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Courtesy of the Town of Minturn

First-Timer’s Guide: Minturn, Colorado

Celebrating its 115th anniversary this year, the charming town of Minturn is just begging to be explored. Nestled in the Vail Valley, it’s time to make this gem a destination.

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Situated between Vail and Beaver Creek, Minturn has long been a historical gem in Eagle County. Developed primarily as a railroad town in the late 1800s around the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Minturn was incorporated in 1904, making it one of the oldest towns in Eagle County. Though the town has seen its booms and busts, Minturn’s architecture and welcoming community feel is making it a popular spot for visitors—residents already know what a good thing they’ve got.

The Odometer: 104 miles from Denver, one-way

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Get Outside

As the gateway to the White River National Forest and the Holy Cross Wilderness, Minturn’s backyard features mountains to climb, snow to shred, trails to ride, and rivers to fish.

During the winter, Minturn is a popular basecamp for those wanting to ski Vail and Beaver Creek, as it’s just 10 minutes from each. Non-resort skiing is also an option with backcountry and cross-country skiing proving popular. For those who are backcountry savvy, the Minturn Mile is on many winter bucket lists. This totally legal yet out-out-bounds, more-than-a-mile route takes skiers and riders from the top of Vail through the trees, over Game Creek drainage and through “the luge”: a tight-turning 2-mile stretch that mimics a bobsled track. At the end, adventurers can head straight for the Minturn Saloon, the traditional finish line where margaritas, Mexican food, and other Milers await.

Other backcountry options include Minturn’s Meadow Mountain, which is perfect for uphill enthusiasts and snowshoers. A steady climb gives way to epic views, while the descent rewards skiers with untouched powder and wide-open turns. Minturn’s Maloit Park, located at the southern end of town, offers free public access to International Ski Federation-sanctioned Nordic skiing trails, perfect for sampling skinny skis (snowshoes are welcome, too).

Courtesy of the Town of Minturn

In the summer, hiking and biking are the favored activities. Road bikers can enjoy the lung-burning ascent from Minturn to Red Cliff, while mountain bikers have a myriad of trails to explore, including the new 4-mile Everkrisp Trail, which runs from near the base of Meadow Mountain in Minturn to the Stone Creek Trail in Eagle-Vail. Other popular hikes include Lionshead Rock and Two Elk Trail, while those who want to push themselves can tackle the fourteener Mount of the Holy Cross.

Fly fishing is a year-round pursuit in Minturn. Recently, the town received a federal grant to improve angler access to the Eagle River. The River Access Trails Project provided five new and safe access points (including ADA ramps and platforms) for fishing along 1.5 miles of the Eagle River. And though the summer months see plenty of anglers, winter fly fishing might be the town’s best-kept secret, when fewer folks take advantage of the opportunity to hook the slow-moving trout. Minturn Anglers offers wade and float trips and gear for striking out on your own.

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Arts & Culture

On the First Friday of each month, the Vail Valley Art Guild hosts “pop-up” art galleries featuring local artists from the valley and around Colorado. Each month features a different Minturn location and new artists.

In December, celebrate Minturn’s 115th birthday with the 15 Days of Minturn: Over the course of 15 days, the town will host historical walking tours in partnership with the Eagle County Historical Society, an art & jazz event, two weekends of artisanal winter markets, and a free outdoor bluegrass show on December 14, featuring the Blue Canyon Boys.

In March, don’t miss the barstool races in which “athletes” attach a pair of skis to the base of a barstool and “race” down a snow-covered course. With few rules (if you can sit on it and it rolls downhill, you’re good to go) and multiple categories, this almost-anything-goes event is an annual favorite.

On Thursdays in July and August, Little Beach Park and Amphitheater hosts a wide variety of world-class acts during its Summer Concert Series. Movie buffs will want to catch a show at the Blue Starlite, a mini-urban drive-in that shows favorite flicks at Little Beach Park in July.

Eat & Drink

Start off your day at Vail Mountain Coffee and Tea Company. It’s removed from Main Street but there’s no better place to enjoy a freshly roasted cup of joe. On Main Street, Sunrise is a sleek coffee shop serving up breakfast, lunch, smoothies, and adult beverages—try Lou’s Scramble with pork green chili or the steak banh mi at lunch. Thai Kitchen offers up classic dishes like Pad Thai and drunken noodles, as well as options like vegan yellow curry.

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Kirby Cosmo’s is a popular spot with a southern-style barbecue and a hopping bar for après. Another famous après spot is the aforementioned Minturn Saloon. If you enjoy your dinner served with a bit of magic, head to the Minturn Country Club, where general manager T.J. Ricci (son of the club’s owner, Tom Ricci) serves up steaks and seafood alongside slight-of-hand card tricks. Though its hours are limited to Saturdays, Monkshood Cellars is a great place to grab a glass of wine or cider crafted from Colorado fruit.

Shop

Stroll along Main Street and you’ll be tempted to duck into a number of small shops that line the street. The Uptown Store has a wide variety of home décor items, as well as gift ideas. Holy Toledo (located in what was once a Presbyterian church) is a locals’ favorite. Shoppers from across the valley venture to the consignment store to find great deals on apparel, shoes, and accessories. At Eagle Valley Music & Comics, search through a wide variety of vinyl and stacks of comics—owner Tom Robbins has been in the biz for more than 30 years.

On summer Saturdays (June through September), the Minturn Market attracts shoppers with live music, a food court, and a variety of vendors ranging from gourmet foods, gifts, clothing, jewelry, handmade crafts, home décor, and fine art—there’s even a goat petting zoo. The Minturn Market will make an encore appearance for two Saturdays this winter, on December 7 and 14, with a wide variety of artisanal holiday gift options; carolers, appearances by Santa, s’mores, and more provide a bit of seasonal cheer.

Stay

Bunkhouse in Minturn. Photograph courtesy of Townsend Bessent

You won’t find any chain lodging in Minturn. Hotel Minturn is a boutique hotel with a clean and contemporary style. To soak up the historic ambiance, check out the Minturn Inn, a bed and breakfast on Main Street built in 1915. Belying the fact that everything in the valley is pricey, the Bunkhouse is a boutique hostel with a 30-bed bunk room and a few private rooms.

If You Do One Thing

Courtesy of the Town of Minturn

Check out the public restroom. No seriously. Deemed the Best Public Restroom in America in 2015 by Cintas, the two pieces of “functional art” that adorn the city’s public restroom were designed to mimic a passageway into a Rocky Mountain Mine. The exteriors blend into the surrounding landscape while the interior features undulating walls. The result is a unique space that elevates the common commode.

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