winter road trip

Best Day Trips from Vail

Whether you are vacationing with the whole family or on a romantic getaway, Vail offers ample activities for everyone to enjoy. Sure, you could spend an entire week just exploring Eagle county, but it would be a shame to miss out on some of the fantastic nearby towns and mountains in the area. Below is our list of “can’t miss” day trips from Vail. We have also included details and helpful links for your convenience on each destination. If you are looking for ski and snowboard rental in Eagle and Summit counties, don’t hesitate to visit one of Charter Sports’ 14 locations in the area. Charter Sports has proudly provided affordable ski and snowboard rental equipment since 1988.   

Day Trips Under 1 Hour

If you only have a little time and still want to explore Vail’s surroundings, visit these nearby scenic locations for half a day.

Breckenridge (40 min) 

Known for its beautiful resort and bustling Main Street, Breckenridge is undoubtedly one of the most popular day trips. You can walk through the charming town, ride the slopes and snowshoe in winter, or hike one of the beautiful biking and hiking trails in the summer and fall. You can still find plenty of activities for those who would rather abstain from skiing. And if you are visiting in the peak of summer, these 100 options will not leave you disappointed. 

Leadville (45 min)

Leadville is a lovely former mining town located southwest of Vail. You’ll take Highway 24, a Top of The Rockies Scenic Byway that runs through Aspen in the summer. Make sure to check for any seasonal closures, road maintenance, and construction. This map covers the whole byway, of which you experience just a sliver or take more time to admire the majestic beauty. You can also pass through Minturn, past the historic 10th Mountain Division training area, to the highest incorporated city in the United States.If you are a history buff or prefer to explore more outdoors, Leadville has fantastic options to showcase its history and surrounding sights., such as the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum

Glenwood (under 1hr)

Just west on i-70 past Gypsum, you will reach Dotsero – maar Volcano, which is 700 meters wide and 400 meters deep. You can stop and marvel at this incredible site and then continue as you enter the massive Glenwood Canyon, which mesmerizes every visitor with its astonishing beauty. On the way to the town, you can hike Hanging Lake, which requires reservations, as there is a limit of visitors per available time slot. Once in Glenwood Springs, you can visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, where you can experience the caves or go on fun rides in this mountain-top theme park. If you prefer a more leisurely visit, take a stroll through town to visit Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves, bathe in Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and Iron Man Hot Springs, or venture to unique cultural sites.

Day Trips under 2 Hours

Black Hawk/Central City (1.20)

Black Hawk is located next to the Central City in Clear Creek Canyon. It is one of the smallest towns hosting just 128 residents; however, it welcomes over 20,000 visitors daily and is known for its upscale hotels and casinos. The town is known for its many casinos, endless slot machines, and other gambling options. However, if you are just tagging along and prefer to avoid dingling slot machines and crowded gamblers, you can explore other activities in the area. Ara Spa at the Ameristar is an excellent choice to rest, relax and recover. You can then visit one of their great cafes and restaurants and sip a hot coffee, wine, or beer while enjoying a great book. You can also go on a hike on the nearby trails. And, of course, visiting the beautiful hotels or simply strolling through Central City-Black Hawk Historic District can be a pleasure on its own. 

Winter Park (1.30)

Winter Park is considered the mountain biking capital of America and is known for its fantastic ski resort. With endless trails, there’s no shortage of outdoor biking and skiing fun covering the entire year. But aside from hitting skiing or snowboarding, you can try ski biking with the Sno-Go Tours, go on a snowshoe hike with Summit Snowshoe Tour, or cross-country skiing at Nordic Center on the Snow Mountain Ranch. If you are looking for more thrill, you can rent a snowmobile to ride at your own pace or take a guided tour with the Grand Adventuresor Snowmobiling Adventures, taking you through the Continental Divide at 12,000 feet. If Snowmobiling is not up to your comfort, you can take a scenic tour in a heated cabin of a snowcat.  

Looking for more fun? Coca Cola Tubing Hill will surely not disappoint, and you can also sled at the downtown Rendezvous Event Center. If you want a more mellow trip, visit Hot Sulphur Springs Resort, go on a horse-drawn carriage with the Dashing Thru The Snow Sleigh Rides, or take a scenic Gondola ride at the Fraser Valley. Taking a hot air balloon ride with Grand Adventure is popular, but it requires cooperative and warm weather. Their après-flight treats and champagne included in your package are sure to impress. Or a simple stroll through Cooper Creek Shopping Square will complete the town experience. Winter Park also has excellent dining choices for when you are ready for your lunch break and dinner. 

Salida (1.45 min) 

Salida is known for its picturesque art district that brings all tastes and styles. You will enjoy their adorned shops, such as Maverick Potter, charming galleries, and historical sites like Salida Museum. Look at the town calendar for upcoming events and cultural activities before visiting. Hike or drive to the top of Monarch Mountain and ride Monarch Crest Scenic Tram; visit Riverside Park or take a walking tour with Salida Walking Tour company that will take you throughout the town and acquaint you with a unique history. 

If you are visiting with children, take them to see Browns Canyon National Monument and check out the town’s recreation guide that offers various activities for the whole family. If you want to catch even more thrill, spend time at Salida Captain Zipline, or go river rafting with Independent Whitewater. You can also check out Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area for additional things to do. If you feel like you haven’t been in a car long enough, take a self-guided Spiral Drive with this guide to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain for a magnificent 360-view. After the descent, enjoy one of the delectable Salida dining options, or head straight to Vino Salida Wine Cellars for a tour and wine tasting. 

Aspen (1.45)

Once a small mining town, Aspen became one of the most affluent and charming mountain towns in the US, housing famous US celebrities, Expats, and seasonal stayers from other states. Chances are you have heard of this small quaint town known for its annual Film Festival or the pristine postcard Maroon Bells view. 

Spend time browsing downtown – check out high-end boutiques, local shops, and sophisticated hotels. Take a Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Ajax Peak to enjoy the views or participate in skiing during the snow season. Downtown is also home to the John Denver Sanctuary, a beautiful serene park with boulders highlighting some lyrics from John Denver’s music. If you happen to visit in October, you can catch their annual festival highlighting the life and career of the famous singer. 

Snowmass, a nearby village, also offers a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities for the whole family. Visit the Maroon Bells, one of the most iconic Colorado places. During summer and fall, you can hike the small Maroon Lake Scenic Trail loop or venture out on a more challenging route to Crater Lake Trail, Crater Lake, East Maroon Trail, or the Willow Lake Trail that will open up a top view of the lake. Keep in mind that Maroon Bells requires reservations ahead of time and is only accessible by bus from the base parking lot. 

T-Lazy-7 Ranch, also in the Maroon Creek Valley, is another unique place to explore if you have time. It offers a host of its own activities and is worth spending a good part of the day there. Ashcroft Ghost Town is another unique place that leaves the remnants and ghosts of Aspen’s past. You can go on a guided tour or take it at your own pace.

Steamboat Springs (1.50)

Steamboat is another charming little community with an old country feel. It is located in northern Colorado in the Yampa Valley and is home to many cinnamon bears and natural hot springs. The town’s unique name was given by the French trappers who thought they heard steamboat-like sounds emanating from a nearby river, which turned out to be one of many natural hot springs in the area. The town offers so many ways to indulge in the beauty of winter fun, whether you visit for a day or extend your staycation. Likewise, summer in Steamboat is full of adventures, with everyone in your family finding something for themselves. And unless you are fasting, Steamboat offers an array of dining experiences, from small cafes and casual tastes to full-course dinners. Don’t leave Steamboat without dipping in Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Day Trips and National Treasures within 3 Hours

If you are willing to pack your day to the fullest or consider an overnight stay, depending on the season you are traveling; these national treasures will surely leave you in awe. 

  • San Isabel National Forest (1.30)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (2 hrs)
  • Grand Mesa (2.15)
  • Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (2.15)
  • Rio Grande National Forest (2.25)
  • Pearl Lake State Park (2.45)
  • Great Sand Dunes (3)


Regardless of the time of year, endless day trips from Vail and Beaver Creek leave you in awe at the incredible Rocky Mountains. We hope this guide helps you plan your next trip and adventure. If you are looking for ski and snowboard rental in Eagle and Summit counties, don’t hesitate to visit one of Charter Sports’ 14 locations in the area. Charter Sports has proudly provided affordable ski and snowboard rental equipment since 1988.   

Rent Equipment in 3 easy steps

1) Select Dates
2) Select Location
3) Select Package