Located near Centura Health in Avon right off of I-70. An innovative natural science learning campus for residents and visitors of the Eagle Valley. Free and open to the public.

318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon, CO 81620

Located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain out of Lionshead Village, Vail. All visitors must have a pass to ride the gondola. Free and open to the public with valid gondola pass.
Nestled along Gore Creek near the Betty Ford Alpine Garden and Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail Village.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO 81657

Curious Nature

Celebrating 50 Years of the Vail Nature Center: A Legacy of Conservation and Education for Eagle County

Posted by Walking Mountains Science Center on Jul 1, 2024 8:15:00 AM
Walking Mountains Science Center

Nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Gore Range and the peaceful Gore Creek, the Vail Nature Center stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of conservation and environmental education. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, this cherished institution continues to inspire visitors and locals alike with its commitment to preserving natural habitats and fostering a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Vail-Nature-CenterVail Nature Center

As the Vail Nature Center’s longest-serving, still-living employee, I feel mixed emotions about summarizing everything about this beloved institution for the last 50 years. I first started there in 2006 as a Naturalist intern for Gore Range Natural Science School and formed a special bond with the quirky farmhouse and its Director, Tom Gaylord. Tom, the longest-serving employee, hired me to manage it with him when I graduated from college. To say the Nature Center was packed and disorganized back then would be a gross understatement. It seemed like everything that had ever been done there since 1974 had somehow been stuffed into its cupboards. Every program had matching, well-worn materials, every nature newsletter or newspaper article written was tucked into random files, and every purchase ever made a receipt and instruction manual. From impala skulls to sheets of National Wildlife Week 1977 stickers, I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent going through it all, sorting it, and deciding what needed to be kept for either utility or keepsake. I’ve pored over the back-and-forth typewritten letters about troubleshooting the Clivus Multrum composting toilet, or about grand plans to install a wind turbine. This gave me an excellent history lesson on what the Vail Nature Center has done in its 50 years.

Programs_At_VNCGlimpse in Time: Programs at the Vail Nature Center

What I learned about this place is that from its inception, the Vail Nature Center’s leaders were forward-thinking, from installing incipient solar technology to hosting teach-ins about environmental issues. The founders noticed how quickly Vail had changed since becoming a ski resort. They knew there was a need to preserve its natural heritage while championing a more sustainable future. Despite its historic origins in a farmhouse built in the 1940s, Vail Nature Center staff honored the past but saw the need for changing with the times. One of those people included Kim Langmaid, a VNC Director in the 1990s who founded Gore Range Natural Science School, now Walking Mountains, my employer now too. Partnering with the Vail Nature Center since its founding, Walking Mountains has managed the Vail Nature Center for the Town of Vail since 2013.

I owe so much to the Nature Center’s visionary founders and to all my predecessors who shaped the building, trails, and program structure of the Vail Nature Center and surrounding preserve. They helped make the Vail Nature Center my favorite place in the world. Its well-loved bird-feeder window nurtured my love for birding, and studying the biodiverse plant life throughout the seasons makes me cherish all native plants. I have interacted with thousands of people who have reinforced my love for the natural world as I witnessed their delight in seeing a new bird or butterfly for the first time, or were surprised to find our building because they thought they had discovered the wilderness in Ford Park. I especially like meeting people who came to Vail Nature Center programs as kids and are now bringing their children back to visit.


You may remember Hannah’s dog, Denali, who was the VNC greeter for many years.

To me, the Vail Nature Center is very personal. But it doesn’t belong to me, and I’m happy to share it. For the next 50 years, I want to ensure the preserve and exhibits are accessible to all and worthy of the world-class resort town of Vail. If you haven’t visited the Nature Center in a while, please visit us and tell us what you want the next 50 years to be!

Hannah Rumble is the Community Programs Director at Walking Mountains. Don’t tell anyone, but the Vail Nature Center is her favorite part of her job. Based on how long she’s worked there you’d probably never guess her age.

Topics: Curious Nature

Walking Mountains Science Center

Written by Walking Mountains Science Center

Our mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education.