- Shrine Ridge Trail
- Distance: 4 miles (6.6 if adding on additional trail)
- Type: Moderate, out-and-back
- Elevation Gain: 961 ft
- Other: Dogs Allowed, Dirt Road to Trailhead
- All Trails Link
Shrine Ridge Trail is located off Shrine Pass Road in the White River National Forest near Vail, Colorado. Though dirt, Shrine Pass Road from I-70 is easily navigable to the dirt parking lot complete with pit toilets. Tanya and I arrived just before 8am on a Thursday and there were only a few other cars.
Shrine Ridge Trail
The moderate trail ascends through subalpine terrain that affords lovely views of surrounding peaks, that only improve at the summit. Upon reaching the ridge, the trail branches to the left and to the right. Going to right is the official four-mile trail which leads to additional paths which split off.
At this point following the trail to the right takes hikers to a view of really cool rock formations. I recommend going this way first. Tanya and I enjoyed the views with only a few aggressive chipmunks that will nose through your pack for a snack.
Fellow hikers trickled in as soon as we finished our early morning snack. As a result, we packed up and explored the other short trail in this area. Here, the wildflowers were absolutely remarkable. They may be the most rewarding part of trail, so plan on hiking in mid to late July for peak colors. The Indian Paint brush bloomed in yellow, red, pink, and peach and blanketed the meadow along with bistort and lupine.
I just couldn’t get enough of the flowers. I had to stop myself from snapping photos, as to not bore Tanya to death, despite us both acting like children and laying down in them! Eventually, we tore ourselves away, and wandered back to the main fork.
Unnamed Trail to the Left
With the trail only being four miles, we added some distance by walking the ridge along the left fork. While it offered significant views of distant peaks and lakes below, the initial lack of wildflowers made the walk anti-climatic. Regardless, we followed the rolling terrain into the meadow and across the tundra to the next “high point”.
We couldn’t believe it. Tanya remarked, “This reminds of the Sound of Music.” Once again, the hills were blanketed in wildflowers, this time mostly purple and yellow. The lupine was so prevalent that it was fragrant. Neither of us had ever smelled it, as usually the surrounding pines mask any aroma.
We were even more pleasantly surprised by this hill of flowers, as we spoke with a lady who regularly visits Shrine Ridge, and doesn’t bother with the extra 2.6 miles because “There aren’t many wildflowers.” Today, she was missing out.
By the time we began our descent, the clouds rolled in and rain was on the horizon. The sky made it feel like we on another hike completely. The scenery on Shrine Ridge was just superb.
Between the kaleidoscope of colors on the two hillsides, the panoramic views, and the interesting rock formations, the hike to Shrine Ridge definitely garners five stars. The Shrine Ridge Trail had been on my list to hike for several years now. I’m glad Tanya and I finally made the trek. ETB
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