Let’s hike up a ski hill! Mentally, this sounds incredibly daunting (Especially since my favorite part of skiing is literally the ride uphill) but the Berry Picker Trail is one of my favorites and I can’t recommend it enough. It starts right at the base of the gondola out of Lion’s Head village and it’s definitely a challening hike but it’s totally worth it.
You have a couple of options for the Berry Picker Trail: Hike 3.3 miles up the ski hill then take the gondola down for free, take the gondola to the top ($50 a person unless you have an epic pass) then hike 3.3 miles down or make it a 7.6 mile out & back trail.
My favorite way is to hike up because taking the gondola down at the end is so satisfying. Not only is the gondola ride itself fun, but you get to look at what you just hiked and feel really proud because it’s not an easy one.
When you start this hike don’t be discouraged! The hardest part is the first several hundred feet which feels almost straight up hill. After that you wind through the Aspens (bookmark this trail for fall!) and then cross the ski runs. Walking across a spot you know a few months from now will be way over your head with snow and people will be skiing down – is very cool. The wildflowers are stunning, there’s the right amount of shaded spots to sunshine and you get some nice long flat stretches.
One last final push and you’re on top of Vail Mountain! At this point I always hop on the Gondola (it’s free to take down!) and look over the hike I just did, feel really accomplished then take myself to wonderful brunch.
A wuick note on parking in Vail, while it’s expensive during the winter it’s free at the lots for daytime parking in the summer. There are also free shuttles from all over town, we took the shuttle from where we stay at the Grand Hyatt Vail (it’s also only a mile from the Grand Hyatt to the Gondola all along the river!)