Reason 1,482 to Love Colorado in Winter
If you love hiking during Colorado’s warmer months, there’s no need to hibernate when winter comes around. Simply explore your favorite trails via snowshoeing! Popular for its simplicity and accessibility, snowshoeing allows people of all skill levels to navigate a wide variety of terrain.
Not only does snowshoeing provide a great workout, but a whole new perspective of familiar trails. There’s something pretty magical about a snow-covered landscape. So if you’re ready to take on a new winter pursuit, this guide will help you unlock exciting snowshoeing adventures and take in the spectacular winter scenery that Colorado has to offer.
Where to Go Snowshoeing in Colorado
When it comes to traversing a winter wonderland on snowshoes, you can’t go wrong with any of these trails. Just find a skill level that matches your abilities.
CHAVEZ & BEAVER BROOK LOOP
Moderate | 5 Miles Total, Loop Trail
Forest with canyon views and a frozen creek
Rocky Mountain National Park
Easy to Moderate | 2.2 Miles Total, Out & Back
Pristine lake, mountain and forest views
EAST & WEST VALLEY TRAILS
Lory State Park
Easy | 4.7 Miles Total, Loop Trail
Minimal traffic and mostly flat trail for beginners
Near Idaho Springs
Easy | 1.3 Miles Total, Out & Back
Flat, quick hike with views of Mount Evans
Brainard Lake Near Ward
Easy | 1.8 Miles Total, Out & Back
Water, mountain and forest views in one hike
LOST LAKE VIA HESSIE TRAIL
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Moderate | 4 Miles Total, Out & Back
Alpine lake views and possible wildlife sightings
Moderate to Difficult | 5.9 Miles Total, Out & Back
Ghost town structures and mountain views
Near Blue River
Difficult | 6.3 Miles Total, Out & Back
A popular fourteener perfect for snowshoeing
SAINT MARY’S GLACIER
Near Idaho Springs
Easy to Moderate | 1.6 Miles Total, Out & Back
Elevation gains met with alpine lake views
SILVER DOLLAR LAKE
Easy to Moderate | 4.2 Miles Total, Out & Back
Low-traffic trail with lake and mountain vistas
SNOWSHOE HARE TRAIL
Golden Gate Canyon Park
Moderate | 3 Miles Total, Loop Trail
Rolling hills and forested miles to traverse
Getting Started with Snowshoeing in Colorado
One of the great things about snowshoeing is that it doesn’t require a ton of special equipment. You can even rent snowshoes and give the sport a try before investing in a set of your own.
Here’s a quick rundown of the basic gear and clothing needed:
Snowshoes—Start with user-friendly and versatile recreational snowshoes. They should support your weight and match the terrain you’re exploring. Brands like MSR and Tubbs offer great beginner options. Check out this tutorial video on walking in them, too.
Trekking Poles with Baskets—These will come in handy to maintain balance, reduce strain on your knees and even help you get back up on your feet if you happen to fall. You want to adjust poles set to a comfortable height, usually at about elbow level.
Footwear—If you live in Colorado, you may already have boots that will work in your closet. You want waterproof and insulated boots with good ankle support for stability. Columbia or Merrell are good brands if you need boots or decide to upgrade your current pair.
Clothing—Dress in non-cotton layers! Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating mid-layer, and top it off with a waterproof, breathable jacket and pants. Zippered tops (and pits) will allow you to vent and warm up as needed. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, insulated socks (like wool), sunglasses and sunscreen!
Gaiters—Don’t skip on these. Gaiters will keep snow out of your boots, especially when you’re hiking through powder. You want high gaiters that are waterproof yet breathable.
Backpack—Just like summer hiking, you want a backpack to carry water, food, a first aid kit, navigation gear, extra clothes, sunscreen, and a headlamp in case you end up out on the trail later than planned. Consider an emergency shelter (like a bivy sack), firestarter, shovel and knife if you’re headed into backcountry terrain.
Safety Tips for Snowshoeing
Along with choosing a trail that fits your skill level, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind. First and foremost, always check road, weather, and trail conditions. Take it a step further by going to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for info and warnings. Here’s more:
Communication—Share your plans with someone, providing details on your trail or route and expected return time. Bring a cell phone or satellite phone if you have access to one
Trail Etiquette and Awareness—Pack out what you pack in and be mindful of nature as well as other trail users. Stay on your marked trail and don’t cut the switchbacks. Try not to tromp over cross-country ski trails. And keep aware of the time and weather.
Carry the Essentials—As you graduate from a short, high-traffic loop to more advanced snowshoeing trails and terrains, upgrade what you pack accordingly. A bottle of water and a Kind Bar isn’t going to cut it if you’re trying to snowshoe Quandary Peak.
Colorado's snow-covered landscapes provide a whole new perspective for outdoor fanatics. So, if you want to take a break from the slopes and take in spectacular views on foot, consider giving snowshoeing a try. Rent some equipment, pack your gear, and start exploring. Happy trails!