Hang out with llamas on a half-day hike with Paragon Guides. // © 2016 Paragon Guides
Feature image (above): Fly over Vail via zipline with Epic Discovery. // © 2016 Epic Discovery
Locals in Vail, Colo., like to say: “Summer is our reward for making it through the winter.”
Of course, Vail is famous for its world-class skiing, snowboarding, apres-ski and nightlife, but nowadays, the town’s summertime activities are just as exciting and even more diverse than its snow-related ones. This year, Vail unveiled a brand-new adventure park, an education center at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and a lunch-with-a-llama hiking program, along with several new bars and restaurants to keep the fun going long after the sun goes down.
Taking advantage of Vail Mountain's warmer season, Epic Discovery opened its Vail location this summer, with another location planned for Breckenridge, Colo. next year. The highlight of Vail’s Epic Discovery is the Game Creek Aerial Adventure, a guided canopy tour with seven ziplines, a series of aerial bridges and a zipline that soars 300 feet above ground. There’s also the Forest Flyer alpine coaster, the Eagle’s Nest tube slide and Bungee Trampoline. Activities for kids include the Little Eagle Zipline, minitubing, a series of scaled-down adventure courses and a climbing tower. With access to an expanded trail system and a scenic gondola ride to the top of Vail Mountain, Epic Discovery is a destination in itself.
For those who would rather stroll through nature than fly over it on a zipline, the nonprofit Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is the world’s highest alpine garden, with almost 3,000 plants blanketing about 5 acres. Featuring an attractive presentation of diverse mountain and alpine flora, the donation-based garden maintains a seed bank, with volunteers working alongside the Bureau of Land Management to cultivate endangered plants. The new Education Center invites visitors to an indoor botanical garden in the same building as the alpine house — a temperature-controlled cold greenhouse that grows alpine plants from all over the world, year-round. The garden has numerous meditation areas, waterfalls and a rock garden, and it’s an ideal destination in summer, when many of the plants are in full bloom.
Another great way to appreciate Colorado’s stunning summer-season scenery is by hiking — with llamas. Due to their stamina and generally easygoing nature, these wooly, domesticated pack animals are ideal companions during both long and short hikes of various difficulty levels. Paragon Guides, which has been around since 1978, has offered hikes with llamas for a few years, but has only recently expanded the experience to include a “Take a Llama to Lunch” hike, making full use of the animal’s ability to haul provisions and gear over longer distances. The half-day hike takes guests on trails in the Rocky Mountains and backcountry. Each person leads a llama past scenic outlooks and crystal-clear creeks, eventually stopping for a relaxing lunch among wildflowers while the llamas take a break, too. Paragon also offers a selection of multiday llama treks and customized itineraries for those willing to hike extra-long distances and bond with their llamas even more.
With all the new outdoor activities in Vail, visitors will want to unwind at any one of the town's latest bars and restaurants. Vintage is a new French-style brasserie serving dinner and late-night snacks, as well as a unique brunch with specialty cocktails such as the “Tinder-tini,” (leopolds gin, creme de violette, fresh lemon juice and sage simple syrup).
Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail also recently completed a $2.5 million renovation of The Remedy bar and lounge. Taking advantage of the luxury hotel's stunning views of Vail Resort, The Remedy Bar not only has wine, beer and spirits, but it also features a seasonal food menu with Colorado meats and cheeses as well as locally-foraged produce.
Meanwhile in Vail Village, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company has added a tasting room, and Root & Flower Wine Bar became Vail’s first wine bar less than a year ago. Root & Flower also offers rotating classes on everything from pinot noir to the history of booze.
With average daytime temperatures at 75 degrees, Vail summers have always had something for everyone, from rock climbing and horseback riding to kayaking and whitewater rafting. But with all the latest developments, it’s safe to say that now, there’s even more to appreciate in Vail during the summer.