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Cordillera Play Day: Hike and Lunch

August 23, 2013

I’m going to pat myself on the back for this one: I may have found the perfect Vail Valley hike for visitors from sea level.  You see, exercise at high altitude can be ridiculously hard for those coming from low elevations.  Add that to the fact that my mom is recovering (wonderfully!) from knee surgery just a month or so ago, and I had my work cut out for me in terms of finding a family-friendly hike during their visit.

I found the perfect solution with Big Park trail up at the top of Cordillera, a beautiful golf community in Edwards with National Forest access and some great trails.

Big Park Trail Cordillera

The Big Park trail starts at the tippy top of Cordillera, up past the Summit Course.  Starting at an elevation around 9,000 feet, this trail is relatively flat while still delivering gorgeous views.  In other words, just what the hiking doctor ordered.

Big Park Hike

One of our first interesting sights was this skull.  Any nature-lovers have an idea what this is? My best guess is a mule deer.

Hiking Skull

After meandering through the woods for a bit, we emerged into a meadow with killer views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Big Park Trail Cordillera

Mom and  Daughters on Big Park Trail

Dad on Big Park Trail

From there, the trail loops through high meadows strewn with wildflowers.

Big Park Trail

The Big Park trail connects to others up here, including the Stag Gulch trail, so you could easily make a longer loop out of it if you drove two cars.  Since we were looking to keep things pretty level, we hiked around the meadows.

Big Park trail Cordillera

Cordillera Hike

I had a blast taking in the views with my family in tow.

Big Park Trail

Including my super-silly sister and brother-in-law.

Big Park Trail

There were photo ops galore, between the panoramic views, wildflowers and aspen trees.

Big Park Hike

We did see some, ahem, signs of bears, and bear-talk ended in the pickup of the most oversized hiking stick/apparent bear weapon ever.

Hiking Stick

We hiked around for about an hour and a half, but you could easily make this hike shorter or longer depending on your whims that day.  We also saw some trail runners and mountain bikers who looked like they were having a great time.

Big Park trail Cordillera

To find Big Park trail and several other mountaintop trails accessed from the same trailhead, my best advice is to drive into Cordillera (the turn into the community is about a mile west of Edwards on Highway 6), and stay straight on the main road until you are forced to go through a guard gate.  Don’t turn for the lower guard gate.  At that gate, do what I did and just ask the security guard there for directions to the trailheads up top. 

By the time we were done hiking, it was about 1 p.m. and we were all ready for lunch.  Wanting to keep up the trend of great views, I took them to Grouse on the Green in Cordillera, knowing it would be pretty but unsure about the quality of the food.  (To find Grouse on the Green from the trailhead, head back down the hill and through the guard gate.  When you are almost to the bottom of the road, there will be another guard gate on your right.  Enter there and tell the guard you’re going up for lunch at Grouse on the Green.  Then ask how to get there.)

Grouse on the Green

This restaurant, designed to look like an English (or is it Irish?) pub, is about the last thing you would expect to see perched above yet another of Cordillera’s golf courses.  I’d come here for drinks and apps before a few times, so I knew my family would love the deck.

Grouse on the Green

Cordillera Practice Area

Sitting overlooking the practice area might have been torture for my dad, who neglected to pack his golf clubs, but it was also pretty beautiful.

Family at Grouse on the Green

Grouse on the Green

We’d all worked up an appetite on our hike, so we started with two appetizers.  The wings were good, but the Irish Nachos stole the show.  Think fancy cheese fries.

Grouse on the Green Irish Nachos

Our main dishes (unpictured) were excellent as well.  I kept my fish taco streak alive and split an order with my mom, but my sister’s Reuben was the dish of the day.  Next time that’s definitely what I’m ordering!  Because every vacation (staycation?) lunch should include not only booze but dessert, we finished with a delicious chocolate cake.

Chocolate Cake

Indulgent? Yes.  Over the top? Also yes.  With full bellies, we finally made our way down the mountain and out of Cordillera for the day.  We had such a great time from beginning to end that this might be my new go-to morning itinerary for summer visitors in the future. 

Tell me, what do you always do with your guests when they come to visit?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. MikeW permalink
    August 27, 2013 10:14 am

    Great day of it. The hike looks peaceful, and that deck is a beautiful spot to refuel and socialize. That ice cream is no doubt heavier than a pro-baseball!


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