Ten Colorado Snowshoe Trails in Popular Scenic Spots

Ten Colorado Snowshoe Trails in Popular Scenic Spots

Though the air is cold and the trails slippery, winter is a great time to get outside. With a pair of snowshoes, you can reach some of Colorado’s most popular outdoor destinations—without the summer crowds, fees, and permits. Suit up and enjoy the views from these ten scenic snowshoe trails near Denver:

Staunton Ranch, Old Mill and Border Line Trail Loop
Moderate, 7.8 mile loop

This Staunton State Park snowshoe hike is less than an hour from downtown. Clockwise, the route gradually climbs, reaching a total elevation of 1,220 feet. As you shuffle through the snow, admire geological features, aspen and pine forests, and distant mountain vistas. Although this is one of the park’s most popular hikes, it is less crowded at this time of year. A $10 daily vehicle pass is required to enjoy the scenery and solitude.

Snowshoe Bunny Trail
Black Hawk
Moderate, 3 mile loop

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a year-round destination for wildflower hikes, leaf scouting trails, and winter recreation. The aptly named Snowshoe Hare Trail is one of the best snowshoeing routes in the park. You’ll traverse rolling hills for three wooded miles, overlooking a frozen lake and remains of cabins along the way. Despite being close to Denver, parts of the park rise as high as 10,400 feet above sea level. Dress in warm layers and bring $10 for your daily vehicle pass.

Saint Mary Glacier
Idaho Springs
Moderate, 2.4 miles round trip

St. Mary’s Glacier features one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Colorado and is a premier spot for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Although the trail is short, it is steep, reaching an elevation of 1,030 feet. As you climb to the summit, the views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks only get better. Most make a U-turn at the Kingston Peak Spur junction, but trails also extend into the James Peak Wilderness and beyond. Pay a $5 parking fee to explore the area.

Echo Lake Trail
Idaho Springs
Easy, 1.5 miles round trip

The route to Mount Evans — which the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board recently voted to rename Mount Blue Sky — is heavily trafficked during the summer months. But given the summit’s seasonal closure, fewer crowds are heading that direction from Idaho Springs. However, Echo Lake Park remains accessible and is a beautiful place to slip through the snow. Make your way around the frozen lake on a flat, easy trail suitable for all skill levels.

Lost Lake via the Hessie Trail
Moderate, 4 miles return

In summer, this destination gets so crowded that hikers often have to take shuttle buses to the trailhead. Even when the temperature is below freezing, the Hessie Trail is one of the most popular winter hikes and backpacking routes. Even so, you probably won’t have any trouble finding a parking space at this time of year. Strap on your snowshoes and enjoy the scenic, gradual climb. Snow-capped evergreens, a frozen waterfall, and wooden bridges all add to the gorgeous scenery.

Silver Dollar Lake and Murray Lake Trail
Moderate, 4.1 miles round trip

Many ignore the hiking trails on the Guanella Pass in winter, believing the route is inaccessible. But the northern closure appears at the Naylor Lake Road junction, allowing for winter recreation on a handful of trails. Silver Dollar Lake and the Murray Lake Trail make up one of those off-the-beaten-track gems, passing two alpine lakes and panoramic vistas. Simply apply at a third lake (Naylor) by taking the right fork at the trailhead and adding 0.8 miles to your route.

Lake Isabelle Trail (Winter)
Hard, 11 miles round trip

Many roads in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area are closed from mid-October through late June. However, those willing to earn extra miles can still enjoy this popular destination – with no fees or timed entry. To reach Lake Isabelle, park at Brainard Lake Winter Lot, also known as the Gateway Trailhead. Follow Snowshoe Trail #814.3 to Brainard Lake Road and continue west to the Niwot Cutoff and Pawnee Pass Trail. It’s a strenuous route rewarded with breathtaking views of alpine lakes, snow-capped valleys and even the occasional moose.

East & West Valley Trails
Easy 4.7 mile loop

East & West Valley Trails are located in one of Colorado’s premier state parks, Lory State Park, which sits at the north end of Horsetooth Reservoir and offers a variety of scenery. Cruise past unique rock formations, icy bays and sweeping valleys covered in frost. This is a relatively flat loop with an elevation gain of 282 feet. Due to its location in the foothills, the route is best snowshoeed after a winter storm. Check hike reports before visiting.

Dilemma Peak
blue river
Hard, 6.6 miles round trip

Quandary Peak is one of the most climbed fourteens in Colorado. Even in winter, skiers and snowshoe hikers often fill the site before sunrise. If you are new to the backcountry attempting this summit, don’t be tempted by the shorter kilometers of other routes. Follow the east ridge for the least avalanche risk, prepare for cold, windy conditions and stay on route to avoid a search and rescue mission. With the right preparation, this adventure is sure to be unforgettable.

Emerald Lake Trail
Estes Park
Easy, 3.2 miles round trip

The Emerald Lake Trail offers the perfect view of Colorado with minimal effort. It’s one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, featuring alpine lakes, dramatic peaks, and native wildlife. Winter is an ideal time to visit as the Bear Lake Road Corridor is generally packed with tourists during peak season. Take advantage of the seclusion or join in with a few ranger-led snowshoe hikes from mid-January to mid-March. While this program is free, note that a one-day vehicle pass costs $30.

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