Discover tons of summer fun in Vail, Leadville & Glenwood Springs
We’ve been spending our summer vacations in the Colorado Mountains for many years now. It’s our family’s happy place! We never thought we’d choose the mountains over the beach, but we can’t get enough of the crisp mountain air and many, many outdoor activities!
This summer we visited Vail, Leadville and Glenwood Springs and tried out lots of new activities, some adrenaline filled and some relaxing! There’s something for everyone! For more great mountain vacation ideas, check out my previous articles on fun activities and delicious dining in the CO mountains!
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We stay in Lionshead Village which is at the base of Vail Mountain and has a quaint Alpine look. There is lodging, dining and shopping all nestled together. We rarely use our rental car while exploring in Vail. You can pretty much walk anywhere or hop on one of the free busses. There is a creekside path that connects Lionshead Village to the larger and busier main Vail Village.
Epic Discovery – at the top of Vail Mountain:
We’ve been visiting Epic Discovery at the top of Vail Mountain since 2012 and every year there are new adventures to be had. There is something for everyone: hiking, mountain biking, ropes adventure courses, zip lines, mountain coaster, summer tubing and so much more! There are also several great restaurants to enjoy some lunch! We love the house smoked BBQ at the Talon’s Deck Grill! For more Epic Discovery info. look here. For a look at our visit in 2014 click here.
I could ride the gondola up and down the mountain all day long! The views of the Gore Creek, the villages below and the Gore Mountain Range behind are spectacular! Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and daring mountain bikers careening down the mountainside.
Once you reach the summit, the elevation is 10,350 ft. If you’re not accustomed to high elevations, make sure to drink lots of water to help with the altitude effects (headache, fatigue, shortness of breath). We always bring light backpacks to carry water, sweatshirts and a light rain jacket. It can be cooler at the top of the mountain and, in the late summer, brief rainstorms happen frequently in the afternoons. (Tip: If you purchase a pass for Epic Discovery and get rained out, you can check in at the ticket office and see if they are offering rain checks to use another day.)
Grab a hiking trail map, there are many options for hiking at the top of the mountain. You can even access some of the lower trails from the base of the mountain without purchasing a pass.
We love riding these Alpine Coasters, we’ve ridden them in Glenwood Springs, CO Breckenridge, CO and Okemo, VT. You can ride as a single and (in some cases) as a double. The carts run on tubular metal rails down the mountain on a winding course. You can control your speed with a hand brake. Once at the bottom, there’s a lift that pulls you back up again! Make sure to take in the gorgeous views along the way!
There are several zipline options at Epic Discovery. There’s a Little Eagle Zipline for the youngsters over 3 years old, the 1,200 ft. long Golden Eagle Zipline we rode, and the NEW Game Creek Zipline Tour – which is a 3-4 hour zipline tour over the back bowls of Vail Mountain – That’s definitely on my list for next time!
It’s like snow tubing without the frozen fingers and nose! The views are spectacular and it’s fun for everyone! The course is covered in a kind of slippery “turf”. There’s a Marmot Mini Tubing course for the little kids and the 3-run Eagle’s Nest course for everyone else. It’s a fast and fun ride down and there’s a covered “magic carpet” lift to take you back up again!
Enjoy the Views!
We three rookies rode Gondola 1 up from Vail Village to the deck of the 10th Restaurant for a 50 minute yoga class. The classes are offered on Friday and Saturday mornings in the summer. More info. here We parked our mats (provided for your use) in the back of the class since we didn’t know what we were doing and ended up giggling a lot of the time! I can’t imagine a more beautiful yoga studio than this! I definitely need more yoga in my life!
Our favorite breakfast and lunch place in Lionshead Village has added a dining room and a new iPad waiting list system! The Little Diner is a must-visit restaurant for us while in Vail. They are well known for their awesome made-from-scratch breakfast fare served up by Chef Brian Little and his team.
In the past you could wait an hour or more to score one of the coveted counter seats. They added on a new dining room and have installed a iPad waiting list system. Stop in and add your name and cell number to the list, then you’ll be notified of your approximate wait time and will receive another message when your table is ready. I added our name to the list while the rest of the family took their time heading over.
My eggs Benedict served up with Chef Brian’s father’s famous hollandaise was perfect! The cheesy grits I chose instead of hash browns were the best!
My daughter loved her banana and chocolate crepe!
Check out that Dutch Baby Pancake!
Looking for more dining options in Vail, Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs? Check out my previous post here.
Ready for a taste of something different? Step out of those tony resort mountain towns and head South to the town with the highest elevation in the state. Leadville is a 150-year old historic mining town with a wild-west past that was home to some big characters including “The unsinkable” Molly Brown and outlaw Doc Holliday. The Leadville of today is a National Historic District, featuring 70 square-blocks of Victorian architecture.
We are lucky to be friends with some part-time Leadville residents who have shown us a lot of what Leadville has to offer, but I think we just touched the tip of the iceberg (insert Molly Brown quip here). I’ll share everything we have enjoyed below, for a mountain of more ideas check the official Leadville site.
Stroll Through Town: Harrison Avenue
We love to stroll the main street, Harrison Avenue. The street is lined with all kinds of interesting shops and eateries. Our visit always happens right before Leadville’s Big Race Series, a 100-mile trail mountain bike race one weekend and 100-mile trail run the next. Can’t even imagine! – but it’s fun to check out all the race gear and trail maps in the official race headquarters and store!
Grab Coffee and a Bite:
Feeling the altitude? – Take it easy and stop in this great coffee shop and cafe for some rest, hydration and a bite to eat. City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso at 508 Harrison Avenue roasts their beans in-house and offers many caffeinated and non-caffeinated options! No wonder the place is bustling with a warm friendly crowd!
Don’t miss out on trying some of the house-made daily munchies: pastries, baked goods, sandwiches, burritos and salads just to name a few! We loved the mountain-sized brownie!
Those wooden carvings on the wall caught my eye. Turns out the topographical carvings are the work of local artist Peter Frykholm. I’ve never seen anything like it. Check out more of his work here. Would make a really unique gift for the mountain lover in your life!
A peek behind the scenes? I love nothing more! …and I totally lucked out on this day and got to meet Bryan Kerl, coffee roaster at City on a Hill! (..and Leadville 100-Mile runner!) He was getting ready to get the days roast on! And yes, it smelled like coffee heaven!
Their beans come direct from Nicaragua, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Columbia and El Salvador.
Check out the Raw “Green” Coffee Beans ready to get loaded for today’s roast.
You can order City on a Hill coffee and gear direct here!
Shopping: Melanzana & More!
There is some great shopping in Leadville featuring unique hand-crafted items, jewelry, art pieces, second-hand treasures and the Melanzana factory and store!
Melanzana has been making mountain gear since 1994. Their “Power Dry” and various fleece (all USA made Polartec fabrics) pullovers, dresses, shirts, pants and more are made and sold exclusively in their Leadville location.
When they announce a style is ready to go “in-stock” at the store, people come from all around to line up hours in advance. You can check their website and follow their socials: FB and Insta: Melanzana_Leadville to keep up to date on what’s next in stock.
Tip: If you stop by the store and they don’t have in-stock what you want, you can ask to be put on a list for when your desired item will “drop”. They’ll give you a call and if you respond in 24-hours, they’ll ship you the item. (I believe you can only do this in person and there are item limits.)
…I’m waiting for my phone call for a microgrid hoodie in sapphire – hope the call comes before Christmas!
Something about being at high altitude makes me super hungry! Before hungry turns to hangry, take a turn down one of Leadville’s picturesque side streets and aim toward the mountains.
High Mountain Pies at 115 West 4th Street makes some of the best pizza I’ve had anywhere! You can dine in their outdoor seating in the back or grab some to go and head to one of Leadville’s picturesque lakes for a lakeside picnic like we did!
Lake Gems: Emerald & Turquoise Lakes
Our Leadville friends have taken us to two different local lakes over the past few years. They are both pristine and uncrowded lakes with picnic areas and camping and fishing nearby. The waters are cool and refreshing! (aka: freezing but fun!)
Thanks for the fun Leadville! On our next visit, I want to check out this scenic train ride!
Glenwood Springs is a beautiful town about 1 hour West on I-70 from the Vail area. The drive through Glenwood Canyon is stunning with its steep walls formed with layer upon layer of warm toned sedimentary rock formed during the Pleistocene era.
There are tons of adventures to be had in Glenwood which is home to natural hot springs! If you like your water fun a little more rapid, the Colorado river winds its way through and provides some great rafting action! When hunger strikes, make your way to Glenwood’s restaurant row for some delicious dining!
We took two day trips to Glenwood Springs. One day was spent at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and the second day we hiked to Hanging Lake and then enjoyed a relaxing soak at the NEW Iron Mountain Hot Springs. During our visits, we enjoyed great lunches at both The Pullman and Grind.
This was our second visit to America’s only mountain-top theme park! We came back for our favorite thrill rides and were ready to try out the new Haunted Mine Drop!! When you go, plan for a full day as you don’t want to miss the cave tours as well!
You start your adventure with a ride up to the park on the NEW Glenwood Gondola! 44 brand new cabins zip you comfortably to and from all the fun! (We had no wait time at the gondolas!)
We all love this coaster! It was the first Alpine Coaster in the USA! You zip down 3,400 feet of track, the cart is attached to the track and you can control your speed with a hand brake. Once you reach the bottom an automatic lift pulls you back up to the top!
The views from this coaster are spectacular as it’s right on the edge of a cliff! It’s the highest elevation full-sized roller coaster in North America! We love it because both times we’ve visited in early August the lines were so short, you could ride again and again!
Lots of amusement parks have giant swing rides, but this one swings you out 1,300 feet over the canyon below!
I still can’t believe I rode this crazy ride twice!! This ride is an adrenaline rush for sure. The giant pendulum swings you out over the Colorado River 1,300 feet below and reaches a top speed of 50 mph!
In 2014, you could purchase photos taken during the ride. This shot is a classic! lol!!
NEW on this visit, you can purchase a video of your ride – so funny!!!
Or ask someone in your group to shoot a video from the viewing deck.
We dared to drop! This is the newest ride in the park. It’s a free-fall type ride that plunges you 110 feet down into the dark dampness of Iron Mountain. It’s the first drop type ride to go underground in the world! The drop really catches you by surprise and takes your breath away! I know I left some grip marks on my daughter’s hand during the ride!
Hanging Lake is a beautiful hike in Glenwood Canyon (part of the White River National Forest). It’s also a very popular hike. So popular, in fact, that there is a new system to help preserve the natural beauty of the area by controlling the number of hikers. Before your visit you need to make a reservation here. You can choose to ride a shuttle bus or ride your bike to the trailhead. The shuttle busses leave from The Hanging Lake Welcome Center.
I made a reservation a few months before our visit for a 9:30 AM hike on a weekday. We rode in a full bus (40 people) to the rest center near the trailhead. At the rest center there are restrooms and water fountains. From there you walk along a bike path to the trailhead.
The hike is 1.2 miles each way and takes approx. 2-3 hours to complete. The trail can be very rocky and steep with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. I was glad we wore our light hiking shoes to help maneuver the rocky terrain.
Near the top, the trail gets more narrow and steep, but you are rewarded with some pretty stunning views!
At the top of the trail there is the gorgeous Hanging Lake!
There are some benches where you can rest a bit before the hike down. Make sure to pack plenty of water and something like a protein or granola bar. …and make sure to take the quick side trail to Spouting Rock waterfalls – another view you don’t want to miss!
I certainly felt the hike down! …gets you right in the knees! I could see where hiking poles could come in handy next time!
What could be better than a soak in a natural hot springs after a long and steep hike? How about soaking in your choice of 16 different geothermal pools set amongst a beautiful terraced setting that overlooks the Colorado River?! Yes – I’m in!!
Choose your pool! Check the map where temperatures are listed for all the pools. They range from 98 – 108 degrees F.
The water comes from natural hot springs on the property that carry more than 14 different minerals! The five most abundant minerals in the soaking pools are iron, sulfate, chloride, sodium and calcium. Iron and sulfate are known for their relaxing qualities.
Thanks for the memories Glenwood Springs! Can’t wait for our next visit!
Check out my other Travel Blogs:
Thanks so much for spending some time in the cloud with me!
Thank you also to our Colorado Friends:
The Delaney Family and The Nelson Family
Mandy Gauldin (Peak Communications) for welcoming us to visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs!
Hannah Dixon (Vail Resorts) for inviting us to Vail’s Epic Discovery and Mountain Yoga!