A great loop with outstanding views and fields full of wildflowers in the spring and summer.
This makes an excellent trail run, and is a good test of your lung capacity on the uphills. Water (and food & beer) can be had at the top of the gondola.
Find your way from the gondola to the Ridge Route
, which initially parallels the Grand Traverse Trail but gradually veers away to cross ski runs, wildflower meadows, and shady groves. It climbs uphill fairly steadily until the top of the Game Creek Chairlift, where it ends at the intersection of Ptarmigan Loop
If you like wildflowers and great views, you're going to love Ptarmigan Loop
. Contour around Ptarmigan Ridge and Ptarmigan Point (10,977 ft). The trail surface is smooth-packed dirt, so you can safely raise your eyes to admire the abundant flowers and look for late-season mushrooms. Salute the two carved wooden figures and share their views of Mt. Holy Cross, Meadow Mountain, the Gore Range, and the back bowls of Vail. As the trail ends back at the Game Creek Chair, follow signs for this trail's intersection with Grand Escape
, which is past the Wildwood Chairlift nearby.
This well-marked, serene trail has off-the-charts fields of dense wildflowers in all varieties. The top half of this trail is the best, following just below Eagles Nest Ridge and affording spectacular, panoramic views of the Gore Range. Once the trail crosses the Main Vail service road, it becomes doubletrack and less aesthetic, although the views to the west are still good. After entering and exiting a few sets of trees, the trail appears to end at a service road and a nearby tubing area lift. To reach Eagles Nest and the Lionshead Gondola, take a left heading up the Main Vail service road for about 20 feet and look for signs to a doubletrack leading down past Ridge Route
etc. to the gondola and Eagles Nest.
There are wildflowers galore on this run. You'll pass through fir, spruce, aspen, and will probably see deer. Bear, elk, and moose are occasionally seen, and mountain lions live here, though you probably won't ever see one.