Sublime mountain biking, trail running, hiking, beautiful stand-up paddleboarding, Gold Medal fly fishing and delicious craft breweries… No longer just a town living in the shadow of Vail, Eagle is an adventure destination of its own. Plus, this tiny hamlet full of big adventure nestled in the Vail Valley at 6,600 feet stays a little warmer and drier than its snowier counterparts, so you can hang onto summer even after the leaves begin turning.
Ideal climate, varied terrain and 70-100 miles of trail—the majority accessible from town—make Eagle the perfect destination for mountain bikers of all abilities. The Haymaker Trail, a professionally designed 6-mile singletrack loop suitable for beginners, intersperses fun rollers and moderate climbs with fast and flat sections and steep downhills. Extend the fun by connecting with countless other trails including the Pool/Ice Rink Trail, a wild, vertical 3-mile descent. If you’re looking for an intermediate route, enjoy amazing views of Red Canyon and the Eagle River as you climb the 3.5 miles up Boneyard to Bellyache Road and then enjoy a cruise down the winding 3-mile Redneck Ridge. For a more techy challenge, hit the Eagle Ranch and Hardscrabble areas. We especially love any loop that incorporates the 13-mile Pipeline Trail, half narrow, rocky singletrack and half fire road which will challenge you no matter how you decide to tackle it. Plus, it’s also some of the more scenic riding in town. Head to The Mountain Pedaler (mountainpedaler.com), Eagle’s local bike shop for trail conditions, last-minute gear needs and the definitive trail map created by shop owner, Charlie Brown. Grab the guide book Mountain Bike Eagle by Laura and Bob Turitz (mountainbikeeagle.com).
Hike or Run It
Locals love exploring the 50-miles of trail (also open to mountain bikes) that crisscross Hardscrabble Mountain on foot (hardscrabbletrails.org). Ascend to the top of the expansive mesa via your choice of trail. We’d recommend running or walking up the Abrams Gulch, a trail that rises steeply out of the junipers and linking up with the Abrams Ridge Trail to complete a difficult, 8.5-mile loop with 1800+ feet of gain. Or, head to the Fulford Cave Parking area and take on the 11-mile-roundtrip hike to scenic Lake Charles and Mystic Island Lake which rest beneath beautiful Fools Peak. The steady, 2,100-plus-foot climb along the Lake Charles Trail through a lush narrow valley is worth it; both lakes offer fantastic fishing and camping.
With no motorized boats allowed, Sylvan Lake State Park (cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/SylvanLake), located at 8,500 feet, offers a pristine and stunning setting for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Whether you’re a beginner or a practiced SUPer looking to hone your skills, time on still water in this peaceful spot will increase confidence and soothe your soul. Timberline Tours (timberlinetours.com) offers SUP tours in spring and summer, but the mild temperatures mean you can do-it-yourself deep into fall. If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-inducing river experience, come back in spring when the Eagle River gets bumping with exciting rapids and bigger flows. Rumor has it that in spring 2015, Eagle will join the ranks of towns like Buena Vista, Vail and Salida by opening its own whitewater play park.
The waters of the Eagle River, Gore Creek and Brush Creek reward anglers willing to test their skill. Browns, rainbows, cutthroat and cut-bows meander the Eagle River, providing ample, year-round opportunity for hooking a pig. With 10 miles of idyllic alpine streams and a 42-acre lake, Sylvan Lake State Park is another great spot for anglers to explore. Easy access to fantastic fishing holes, prolific hatches, and the breathtaking backdrop of jagged peaks and alpine meadows makes fishing in and around Eagle something you’ll never forget. Contact locals Bob and Kim at Eagle River Anglers (eagleriverflyfishing.com) to schedule a guided trip, to get beta, or to purchase gear from their shop on the banks of the river.
Eat and Drink
Don’t miss the fun at Bonfire Brewery’s taproom (bonfirebrewing.com)—complete with foosball, darts and over a dozen delicious craft brews on tap. Bonfire doesn’t serve food, so after a few pints head to the 7 Hermits Brewing Company (7hermitsbrewing.com) for dinner and more craft brews. Or, for an authentic southern meal, head to Moe’s Original BBQ (moesoriginalbbq.com/lo/eagle). Grab your morning pick-me-up, breakfast or a pastry at Red Canyon Café (redcanyoncafe.com).
What the historic Hitching Post Bed and Breakfast (hitchingpostbnb.com/index.htm) lacks in quantity (there are only two rooms), it makes up for with quality by providing a cozy, unique and affordable spot to rest your head after going big outside. If you’d rather stay closer to nature, head to Sylvan Lake State Park (http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/SylvanLake/Pages/Camping.aspx) where you can camp, rent a cabin or sleep in a yurt.
–For more trails, ideas and details check out Eagle’s comprehensive guide to outdoor activities at eagleoutside.com.