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Discover More About The Vail Hiker!

Explore Vail, Colorado's glorious backcountry!






This book highlights backcountry trails around Vail, Colorado.






hidden lakes, alpine cascades, historic relics and high passes serve as destinations.






Visit meadows awash with bright wildflower color. 






Watch the aspen change from green to gold in mid-September.





Scan mountain vistas from scenic high passes. 






Explore an 1880s ghost town and travel routes of gold rush prospectors. 






A new, revised edition features the just-debuted North Vail Trail, accessible without car from Vail Village. 






Winter users will find snowshoe and ski trails to snow-blanketed beauty spots.






Enjoy this best-selling book for all seasons!





Each of the 50 trails has its own topo map and photo illustration.





Silence pervades the snow-quilted back country on a wilderness ski tour.





Meet the hiker-historian!





Discover for yourself the rich trail descriptions and detailed directions.





A 60-foot waterfall, stunning against black granite, plunges from a cliffside.





Try this popular trail mid-week to enjoy more solitude.





The Gore Range presents formidable rock walls, sawtooth ridges and rich green gorges.





Start early on this full-day, six-miles-each- way hike to Booth Lake

The Vail Hiker Cover Photo

Editorial Reviews

The Denver Post
Very thorough in its approach," said Steven Weinmeister in the
Denver Post sports section. "A must" for hikers and cross-country skiers."

Summit Sentinel
"Mary Ellen Gilliland has just completed her second trail guide, The Vail Hiker. She hiked each of the trails, re-hiking the ones where forks could lead people in the wrong direction. Some of them she hiked as many as two or three times." 

The Vail Trail
"This 126-page book contains hiking and ski trials in the County, from Vail Pass to the Gypsum area. ...Adding great dimension to this guide book are the chatty narratives about what hikers can expect to see, including tidbits of information about bygone mines, the flowers, and the surrounding mountains. 

Also of note are the special hikes for kids, such as a waterfall on Cataract Creek near Camp Hale or the big sandbar on Black Gore Creek. 

Gilliland says she hiked every trail. "I feel that's important," she said "because there's always a fork where the trail goes into the trees and people have created the beginnings of a misleading path,'" 

Columnist J.D. "Colorado" Farr in The Summit County

"A few years ago she wrote the very successful and popular Summit Hiker book. The Vail Hiker is a companion volume ...This is an excellent book and I would recommend it to you. One of the charms of books by Mary Ellen is that she not only gives you a trail guide and description, but she captures the beauty of the area in her prose. 

"This edition is a good addition for any mountain hiker library." 

The Vail Daily
"Mary Gilliland's book The Vail Hiker:  the contents are as big as all outdoors." 

Publisher Comments 

Whiskey Creek Trail

How to Order 

Book Description 
A trail guide to the back country around Vail, Beaver Creek, Avon, Eagle and Minturn, Colorado including all of alpine Eagle County.

Forty trails with key statistics including elevation gain and degree of difficulty. Topo maps and photos accompany each 2-page trail description. A fold-out map gives users a clear definition of the whole county trail network. Features include Special Hikes for Kids and Trails Selected by Difficulty, with plenty of easy hikes as well as advanced trails for all kinds of users. 

A feature of The Vail Hiker is the number of trails into the spectacular Holy Cross Wilderness area and the rugged Eagles Nest Wilderness. 

The book's wire-O binding allows it to lay flat in your backpack or on the seat of your car while following driving directions. A sturdy laminated cover resists rain. 

How to Order 

From the Publisher 
This book highlights backcountry trails around Vail, Colorado. High hidden lakes, alpine cascades, historic relics and high passes serve as destinations. Visit meadows awash with bright wildflowers and explore weathered buildings the once housed gold rush prospectors. 

A new, revised edition features the just-debuted North Vail Trail, easily accessible to visitors without cars by foot from Vail Village. Carefully-compiled trailhead directions and easy to follow trail instructions get hikers to their destinations. Working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Gilliland has produced a reliable handbook and companion to her best-selling trail guide, The New Summit Hiker and Ski Touring Guide. 

In winter, snowshoe enthusiasts and cross-country skiers find an avenue to a white world of alpine tranquility. Winter users will find snowshoe and ski trails to snow-blanketed beauty 

From the Author 
I found writing this book a dream. Nowhere does nature's beauty in the alpine environment match the splendor of the back country around Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado. To take off and hike several times a week in this mountain beauty spot wasn't really working! After summer's last wildflower waned, I began doing the historical research.

I like to include the historic background of the places hikers see. An old cabin stirs questions-who lived there, and why? Mining ruins make one wonder, what story lies behind this abandoned equipment and swaying log buildings? I love to find the answers and weave them into my hike description along with the names of the wildflowers along the trail and tips on seeing the elk, deer and other birds or animals I may have encountered. I want to share these experiences with my readers.

You'll never forget the Eagles Nest and Holy Cross Wilderness areas. There's nothing as refreshing as a morning stroll through an untouched aspen woods. Join me in the sheer pleasure of exploring Vail's beautiful back yard--the pristine glade and the breeze-rippled meadow await you. Your Vail/Beaver Creek vacation won't be complete without sampling the beauty of its mountain surroundings. Come hike these beautiful trails with me! 

In winter, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing these trails finds them transformed into a billowed and folded, eiderdown quilted white world. Often the only tracks I saw were those of the snowshoe hare or the marmot. Slip away into a quiet oasis on your skis and leave the world behind. The workout manages to refresh the body while the scenery cleanses the mind. Being the author of The Vail Hiker and Ski Touring Guide is the best job one could get! 
Mary Ellen Gilliland 

From the Back Cover 
Discover Eagle County's secluded beauty-alpine lakes and waterfalls, wildlife retreats, flower havens--with The Vail Hiker. 

Popular Colorado hiker-historian Mary Ellen Gilliland introduces outdoor enthusiasts to forty scenic trails leading to 1880s ghost towns, gold mines and historic high passes. Berry picker's hikes, Mount of the Holy Cross overlooks and peaks selected for stunning views invite hikers of every ability, from families with young children to aggressive hikers and mountaineers. 

In winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will find an avenue to a white world of alpine tranquility. The Vail Hiker And Ski Touring Guide offers accurate, easy to follow trail guides and ski touring routes with carefully compiled driving directions. 

Gilliland, author of eight Colorado books, provides a well-researched history of each hike's locale. Working closely with the Holy Cross and Eagle Ranger District foresters, the author has produced a reliable handbook to serve as companion to her best-selling Summit County, Colorado guide, The New Summit Hiker. 

About the Author 
Mary Ellen Gilliland is the author of 11 books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles. A seasoned researcher and punchy writer, she maintains the position of Summit County, Colorado's chief historian, with five books on the 1800s mining mecca. Gilliland is a former New York City magazine editor who has lived in the Colorado mountains since 1969. 

A former Vail, Colorado resident who now lives "just over the pass" from the book's locale, she frequently re-hikes the trails from The Vail Hiker. 
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 Here's a Sample from this Popular Guidebook:

Excerpted from The Vail Hiker and Ski Touring Guide by
Mary Ellen Gilliland. Copyright 1996. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved 


Time:                 2-3 hours
Distance:           2 miles

Time:                 7 hours 
Distance:           6 miles Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
Elevation gain:  3,080 feet High point: 9,400 feet
High point:         11,480 feet Rating: Moderate
Rating:               More difficult Usually open: June-October
Usually open:     July-mid-September
Topo:                  USGS Vail East, 1987 

Yes, there is a heaven and it's tucked away up Booth Creek. Waterfalls (try to count 'em) include 60-foot Booth Falls at two miles where a crystal cataract gleams diamond-like against black rock. Beyond the falls, find Switzerland transported to the Rockies--flower-dotted subalpine meadows, green carpeted clefts, stunning views. The tarn, in a circle of moss rock and pink quartz, is a haven for hikers--and the curious marmot. 

Drive 0.9 miles west from I-70 East Vail exit 180 to Booth
Falls Road. Turn right and proceed to road's end to park. Arrive early--space is tight. Or, ride the bus to 0.2 miles below the trailhead.

The trail climbs north through aspen in a steep start, then levels to a gradual ascent through clover-scented woodland. In July, look for
Colorado's state flower, the columbine, along with mariposa lily. After quite a stretch here, emerge into a long, crevice-shaped meadow with abundant wildflowers--foothills paintbrush, yarrow, harebell, butter and eggs, larkspur, monks hood. Soon, trek up a steep but quick slope to the Falls. Stay left amid the many side trails here. Booth Falls, a refreshing stop, is a popular destination. 

Relocate the main trail and hike alongside the creek before climbing northeast into a deep conifer forest. The stream reappears, running alongside the trail. Look here for the elusive star-flowered pyrola (wood nymph), a white, waxy, close-to-the ground blossom. As you move into the meadows, notice the trail fork (second meadow, just above 10,200 feet) where a footpath at left provides access to the Piney Lakes region via the Piney Creek Trail. Up higher, you can spot the green saddle where the advanced trail crosses over. 

As the trees thin, the terrain changes constantly, providing views to the jumbled Gore Range ridges above, fields of flowers below, dozens of waterfalls and a trail that winds through green gorges and valleys. The final climb to the lake is relentless. Good boots pay off here. But flowers--rosy paintbrush, elephant head, queens crown, yellow monkey flower and Parry's primrose, plus fringed later-season gentian and star gentian--provide a feast for the eyes.

 Booth Lake, at 11,480 feet, is big by alpine tarn standards and boasts an island plus good fishing. Rocks above offer a smooth spot for picnicking but watch the cold wind. Find protected campsites in the woods below. 

Rolling rocks on the trail back to timberline demand caution on the trip down. As you approach the Vail valley, you may want to muse upon the area's history: Charlie Baldauf, a miner from silver and zinc-rich Gilman, built an early-day cabin at Booth Creek's mouth. Baldauf used hard-rock mining techniques to prepare his building site--he blasted out willow shrubs and boulders with dynamite. The Vail Mountain School has renovated Charlie's homestead and occupies it today.

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