Step Off the Beaten Path to Explore Vail's Lesser Known Locales

By Caitlin Row | Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Colorado's Vail Valley isn't only a resort destination for skiers and snowboarders. It's a multi-faceted region that's a mix of historic and new. That's why it's important to schedule some exploration by foot and car during during your next mountain vacation.

Explore Minturn 

Minturn is a tiny, turn-of-the-century railroad and mining town located between Avon and West Vail along the highway. To get there, when you're heading west on Interstate 70, take Exit 171 to Minturn.

Before the ski resort was built, Minturn was the most populated and active place in the valley. According to Go Minturn, the "funky, old railroad town" was first developed in the 1880s and incorporated in 1904.

The Minturn Saloon is a destination unto itself. The historic bar and restaurant features a lot of mountain-town history (and even some back-room gambling back in the day). The structure itself was built in 1901.

During summer Minturn offers a popular weekly farmers market.

Drive up to Leadville

When you're done in Minturn, continue up the scenic byway to Leadville along US-24. While it's technically not part of Eagle County, Leadville is only a one-hour drive away and a must-visit for history buffs.

Built during Colorado's silver- and gold-mining boom in the later half of the 1800s, Leadville's beautiful Victorian structures are worth the drive. Visitors and locals alike need only to walk down the main drag to know that Leadville was once a wealthy, bustling town. Though it's certainly quieter these days, many structures have been refurbished, making it a one-of-a-kind visitor destination.

According to, 30,000 people once called the high-elevation town home. It offered a variety of saloons, boarding houses, brothels and even an opera house that attracted big-name acts of the time.

Information about a historic walking tour can be accessed here.

Pop Over to Edwards

Edwards is a 17-minute drive west from Vail. Though it's primarily residential, the Edwards area of Eagle County offers a variety of delicious restaurants, shopping, hiking, a movie theater and Vail Valley's most beloved bookstore, The Bookworm. And because it's less impacted by seasonal business, you'll find more to do here if you're visiting the Vail Valley during the off-season.

Check out Riverwalk Center for shopping and dining. Hovey & Harrison and The Rose are both must-visit restaurants focused on healthy, Colorado-sourced ingredients.

See you in Vail!

Photo by Caitlin Row, taken in historic Minturn

About the Author Caitlin Row
Caitlin is a Vail local. She loves to ski, play in the snow (preferably with her dog) and taste all the Vail Valley has to offer.