Click on the numbered areas on the map to virtually explore The Gardens
1. Kid's Amphitheater and Solstice Stones
The Kid's Amphitheater is located in the Children's Garden. It serves as an outdoor classroom for our Children's Programs and Summer Lecture Series and a gathering space for both children and adults. The surrounding garden is representative of the natural landscape adjacent to Gore Creek in Vail Village. The Solstice Stones frame sunrise and sunset at summer and winter solstice.
2. Hike up the Gore Range
This garden simulates a climb alongside Gore Creek from 8,200 feet - the elevation of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens - to the summit of the Gore Range at 13,000 feet. Beginning in the Kid's Amphitheater, interpretive signs lead visitors through the different life zones up to the alpine zone in the heart of the Gore Mountains. This impressive mountain range forms the backdrop of the gardens themselves and the focal point for this adventure.
3. Handicap Accessible Gardening Beds
Horticultural Therapy Programs are conducted in this garden, providing gardening opportunities to those whom would not otherwise have them. The raised beds in the Schoolhouse Garden are currently planted with herbs and vegetables suited to our high mountain climate. Over time, the beds will be planted with medicinal and useful plants of mountain cultures worldwide. Our research so far includes plants used by the Ute Indians that once lived in the Vail Valley, the plants once grown by the Incas of South America, the mountain people of India and some of the remote Himalayan valleys in Nepal.
4. Schoolhouse Museum and Gift Shop
Built in 1922 and utilized until 1938, this one-room schoolhouse was the third schoolhouse used in the Vail Valley. The Schoolhouse acts as a small museum and contains many original relics including desks, chairs, chalkboard and woodstove. It also houses the gift shop for Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The gift shop is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day and provides customers everything from birdhouses and feeders to small garden tools and T-shirts
5. Veggie Garden
Learn about what vegetables grow best at 8,200ft as well as learn about organic vegetable gardening practices. Visitors are encouraged to smell, touch and taste.
6. Stumpery Garden
The Stumpery Garden features unusual woodland plants from around the world. Large Cottonwood trees provide shade and a picnic bench with views of Gore Creek adjacent to The Schoolhouse Gift Shop.
7. Back To Nature Trail
A trailhead along Gore Creek next to the schoolhouse takes families back to nature. Follow the interpretive trail to discover about the plants and animals that live along the creek. Enjoy the sounds of the creek while connecting with the natural environment by making a fort or a willow tunnel, a picnic lunch or a good book.
8. Main Entrance Gate
Artist Sydney Summers designed the gates after the Utah Juniper snag located in European Alps Garden. This is the main entrance to the lower part of the gardens where garden maps can be found.
9. Perennial Borders
The mixed perennial borders that comprise the majority of the Mountain Perennial Garden contain more than 1,000 varieties of both traditional and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs demonstrating the diversity of plant material that grows in the this mountain landscape. With an increasing focus on species originating from mountain regions around the world, this garden has something interesting and beautiful to see throughout the season. Included in the Perennial Borders are two mounded island beds, a long raised border and a xeriscape garden border. These beds were among the first to be constructed and planted at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
10. Primula Garden
This small island garden displays a diverse array of Primula or 'primrose' species. Primula is one the most widespread and variable of all alpine genera, occurring on nearly every continent and in most conceivable conditions. There are approximately 400 species inhabiting pondsides, screes and rock crevices. Being mainly mountain plants many are intolerant of long warm summers making them ideal candidates for our high elevation climate with cool summer nights. The genus was named from the Latin 'Prima' meaning first, since many primula are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring.
11. Seeping Mountain Waterfall
This quaint waterfall was the first water feature built at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. It is constructed of many layers of flagstone and is similar in appearance to naturally occurring mountain seeps. Moss and Sempervivum species proliferate in the moist shady crevices.
12. Corner Woodland Garden
This shaded slope spanning the south end of the Mountain Perennial Garden displays mountain woodland perennials thriving under cover of aspen, cottonwood, ash, crabapple and spruce. Prominent species in this area include Trollius chinensis, Fritillaria imperialis and Aquilegia caerulea 'Kristall'.
13. Sempervivum Wall
These unusual succulent plants originate from Europe, W. Asia and N. Africa. There are approximately 33 species and many cultivars. They are often called 'Hens and Chicks' because of the way they produce offset 'chicks' around the central 'hen' rosette.
14. Peony Collection
There are approximately 33 species of peony, many of which are classified as herbaceous perennials and others as shrubs. They occupy mountain habitats, mainly grassy slopes, scrublands and open forest areas. They mostly origate from Europe and Asia although there are two species native to West North America, Paeonia brownii, from pine forests and sagebrush in British Columbia to WY, CA and Nevada and P. californica, a similar species found only in California.
15. Mountain Perennial Waterfall Garden
This dramatic and photogenic waterfall is the primary focal point of the Mountain Perennial Garden. Clear mountain water cascadesover a large boulder cliff, flows under a bridgeand meets a beautiful pond garden. Left to naturalize for more than ten years, the pond is now one of the most attractive areas in this garden.
16. Himalayan Garden
The Himalayan Garden sits to the south of the Mountain Perennial Garden waterfall. Shade is cast by the garden's only original tree, a large Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta var. latifolia, a widely spread western North American native. This garden was constructed in September of 2003 thanks to a grant from the North American Rock Garden Society. Naturalistic stone terraces and peat beds were created to accommodate plants that prefer a slightly more acidic soil type. Several species of lily, gentian and primula have already been planted along with bergenia and the stunning Himalayan blue poppy, Meconopsis horridula. We have incorporated a wide variety of unusual high Himalayan plants including rhododendron and rheum species. This garden provides us with opportunities to incorporate a number of choice plants we can't grow elsewhere in the garden.
17. Alps of Western Europe
The high mountains of Europe are known as 'Alps'. Plants in this garden come from the Pyrenees between Spain and France, and from the French, Swiss, Austrian and Italian Alps. The Alps have been well explored for alpines for many years and many of the most well know alpine plants originate from this area. Plants such as the Trumpet gentian, Gentiana acaulis and Leontopodium alpinum or Edelweiss need no introduction.
18. Overlook Garden
The Observation Point provides a quiet place for respite under a Narrowleaf cottonwood tree, Populus angustifolia. It offers views over the plants of the Western Alps to the Water Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden and out to the slopes of Vail Mountain with the Vail Ski Area beyond Gore Creek.
19. Silk Road Garden
This garden is dedicated to plants of the Silk Road which extends from China, Central Asia to Turkey. Bulbs such as Tulips, Crocus and Fritillaria bloom in early spring and are followed by unusual perennials found only in the Silk Road Mountains.
20. Waterfall and Floating Rock
Surrounded by a lush green garden of mountain meadow plants including numerous Carex species, Castilleja ligulifoia and Lilium philadelphicum, the Waterfall and Floating Rock are the focal point of the Mountain Meditation Garden. They closely resemble the many alpine waterfalls and pools present throughout the Rocky Mountains, but also impart a meditative Asian garden tradition. The garden area will be renovated in the near future to allow us to further expand our alpine and sub-alpine plant collections.
21. Meditation Areas
The Mountain Meditation Garden has benches in three different locations in the garden giving the visitor a variety of peaceful places to relax. One can view the Waterfall and Floating Rock directly, nestle beside the waterfall and overlook the floating rock, pool and stream or slip into a 'room' of evergreens for a more tranquil experience.
22. Woodland Walkway
A shady trail that extends from the overlook garden past the Meditation Garden Waterfall to the Saxifrage Garden. Several Benches are located here and offer a quiet place to sit and relax.
23. Waterfall, Lower Pool & Patio
The Rock Garden Waterfall finds its way to a large pool where views of the Alpine Rock Garden can be enjoyed. Yoga, Weddings and many other programs are offered on the large patio throughout the summer.
24. Bog Garden
Although called the bog garden, this garden actually represents a Colorado fen; a wetland that accumulates partially decayed plant matter or peat. Fens are the only type of peatland in Colorado; they have constant movement of water unlike bogs, which have no inflow or outflow and which support acid loving plants such as sphagnum moss.
25. Saxifrage Garden
This garden is a taxonomic collection of the genus Saxifrage. Some of the most spectacular alpine plants in the world, these plants are found throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere and into South America. There are 480 known species many of which are alpines that form spectacular evergreen domes or mats which thrive in rock gardens. The Saxifrage Society is a British society devoted to the genus and has a very informative web page with information and publications available.
26. Rocky Mountain Alpine Garden
This spectacular, north facing wall of quartizite boulders is home to a large part of our collection of Rocky Mountain alpine plants. In the deep vertical crevices in the walls cliff dwellers such as Telesonix jamesii and Heuchera halli cling to the rocky soil and flowers of Lewisia tweedyi thrive. The amazing woolly head of the Rocky Mountain thistle, Cirsium scopulorum caused a stir in mid summer emerging from between the rocks. Many shrubby penstemon flourish on the well drained soils with Penstemon rupicola growing alongside P. davidsonii ssp menziesii and P. fruticosus ssp serratus. The dark crevices provide a home for Linnaea borealis, the delicate twinflower, and Rocky Mountain clematis, Clematis columbiana var tenuiloba.
27. Dryland Montane Gardens
Penstemon, Juniper and Sagebrush are just some of the many plants that grow in the Dryland Montane Garden. Take a closer look and you will find many other plants that are native to Colorado’s montane and Sagebrush climates.
28. International Alpine Crevice Garden
Montane landscapes are generally those found at an elevation just below the sub-alpine zone. Montane landscapes with a southern or western exposure are indicative of dryland montanes. Dryland montane landscapes can often have significant slopes and generally very shallow and gravelly inorganic soils. In addition to fast-draining thin soil and strong sunlight due to exposure, plants in dryland montanes must also endure high winds and tremendous temperature variations due to a relative lack of snow cover. Dryland montanes make up a significant portion of the Rocky Mountain Region and contain a tremendous variety of plants that have found various ways to adapt to this harsh condition.
29. Mountain Conifer Border
These conifer borders demonstrate all the high elevation conifers native to the Southern Rocky Mountains. At the west end of the border walk Lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta spp latifolia are represented. Lodgepole forests are often called 'fire forests' due to their amazing ability to re-forest areas after fire. Because of this, lodgepole forests tend to be single species stands with even aged trees. These dark forests have thick carpets of acidic needles and nutrient poor soils and consequently very little diversity. They occur on north and east facing slopes at elevations from around 7,500 feet up to around 11,000 feet.
30. Alpine Pools
On the far north end of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are the Alpine Pools. Reminiscent of the crystal-clear ponds and lakes found in alpine areas around the world, the Alpine Pools overflow down and create the forty-foot Alpine Rock Garden waterfall.
31. Aspen Grove
One of the most common and beautiful trees in Colorado is the aspen, Populus tremuloides. Aspens are in the willow family and are closely related to cottonwood, birch and poplar trees. They are aggressive species that find their foothold in recently burned landscapes. Fire is essential to the proliferation of aspen in the wild. Aspen grow very quickly and form tremendous colonies of trees off of a single root system that can spread for miles. A grove in Utah is believed to be one of if not the largest living organism on the earth. In the understory of aspen groves, one can find a tremendous variety of plants including columbines, Aquilegia spp. lupines, Lupinus spp. and ferns.
32. Volunteer Cabin
The log cabin near the north entrance to the Alpine Gardens was constructed to resemble historic mountain cabins and acts as a tool shed and workshop for the garden staff. Plants in the surrounding garden include thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus and red-berried elder, Sambucus pubens.
33. South African Garden
This colorful garden is home to bright carpets of Ice Plant, Gazania, Gladiolus and Torch Lilly that surround the patio and lower Alpine Rock Garden Waterfall.
34. Northeast Entrance Rock Garden
Upon entering from the softball fields visitors will find a garden packed full of unusual rock garden plants from around the world. Highlights include views of the Gore Range and colorful plants that bloom from early spring to late fall.
35. Pollinator Garden
Learn about the importance of native plants and wildflowers in this colorful garden that attracts bees, butterflies and many other important pollinators.
36. Roof Top Terrace
Nestled atop of the Education Center lies a 900 sf. partially covered terrace surrounded by stunning views of Vail Mountain, the Gore Range and Gore Creek. The rooftop features a green roof and a raised garden bed which is home to a lush vegetable garden throughout the summer months.
37. Alpine House
The Alpine House is a cold greenhouse which mimics the alpine environment. The Alpine House is monitored and regulated through temperature control and allows Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to grow some of the rarest plants 365 days a year.
- Handicap Accessible Gardening Beds
- Schoolhouse Museum and Gift Shop
- Veggie Garden
- Stumpery Garden
- Back To Nature Trail
Mountain Perennial Garden
- Main Entrance Gate
- Perennial Borders
- Primula Garden
- Seeping Mountain Waterfall
- Corner Woodland Garden (changed from Woodland Garden)
- Sempervivum Wall
- Peony Collection
- Mountain Perennial Waterfall Garden
- Himalayan Garden
- Alps of Western Europe
- Overlook Garden (name changed from Observation Point)
- Silk Road Garden
Alpine Rock Garden
- Waterfall, Lower Pool & Patio
- Bog Garden
- Saxifrage Garden
- Rocky Mountain Alpine Garden
- Dryland Montane Gardens
- International Alpine Crevice Garden
- Mountain Conifer Border
- Alpine Pools
- Aspen Grove
- Volunteer Cabin
- South African Garden
- Northeast Entrance Rock Garden