- Colorado is the highest-altitude state in the U.S. Drink more water than usual, moderate alcohol and tobacco intake, and, if possible, spend a night in the intermediate-elevation Front Range (Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, or Colorado Springs) or Western Slope (Grand Junction, Fruita, or the Four Corners region) before coming up to Vail. Also, always wear sunscreen and reapply diligently!
- Weather changes rapidly here. Dress in layers! It will be cool in the mornings and evenings (mid 40s to high 50s) and then warm during the day (anywhere from low 70s to high 80s). Also, it is currently monsoon season, which means afternoon thunderstorms roll an hour or two after lunchtime. They rarely last very long, but raingear is recommended.
*Staff suggestion: Please know that most properties in the High Rockies do not have air conditioning! Due to the dry climate and high altitude, it is rarely necessary. We recommend leaving your windows open throughout the day and evening (with exception to the afternoon thunderstorms). It will circulate air through your condo and keep it cool.
- Top of the Rockies (115 miles) takes you from Leadville, the highest incorporated town in America at 10,430 feet, down Fremont Pass. Follow Hwy 24 down Tennessee Pass to Minturn. Then bear right on Hwy 92 toward Twin Likes before going over Independence Pass and into Aspen.
- Independence Pass (27 miles) is an abbreviated version of the drive explained above, but classic nonetheless. It’s full of old mining ruins, alpine tundra, and glaciers.
- Trail Ridge Road (47 miles) goes over the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is one of the best places to see moose and elk. Highlights include Milner Pass and the tiny town of Grand Lake at the west entrance.
- Peak to Peak Hwy (55 miles) runs south to north from I-70 outside of Denver up to Estes Park, at the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the way it passes small mining and bohemian towns alike and showcases extraordinary high country scenery, including views of 14,255-foot Longs Peak.
- Highway of Legends (110 miles) starts in the southern Colorado town of Trinidad and takes Hwy 12 through Cokedale, passing 300 coke ovens en route over Cucharas Pass as well as the extinct volcanoes, Spanish Peaks.
- Santa Fe Trail (188 miles each way) is a long, historic route through southeastern Colorado (again leaving from the Trinidad area) that cross into Kansas. Take Hwy 350 to La Junta, driving through expansive grasslands and ranches. The out-and-back’s highlights include Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, Iron Spring and Picketwire Dinosaur Tracksite.
*Staff pick for driving tour (not on list above): Shrine Pass. From Vail, take I-70 east towards Denver. Get off at exit 190. Merge onto the dirt road south of the highway, following signs for Shrine Pass. There is a 4.6-mile round-trip hike that tours wildflowers on the way up to Shrine Mountain Crags. The scenery at the top is similar to Vail Mountain’s back bowls, but significantly untouched. Hike or not, continue on the 4WD road as it winds through White River National Forest with views of Mount of the Holy Cross. The dirt road brings you into the small town of Red Cliff. Head through town, then turn right on Hwy 24 and drive through Minturn. Merge onto I-70 east to come back to Vail.
–Vail Spa concierges, 8/6/11