you are an experienced outdoor enthusiast or new to the mountain landscape, there are all sorts of options for first-time visitors. Outfitters offer rafting, kayaking excursions, fishing, horseback, off-road, snowmobile, backcountry skiing adventures and more. Go with the experts for peace of mind and easy planning.

Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek have excellent ski and ride schools, and Vail Nordic Center and Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park offer skate and classic cross-country skiing lessons. Walking Mountains Science Center leads daily free guided snowshoe outings in Avon and Vail and offer paid half-day and full-moon tours.

Hiking and biking are easy sports to do on your own, just don’t be afraid to ask for guidance about where to go based on trail conditions and difficulty level. There is everything from paved paths to tougher excursions.

Local’s Tip: Pick up free trail maps at welcome centers or purchase more detailed topographical versions at shops that sell and rent outdoor apparel and gear. Know where you are going!

The Culture & History Lowdown

Did you known that President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford were active local residents in Vail and Beaver Creek? It explains why Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and the adjacent Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are named in their honor and should be on your list when visiting Vail Valley during summer and fall.

In 1998, Beaver Creek became the first ski resort in the world to have a performing arts venue at its base area when Vilar Performing Arts Center debuted. The 530-seat theater offers a full schedule of performances, and smaller outdoor venues like Avon Performance Pavilion, Eagle Town Park and Little Beach Park & Amphitheater in Minturn also should be on your itinerary.

Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail celebrates the evolution of skiing and snowboarding in the state, telling stories that inspire others to adventure, from the men who carried provisions to snow-locked mining camps to the hottest names in today’s ski racing scene.

The Day Trip Made Easy

Head south on Highway 24 from I-70 to begin traveling the northernmost section of the 82-mile Top of the Rockies, a National Scenic Byway that begins near Minturn. Stop by Minturn Saloon, the most historic restaurant in Vail Valley dating back to 1901. There are other restaurants, fun shops, coffee houses, trails and a cool consignment store Holy Toledo located in a former church on Main Street!

Continue on to Eagle County’s oldest town, Red Cliff, established in 1879. Red Cliff boomed as a mining town at the turn of the century and continues to attract rugged individuals including entrepreneurs, artists and outdoor enthusiasts. From here, enjoy easy access to White River National Forest and check out Camp Hale, which was built for the famed 10th Mountain Division, a unit of 15,000 men that learned mountaineering and skiing techniques during World War II. Today, it’s a base camp for Nova Guides with a lodge, restaurant, cabins and numerous outdoor recreation experiences.

On another day, drive through the picturesque Glenwood Canyon to Glenwood Springs, about one hour west of Vail. Glenwood Canyon provides endless opportunities for recreation including hiking, biking, rafting and rock climbing, but save enough energy for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with cave tours, thrill rides, laser tag, a 4D movie theatre and more or simply take a relaxing day to soak at Iron Mountain Hot Springs alongside the Colorado River.

Eagle County Fun Facts

  • Size: 1,694 square miles
  • Paved Recreation Path: 58 miles (Vail Pass to Gypsum)
  • Mountain Biking Trails: 343 miles
  • Hiking Trails: 166 miles
  • Road Biking: 274 miles of road
  • Paddling: 86 miles of the Colorado and Eagle Rivers
  • Skiable Acres: 7,149 (Beaver Creek 1,832 and Vail Mountain 5,317)
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 323” Beaver Creek and 354” Vail Mountain