In Vail we have a saying that, “We moved here for the winter, but stayed because of the summers.” With sunny days, cool evenings and more outdoor recreation and culture that you could imagine it really is a spectacular place to be in the summertime. And, it gets better every year. June 2017 I had the fortune to attend the grand opening of Epic Discovery Vail. Many of the key legislators and government agencies that were integral to making it possible gave their thoughts at the ribbon cutting. I managed to sneak in a ride on the Forest Flyer (alpine coaster) and tubing hill before heading back to the office that day. Later that summer we made it a family outing.
Summer 2020 Update: Gondola One to Mid-Vail opened July 1. The Eagle Bahn gondola to Eagle’s Nest (and Epic Discovery) is scheduled to begin running July 17. The Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster will be the first activity to open at Eagle’s Nest. Bike hauls and to-go food will also be available for purchase.
Scenic Gondola Ride
There really is something for everyone of all ages at Epic Discovery Vail. Of course the gondola ride up is itself spectacular. There is something peaceful and serene about floating slowly through the air first over Gore Creek and then up the mountain while watching the green ski slopes, Aspen and pine trees go by, surrounded by mountain peaks. Take in views of the Holy Cross mountain range when you arrive at the top.
Once you arrive at the top of Vail Mountain, the hardest decision will be what to do first. From speeding down the mountain on the Forest Flyer or tubing hill, zooming through the air on a zip line, to testing your bravery on one of the ropes courses there is something for kids and adults of all ages.
Nature Discovery Center at Epic Discovery
Located in a yurt atop Vail Mountain, the Nature Discovery Center, run by Walking Mountains, features an array of wildlife exhibits and artifacts. This was the highlight for my 11-month-old nephew. He crawled around checking out plastic animal scat, animal puppets and stuffed animals. There was so much to touch and see that was just at his level. The 3 and 4-year-olds enjoyed puzzles, puppets and binoculars. Plus, it was a great place to cool off.
Pine Cone Adventure Course
Our kids who are four and eight-years-old started off on the Pine Cone Adventure Course. Our eight-year-old had done this a couple of times in the past and breezed through it two or three times while it really tested our four-year-old’s bravery. Balancing on, for the first time, ropes, logs and bridges that seemed to be shaking a handful of feet of the ground was scary. He had reason to be proud of himself when he completed the course. This is a great kids adventure!
Marmot Mini Tubing
The kids moved on to do many, many rounds on the Marmot Mini Tubing. This was really fun for both of them though our eight-year-old probably would have found the Eagle’s Nest Summer Tubing a bit more exciting.
Our eight-year-old really enjoyed doing flips on the Bungee Trampoline, which she has had the opportunity to bounce on many times in the past.
Super fun day today playing with extended family at #epicdiscovery on #vailmountain. We are lucky to have this playground in our backyard. . . . . #kidsunplugged #hikewithkids #optoutside #findyouradventure #getoutstayout #roamtheplanet #hikerslife #freespiritedchildhood #takethekids #explorerkids #everydayadventure #worldschooling #familyadventures #familytravel #goplayoutside #naturelover #outdoorfamilies #natureismagic #spiritofthemountain #lovewilderness #takeyourkidseverywhere #exploringfamilies #wearetravelmums #FarawayFiles #theworldisyourbackyard #postcardsfromtheworld #travelawesome #darlingescapes
Gore Range and Holy Cross Adventure Courses
These ropes or adventure courses are a great way to test your bravery. Harnessed in to a platform far above the ground walk across ropes, bridges and more.
Paramount Peak Climbing Wall
An entirely different experience than climbing indoors, here you can scale a climbing wall in the outdoors.
Forest Flyer Alpine Slide
We had Little Explorer passes for the kids which does not include the Forest Flyer Alpine mountain coaster, so sadly we didn’t get to ride the alpine coaster this visit. In my opinion the Forest Flyer is probably the most fun ride at Epic Discovery, though many other activities are more challenging.
Golden Eagle Zipline
Not included in the adventure pass, this zipline located at Epic Discovery Vail, transports guests above the trees with spectacular views of the spectacular mountain environment.
Little Eagle Zipline
The Little Eagle Zipline is included in the adventure pass and can also be added to the scout sampler. It is a great way for ages three and up to experience a zipline for the first time.
Game Creek Zipline Tour
Guests purchase tickets in advance and arrive to the Lionshead Ticket Office about an hour prior to the reserved tour time. The Game Creek Zipline Tour is a 3-4 hour tour, transporting guests for two miles above the beautiful alpine forest habitat. You soar on seven ziplines, as well as additional aerial bridges. To participate guests must be 10 years or older and weigh between 90 to 250 pounds. Guests must also wear enclosed shoes.
What to Know Before You Go
- The Ultimate Adventure Pass includes an adult ride along for a child who too small to ride on their own. But not vice versa. If you are taking young kids up and aren’t too concerned about doing the activities yourself, you might want to forgo purchasing the Ultimate Adventure Pass for yourself. Purchase it for the kids instead. Then you you will able to ride it with them as many times as you like. Of course, if budget isn’t an issue then I’d recommend buying the Ultimate Adventure pass for everyone.
- Bring water, sunscreen and snacks. You may not think of Vail as hot, but the sun shines down brightly around midday at that altitude. I brought a Camelbak which I found as the easiest way to carry water and anything else we needed. There is a restaurant where food and drinks are available for sale at a premium.
- Arrive early. It can get hot so I recommend riding up as soon as the lifts open and taking a walk around while waiting for Epic Discovery to open. Get you bearings, take in the views and make a plan.
- Kids do ride the gondola free with a paying adult.
- Enclosed footwear is required, so don’t wear sandals, Keens or Tevas.
- Check with Vail Resorts for up to date pricing, hours and open date.
Adventure Ridge Vail
In the winter Epic Discovery reverts back to its original name of Adventure Ridge. This is the place for non-skiing winter fun. Guests can make reservations and purchase tickets for Vail tubing, ski biking and the Forest Flyer alpine coaster. It is free to take the Eagle Bahn Gondola up after 2:30 p.m. So even if you don’t partake in the activities, it is worth a visit up in the evening to take in a winter sunset.
Visiting Vail? Be sure to check out our Vail, Colorado guide!
This is an update of an article originally published in July 2017.