Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area

Snowmobile and rider in the deep powder

This area has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and is a great place to recreate in the winter. Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area is open to motorized and non-motorized uses and requires that you purchase a day or season pass to enter the area. It is open from approximately November through May, snow conditions permitting (see our Winter Motor Vehicle Use Map for motorized over-snow dates). There are fee stations at all of the trailheads where you can purchase day or season passes. You can also purchase season passes at the Dillon Ranger District office. Maps are available at these locations and show users which routes are open to motorized and non-motorized travel. There are some groomed routes in this area.

This area covers 55,000 acres and offers 119 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails. This winter recreation area is managed by the USDA Forest Service as part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004. The purpose of this program is to collect fees that help maintain and manage recreational areas and enhance visitor services and experiences on some public lands that receive high visitor numbers and use. 95% of the fees collected remain on site for management purposes.  Because of this, Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area fees are not covered under  Interagency/America the Beautiful Passes. Fees are collected per person for every person ages 16 and up:

Day pass $10
Season Pass $65

This is a multi-use recreation area. Please respect other users and always use Leave No Trace principles.

Each year people get hurt or even die in the backcountry by not being prepared! Plan ahead and learn tips, techniques and strategies for avoiding winter hazards at our Winter and Backcountry Safety page. 

Vail Pass Rec Area Map and general information:

*Visitors must understand and comply with area use restrictions – e.g. snowmobilers are not allowed to operate in non-motorized areas, shaded in blue on the trail map

At a Glance

Current Conditions: For current winter trail conditions check:
Note: Parking lots at Vail Pass are typically full by 10am on winter weekends (Friday-Sunday) & holidays.
Fees: $10/Person/Day OR $65/Person/Season Pass 
Fees are collected 7 days a week.
Open Season: Winter Over-the-Snow Travel Permitted: November 15 – May 20 (snow dependent) - Fees & Services begin: Sat after Thanksgiving through mid-April (snow dependent)
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Designated motorized and non-motorized areas. See Winter Motor Vehicle Use Maps for motorized over-snow areas and dates.
Closest Towns: Vail, CO; Redcliff, CO; Frisco, CO; Dillon, CO
Restroom: Restrooms at Vail Pass
Passes: Passes required 7 days a week. Self-pay fee stations are located at all trailheads. Credit/Debit cards may be used to purchase passes at Vail Pass and Nova Guides at Camp Hale.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information


From Silverthorne, CO head west for about 15 miles on I-70 and take Exit 190, Vail Pass Rest Area, and go to the rest area on the west side of I-70. Park in the designated area. 

Restrooms are located at the CDOT Rest Area adjacent to the designated parking area; this rest area may be closed depending on weather and plowing access so plan accordingly for restroom access.

The are parking areas with fee stations at Vail Pass, CO; Red Cliff, CO and at three different locations off Highway 24 at Camp Hale. 

General Notes:

Winter Safety

Safety Cross SymbolThe leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents. Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to surviving an accident. 

Backcountry Winter Safety Tips:

Here are some basic backcountry tips that could help prevent an accident, or increase the chance of a live rescue should an avalanche occur:

  • Call your local avalanche hotline.
  • Travel with experienced partners.
  • Carry and know how to use avalanche rescue gear.
  • Expose only one person at a time to potential avalanche danger.
  • Plan an escape route.
  • Never cut above anyone below you when crossing steep terrain.
  • Be aware that avalanches can be triggered from the bottom of a slope.
  • Look for recent avalanche activity and cracking and collapsing snow that signal an unstable snowpack.
  • Take an avalanche course from a qualified instructor.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center


Vehicles with trailers please park on Black Lakes Road. Skiers/snowshoers without trailers at Vail Pass Trailhead, please use the day-use lot above the CDOT Rest Area. To allow for snow removal, there is NO OVERNIGHT PARKING at either location. 

Please conserve space when parking at the Vail Pass trailhead. Parking is available on a first come first serve basis – those arriving after the parking lot is full must wait for the first available parking space or leave for another trailhead. 

Remove all valuables from your vehicle when you leave vehicles unattended.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



XC Skiing/Snowshoeing


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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