With over 5,300 skiable acres on 195 trails and with, 32 different lifts, and the 350+ average inches of snow it gets, Vail Resort is considered one of the world’s premier ski areas. While the town of Vail is primarily known as a winter destination, those who visit in the summer months will be treated to the region’s natural beauty while also being able to explore all of the other amenities the area offers during the different three seasons.
There are various exciting and eclectic things to do near Vail – such as goat yoga, hiking, and having lunch with a llama. Or you can visit the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. One of the must-do day trips in the Vail area is to head to Glenwood Springs. This quick 60-mile drive west along the I-70 to this beautiful little mountain town is an excellent place for visitors or locals looking to stretch their legs and budgets a little further.
Stops Along the Way to Glenwood Springs
Although the distance between Vail and Glenwood Springs is short, there is no shortage of things to see or do along the way. This scenic drive will have you following the clear waters of the Eagle River before it finally meets up with the mighty Colorado River, a short distance before you enter Glenwood Canyon.
The Eagle River takes its name from the Ute Tribe, who claimed it has more tributaries than an eagle with feathers. Whether that’s true or not, there is a distinct possibility that you’ll encounter a majestic bald eagle next to the river if you decide to stop anywhere along its banks.
Anglers taking their time from Vail to Glenwood Springs can find some great spots to fish for rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and brown trout. The river is known to hold some large fish, and there are several access points to wade or float. Just be aware that some areas are surrounded by private property and would have restricted access.
About 41 miles west of Vail is the town of Eagle. This is a great place to grab some food at Moe’s Original BBQ or stop at the river park, where you can kayak, surf, raft, or tube at the proper water levels. The park has excellent bathroom facilities and is a great place to take your BBQ and relax next to the river.
The mouth of Glenwood Canyon is another 16 miles from Eagle and is easily one of the most scenic parts of the journey. This 12.5-mile stretch of the road follows the Colorado River below towering 1,300′ cliffs, winding its way toward Glenwood Springs. The canyon has four rest stops along the way, with the crown jewel being a side excursion to Hanging Lake. This rugged 1.2-mile hike, with an elevation gain of 1,200′ to the namesake lake, is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Accordingly, you must obtain a permit before you are allowed to hike it. The permit is only $10, but it can be challenging to obtain a permit at the height of the summer, so plan accordingly. Also, this is a delicate ecological area, so please stay on the trails and adhere to the posted rules.
Top Attractions in Glenwood Springs
Aside from running the rivers with Defiance Rafting, the top attractions in Glenwood Springs depend on what type of adventure you’re looking to do. For many, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a great way to spend some time. For others, a spa day at Yampah Spa is the right speed.
The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park sits atop a mountain and is only accessible via the gondola that carries visitors up the hill. This mountain-top theme park boasts several records, including being the only mountain-top theme park and having a roller coaster with the steepest freefall in the western US. The park also offers a variety of less extreme rides, incredible cave tours, a great restaurant, fun family games, and an unmatched view of Glenwood Springs and the lower Roaring Fork Valley.
Yampah Spa has a long and storied history. The vapor caves – part of the spa – are also a part of the fabric that built Glenwood Springs. These natural vapor caves were first used by the Ute Tribe that inhabited the area before 1860. They were used as a sacred place to gather, and for the healing properties they believed them to have. After that, the area began attracting people worldwide interested in the caves and their reputed medicinal properties. Today, people are still traveling great and short distances to experience the unique and therapeutic properties of the vapor caves, as well as for other relaxing spa treatments.
A trip to Glenwood Springs would not be complete without a trip down the Colorado River. Defiance Rafting Company, or DRC, is the rafting company of choice when navigating big whitewater or taking guests through the calmer downriver sections of Glenwood Canyon.
About trip choices, you have a variety of options at Defiance. For the adrenaline seekers, talk to Defiance once the run-off starts from mid-May to early June. Defiance offers half-day trips, including the rapids and the mellow downriver section. If you want a more intimate adventure, go for a private experience. These trips are customizable and will include all the areas of the river you want to experience and anything else you can think of to make the trip exactly how you envisioned it. If you can dream it, there’s a good chance Defiance can make it happen!
Where to Eat
If you want to fuel up before your Glenwood adventure begins or roll into town with a grumbling stomach, stop by Canyon Crepes next to Defiance River Outfitters – your mouth and stomach will thank you. You can choose different sweet or savory crepes, including Nutella and banana, ham and cheese, or other mouthwatering choices. If you need to refuel on caffeine before the next part of the adventure, they also offer freshly brewed cups of Bonfire craft coffee.
Another staple of Glenwood Springs is Sweet Coloradough. We’ve checked that this family-owned and operated bakery offers some of the best doughnuts in the universe. They also have a great drink menu and a variety of other delectable breakfast and lunch offerings. They close around 2 pm, so make sure that dilly-dallying is not part of your travel itinerary, or you’ll be sorry!
Many people thirst for a cold beverage on a hot summer day, especially after getting off the river. If you are one of those people, you may find that including a stop by Casey Brewing may be just the thing to quench that thirst. Casey’s is a small-batch craft brewery in Glenwood Springs that uses 99% Colorado ingredients and specializes in brewing sour-style beers. This spot has become a favorite hangout for locals who enjoy their complex craft beers, the chill atmosphere, and the variety of events in their taproom.
Part of the fun of traveling is the experience of exploring new places and trying new things. The Vail Valley offers a variety of exciting things to do and incredible scenery to take in, and the surrounding areas can add to that experience immensely. Those who travel to Vail or are from the area would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t explore further down the road and see what Glenwood Springs offers.