Vail doesn't shut down once the skiers go home. Instead, visitors and locals alike trade their skis for mountain bikes and hiking boots, and hit the trails again. The resort closes parts of the mountain from early May to late June to protect elk-calving habitats, but other than that, warm-weather activities cover the mountains.
Nova Guides, in Vail (tel. 888/949-6682 or 719/486-2656; www.novaguides.com), offers guided fishing, mountain-bike, and off-road tours, plus paintball and white-water rafting. The 10th Mountain Division Hut System, which runs for 350 miles, is open to hikers and mountain-bikers in the summer months.
You'll find many of the companies listed below on the Internet at www.visitvailvalley.com; www.vail.com is also a good source for information on summer activities. For maps and information on the numerous activities in the White River National Forest, consult the Holy Cross Ranger District Office.
The streams and mountain lakes surrounding Vail are rich with rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout, plus mountain whitefish. Gore Creek, which runs through the town of Vail, is a popular anglers' venue, especially toward evening from its banks along the Vail Golf Course. Other prime spots are the Eagle River, joined by Gore Creek 5 miles downstream near Minturn; the Black Lakes near the summit of Vail Pass; and 60-acre Piney Lake. The Lazy J Ranch in Wolcott (tel. 970/926-3472; www.lazyjranch.net) offers guided fly-fishing trips on 4 miles of private Eagle River frontage and stocked lakes; half-day guided wade or float trips cost $250 for one person, $325 for two.
Other fishing guides in the area with similar rates include Nova Guides (tel. 888/949-6682 or 719/486-2656; www.novaguides.com); Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, 193 E. Gore Creek Dr. (tel. 970/476-3296; www.gorecreekflyfisherman.com); and Fly Fishing Outfitters, Inc. (tel. 800/595-8090 or 970/476-3474; www.flyfishingoutfitters.net), which also has a retail store with fishing supplies and outdoor clothing in Avon, across from the entrance to Beaver Creek.
Courses here are usually open from mid-May to mid-October. The Vail Golf Club, 1778 Vail Valley Dr., Vail (tel. 970/479-2260; www.vailgolfclub.net), has greens fees of $45 to $80, cart not included; the Eagle-Vail Golf Course, 6 miles west of Vail at 431 Eagle Dr., Avon (tel. 970/949-5267; www.eaglevailgolfclub.com), charges $57 to $98 for 18 holes, with the lowest rates coming after 3pm.
Hiking & Backpacking
The surrounding White River National Forest has a plethora of trails leading to pristine lakes and spectacular panoramic views. The Holy Cross Wilderness Area, southwest of Vail, encompasses 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross and is an awesome region with over 100 miles of trails. Eagle's Nest Wilderness Area lies to the north, in the impressive Gore Range. For information and maps for these and other hiking areas, consult the Holy Cross Ranger District Office.
Horseback Riding & Cattle Roundups
One of the best ways to explore this beautiful and rugged mountain country is on the back of a horse. The Ranch in Vail at Spraddle Creek, 100 Spraddle Creek Rd. (tel. 970/476-6941; www.ranchinvail.com), is open mid-May through September and is especially geared to families, with rides for beginners to experts. A 1 1/2-hour ride costs $60. Also providing guided horseback rides is the Lazy J Ranch ; prices start at $65 for 2 hours. Triple G Outfitters, at 4 Eagle Ranch, 4 miles north of I-70 exit 157 (tel. 970/926-1234; www.tripleg.net), charges $40 and up for horseback rides, and also offers half-day cattle roundups for about $100, lunch included. Triple G also offers combination riding-rafting "Saddles & Paddles" trips starting at $130.
Paragon Guides offers llama-trekking trips, from 3 to 6 days, July through September. They are limited to eight persons for camping, or slightly larger groups for hut trips, and start around $1,100 per person for 3 days. Pricier custom treks are also available, from overnight to 1 week.
Summer visitors can take their bikes up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain (all-day passes are $30 for adults, $23 for children 5-12) and cruise downhill on a series of trails. There are many other choices for avid bikers, on both backcountry trails and road tours. A popular trip is the 13-mile Lost Lake Trail along Red Sandstone Road to Piney Lake. The 30-mile Vail Pass Bikeway goes to Frisco, with a climb from 8,460 feet up to 10,600 feet. Pick up a trail list (with map) at an information center.
Mountain-bike repairs and rentals are available at a number of shops, including Vail Bike Tech, 555 E. Lionshead Circle (tel. 800/525-5995 or 970/476-5995; www.vailbiketech.com), which also offers guided tours starting around $50 per rider; and Wheel Base, 610 W. Lionshead Circle (tel. 970/476-5799; www.vailskibase.com). Rental rates are about $10 to $20 for a half-day, $20 to $65 for a full day, depending on the type of bike.
The Eagle River, just a few miles west of Vail, offers thrilling white water, especially during the May-to-June thaw. Families can enjoy the relatively gentle (Class II-IV) lower Eagle, west of Minturn; the upper Eagle, above Minturn, is significantly rougher (Class IV-V rapids). Area rafting companies also take trips on the Colorado River, which they access about 35 miles northwest via Colo. 131, at State Bridge. Rafting companies here include Timberline Tours (tel. 800/831-1414 or 970/476-1414; www.timberlinetours.com), Nova Guides , and Lakota River Guides (tel. 970/845-7238; www.lakotariver.com). Rates run $69 to $100 per adult for a half-day trip, with slightly lower rates for youths. (Young children aren't usually permitted.)