First up is Berry Picker, a trail that begins at Vail Village and climbs 3.2 miles to Eagle’s Nest, where you can catch the Gondola back down the mountain to Lionshead. Instead, where Berry Picker crossed Fireweed, we took Fireweed back toward Mid-Vail and caught Gondola One back down to the Village, decreasing our total mileage to 3 but with all the elevation gain (2108 feet). This hike is rated moderate.
I found a fantastic hiking blog, which has details (and gorgeous photos!) about hikes all over Colorado. If you’re heading this way, I highly recommend checking out The Trail Girl’s blog.
For the most part, the kids hiked at altitude the way they walk at home: the boys head out together at the front and Jonah occasionally circles back to check on me, while the girls bicker at the back. Phoebe likes to climb everything, and Moriah keeps up a running commentary.
While I thoroughly slathered everyone with sunscreen (thank goodness), we underestimated the amount of water to bring and were thirsty at the end. We hiked for 3 hours and ate every granola bar, apple and m&m we brought. I highly recommend chocolate on hikes– it works for hiking and dementors.
Several days later, we drove to the top of Vail pass and headed another 2.3 miles south to Shrine Mountain Pass. While the hike is both shorter and less steep, climbing only 1/3 of the altitude of Berry Picker, it begins at 11,089 feet, almost 700 feet higher than where Berry Picker finishes. It’s not for the faint of heart (or breath). (This trail is rated easy to moderate.)
The trail begins with a 98-foot decline, which might give you false confidence. But the views more than make up for the mean climb when you come back “down.”
There was more water, in the form of ponds and boggy trail, which meant more bugs.
On our way up, a hiker we passed told me that there was “log on the right up there where jays will come and eat out of your hand.”
This was the wrong log.
Near the end of the trail, we lost most of our trees, and the hike became very steep. A group of trail runners flew by us, and I wished so much to be able to do that. They were so light on their feet. We also passed a lot of older hikers who were already on the way down and kept telling us the view would be worth it.
If you’re hiking (with or without kids) don’t forget your sunblock, hat, water (I’d recommend a liter per person for 3 hours), and chocolate/other snacks. A sweatshirt or rain gear is essential in the rapidly changing Colorado weather. We beat this storm by an hour, but I wouldn’t want to be the tallest thing at the top of the mountain in a thunderstorm!