Hiking under fiery, flickering aspens and breaking bread on a gilded mountainside under a crisp, bluer-than-blue sky is a Colorado fall rite of passage. You can already catch glimpses of color-changing foliage in the Vail and Summit County areas, but the beauty is predicted to peak between September 17 and October 1, making it an ideal time for a high-country hike and picnic. More interested in exploring than shopping, cooking, and packing? Head out on the following leaf-loaded trails and call on these elite Vail Valley picnic designers for a no-fuss fall day.
Upper Piney River Trail, 6 miles
Enjoy a stroll through the Eagles Nest Wilderness and treat yourselves to a gourmet meal by the lake on the Upper Piney River Trail. Or take your spread into the trees and find a perch along the route as it meanders through golden-hued aspen groves deep into the Gore Range and Eagles Nest Wilderness.
The Provisions: the Grazing Fox
Picnic engineer and Grazing Fox founder Pamela Davis packs an artful and seasonal lunch for trail-bound couples and families. Davis makes the meal an event with elaborate charcuterie boards paired with local accompaniments as well as curated Balsa-wood boxed meals of seedy crackers, spreads, cheeses, dried fruit, olives, pickles, nuts, and dark chocolate festooned with fresh herbs and flowers. Starting at $20 per person; free Vail area delivery for orders over $100 (Tip: To get your lunch boxes near Upper Piney River Trail, have them delivered to Piney River Ranch.)
North Trail, 7 miles
Take in spectacular resort and valley views from this lush out-and-back trail on the north side of Vail. Trek into White River National Forest and climb a few steep segments, weaving in and out of brilliant aspen stands before indulging in your well-deserved picnic.
The Provisions: Picnic Vail
Grazing Fox sister company Picnic Vail is all about chic, al fresco comforts. Popping the question or celebrating a big anniversary? The company curates decked-out baskets and will summit a nearby mountain to set up an elaborate scene complete with oversize pillows, plush blankets, a low table, shade tent, balloon arrangements, and a photographer (if you so desire). Snack options include beautifully arranged, mountain-inspired charcuterie spreads and mezze platters. A concierge remains within 30 minutes’ reach if you need anything to further elevate your experience. Starting at $395 for two people for two hours; delivery, set up and clean up included
Berrypicker Trail, 8 miles
Earn your feast and one of the best seats in the valley on this Vail bucket list hike. Berrypicker has it all—including a heart-pumping 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Take in bird’s-eye views of the village and distant peaks, and hike across the resort’s wildflower-soaked meadows, golden aspen glens, and dense spruce and pine woodlands. If you’re too full or tired to hike down, jump on the Eagle Bahn Gondola and cruise back to civilization.
The Provisions: Four Seasons Vail
Hotel guests can call ahead and pick up chef-designed picnic baskets built for groups of four. The shareable mobile banquets include seasonal sliced fruits, beetroot hummus with Colorado goat cheese and chopped veggies, a full cheese and charcuterie board, and choice of sandwich—the heirloom tomato caprese with basil pesto on focaccia is a hit. Little hikers select from PB&J or ham and cream cheese sandwiches with fruit skewers, honey yogurt, crudité, housemade cookie sandwiches and cupcakes, and bags of popcorn. Starting at $80 per adult, $35 per child