Between the snowcapped peaks and peaceful forests, there’s nothing quite like snowshoeing in Colorado. Once the white stuff blankets the mountains, it’s time to strap on floatation and hit the trails.
Exploring the magical wonderland of Colorado in the winter is a real treat. One of the most economical and easiest ways to experience the scenery is on foot.
Some of the best snowshoeing in Colorado can be found on fun, easy trails suitable for all abilities. I’ve been snowshoeing in the Centennial State for a decade. Having done everything from leisurely sunrise jaunts to full-blown mountain climbs, I’m a total expert in all things snowy.
About this Guide to Snowshoeing in Colorado
Looking to hit the best places to snowshoe in Colorado like a local, not a tourist? Then you’re in the right place! Inside this local guide you’ll:
- Get weather info about snowshoeing in Colorado
- Know the major differences between snowshoeing and hiking
- Get info on the cost of snowshoeing
- Snowshoeing safety
- The bestsnowshoeing in Colorado
- Info about snowshoe sizes
- Additional resrouces for Colordao winter travel
When Can I Snowshoe in Colorado?
The snowshoeing season in Colorado can vary greatly. We are well known for our wild weather and the snow is no exception. Typically the higher elevations (think above 9,000 feet) will have enough snow for snowshoes in late November to mid-December depending on the season. Snow typically lasts until mid-June in the high country, but you’ll need snowshoes until around May or so.
Local Tip: Always check the local conditions for the trail you’re going to snowshoe. You can find out if the snow is deep and fluffy enough to need snowshoes.
If you plan on snowshoeing near Denver, you may have to wait a few more months to break out your traction. Snow doesn’t stick for as long at lower elevations, and you may only need snowshoes from January through March or during a big storm.
Is Snowshoeing Harder than Hiking?
In short, yes. Any winter activity is going to be tougher than the summer. For starters, you’re carrying more clothing, layers, and equipment. When it comes to how to snowshoe, it’s essential that you have all the proper gear and you’re prepared. Winter is super unforgiving (we’ll get to that in a second) so plan accordingly.
The second reason why snowshoeing is harder than hiking is that you’re shoe size is…well…much larger. Snowshoeing itself isn’t hard per se, but it can feel a bit clunky at first (don’t try to walk backward…). Not to mention, even with top-of-the-line snowshoes, you’ll still sink in deep, fluffy snow, so you’ll need to lift your legs higher and work harder.
How Much Does Snowshoeing Cost?
Renting snowshoes is surprisingly inexpensive compared to skis or even camping gear. Most rentals cost between $18-25 per day in Colorado (additional days are usually much, much cheaper). You’ll also need trekking poles with baskets or ski poles in order to keep your balance on the snow.
Buying snowshoes is a whole different game. Snowshoes cost anywhere from $140 to $300 brand new. I’ll keep it simple, you don’t need snowshoes with all of the bells and whistles to do some pretty gnarly things.
I regularly mountaineer, even in winter, so going up steep hills on approach trails is a regular thing for me. I’ve been rocking a 20-year-old pair of MSR Evo’s for almost a decade. They work just as well as a brand-new pair and don’t weigh a ton.
Try before you buy. Consider renting or borrowing a pair for a while and if you’re really into it, invest in a used pair of snowshoes. Buying new isn’t necessary.
Local Tip: Don’t forget, you’ll also need completely waterproof boots (hiking boots preferred) to snowshoe in Colorado. Your feet will get wet even as you float above the snow.
Is Snowshoeing in Colorado Safe?
There are two main ways to enjoy snowshoeing. The first is along maintained trails at nordic centers and specific ranches. The other – more popular way – to snowshoe in Colorado is to hit up a hiking trail. The ladder option can be exceptionally dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing while maintained trails tend to be free of hazards and generally safe.
Many Colorado hikes become extremely dangerous due to avalanche hazards in the winter, even if the trail itself is flat. The best way to know which trails are safe is to invest in avalanche education. Unlike other areas of the country, Colorado’s dry, unpredictable snowpack means that dangers lurk in the snow all winter long. Be sure to read the avalanche forecast for your destination before heading out, even if it’s a safe trail.
Local Tip: The trails I’ve suggested here are typically safe from avalanche hazards unless otherwise noted.
The second biggest safety concern with snowshoeing in Colorado is getting lost. When snow covers trails, people make their own paths, so following the footsteps of the person before you, isn’t safe. You’ll want to know how to navigate both with an app or GPS device and a map. Batteries die easily in the cold, so having a paper backup is essential – even if it’s just a printed piece of paper and a compass.
Cold is also a concern, but if you know how to stay warm in winter and you stay found, you’ll eliminate a lot of the concerns regarding hypothermia.
The Best Areas for Snowshoeing in Colorado
Snowshoeing is one of the top things to do during the winter in Colorado besides ski. These best snowshoeing trails in Colorado cater to all abilities and can be found throughout the state.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Arguably the most popular place to go snowshoeing, many of the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park make for great snowshoeing trails. Just be sure to stick to trails that don’t have avalanche hazards (this means popular trails like Black Lake and Sky Pond are off-limits). A few must-see snowshoeing trails in Rocky Mountain National Park include:
Easy Snowshoeing Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Sprague Lake (0.8 miles): Easy with beautiful views and virtually no elevation gain.
- The Pool (3.4 miles): Spanning open views of Thomson Valley
- Dream Lake (2.0 miles): One of the most iconic views in all of Rocky Mountain National Park
- Upper Beaver Meadows (3-miles): Awesome wildlife viewing opportunities
Moderate Snowshoeing Trails
- Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (3.2 miles): A chance to see 4 different alpine lakes frozen in time.
- Lake Haiyaha (3.9 miles): Pushing difficult for some, but an amazing hike for sunrise in Rocky Mountain NP.
- Gem Lake (3.5 miles): Awesome views of Lumpy Ridge and not as crowded as other areas of the park.
Challenging Rocky Mountain National Park Snowshoeing Trails
- Odessa Lake (8.9 miles): Incredible views of Long’s Peak and Chief’s Head Peak.
- Chasm Lake (8.8 miles): Stunning views of the famous Diamond rock wall on Long’s Peak – exceptionally challenging.
- Mills Lake (5.3 miles): Pass through the Glacier Gorge and enjoy the beautiful rock formations and scenery.
Local Tip: Plan your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. Areas like the Bear Lake Corridor fill up extremely quickly, even in winter.
Indian Peaks Wilderness Near Boulder
If the crowds of Rocky Mountain National Park aren’t your thing, then head to nearby Indian Peaks for plenty of snowshoeing action. A lot of the major trails are largely inaccessible in winter due to road closures, but there are still plenty of stunning options to check out.
- CMC South and Little Raven Trail (5.5 miles, moderate or easy). Views of Brainiard Lake. Opt to swing back on the main road (closed in winter) for the easier option.
- Lost Lake (4.0 miles, moderate): A great lake hike with winter camping options for ambitious snowshoeers
- Lake Isabelle (around 8.4 miles, moderate to difficult): You’ll have to hike either a side trail or the road for a few miles to reach the trailhead.
- Jasper Lake (9.8 miles, difficult): This trail does pass under some avalanche terrain.
Rabbit Ears Pass in Steamboat Springs
Arguably one of the most popular places to go snowshoeing in Colorado, Rabbit Ears Pass is a real treat. This area has tons of snowshoeing options, just be sure to look out for snowmobilers too.
Rabbit Ears Peak (5.5 miles, moderate to difficult) provides a good challenge if you’re up for it. For easier options head towards Dumont Lake (2-3 miles depending on your route) for a beautiful frozen lake.
Breckenridge and Copper Mountain
Snowshoeing in Breckenridge is a long-honored pastime. Nearby Copper Mountain is home to some amazing snowshoeing in Colorado as well. Both of these spots offer up iconic mountain views.
For a more controlled environment, head to the Breckenridge Nordic Center to learn how to snowshoe (or cross country ski)! There are easier trails that are perfect for those who want to dip their feet into the snowy landscape but want some instruction or more of a family-friendly feel.
Other awesome areas to check out include:
- South Illinois Creek Trail (1.9 miles, easy)
- Boreas Pass (2.5 mile loop, easy)
- Mayflower Gluch (5 miles, moderate): Stick to the wide trail (an obvious road) and don’t go too far past the cabin to avoid avalanche terrain)
- Peaks Trail (7.8 miles, moderate to difficult)
- Quandary Peak (6.6 miles, extremely strenous)
Local Tip: What makes Breckenridge in winter and Copper Mountain area snowshoe trails so great, is that they are dog friendly. Just be sure to understand how to snowshoe with a dog before heading out.
Crested Butte and Gunnison
As one of Colorado’s top mountain towns, Crested Butte is well worth a wintery visit. You’ll find amazing snowshoe trails just outside of town. With Gunnison nearby, there are even more options for wintery fun. Be sure to check out these awesome hikes:
- Judd Falls Trail (2.2 miles, easy): An easy trail to a frozen waterfall
- FS Road 317 (around 2 miles, easy): A flat trail with awesome mountain views.
- Copper Creek Trail to Copper Lake (12 miles, very difficult): Long, but rewarding to the lake.
- Mill Castle 450 (4-ish miles): The actual trail is 23 miles long, but you don’t need to go far to experience awesome views. Keep left (straight) at the first fork and continue along Mill Creek 727 for as long as you like. It eventually turns into MIll Castly 450.
St Mary’s Glacier Near Idaho Springs
Arguably one of the top winter hikes in Colorado, you can’t talk about snowshoeing without mentioning St Mary’s Glacier. Maybe it’s because it’s just 40 minutes from Denver, or perhaps it’s because it is a permanent snowfield, but this place is super popular.
I regularly come here to trail for mountaineering and brush up on my safety skills. The trail leaves from the southern parking lot and it’s about 2.4 miles to the top of the snowfield. St Marys is technically a permanent snowfield, there are no glaciers in Colorado.
Overall it’s an easy trail with plenty of options to make it harder. Just be prepared to pay a $5 cash-only parking fee.
Open Space Parks in Evergreen and Golden
For plenty of snowshoeing near Denver, the towns of Golden and Evergreen offer great opportunities to experience the snowy landscapes. Be sure to check out these open spaces and state parks:
- Bergen Park (Evergreen)
- Three Sisters Park (Evergreen)
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Golden)
Local Tip: Trail lengths vary, but most of the trails are in the easy to moderate range with a few toughies thrown in there for good measure. There are maps and signs to plan your route at parking areas.
Seven Bridges in Colorado Springs
If you’re looking for things to do in Colorado Springs in winter, then hit up the Seven Bridges Trail outside of Colorado Springs. This 3.5-mile trail takes you across – you guessed it – seven bridges and has some wonderful scenery. Overall it’s an easy to moderate route, with some hills and plenty of stunning views.
State Forest State Park in the Never Summer Wilderness
The Never Summers in Northern Colorado really live up to their namesake. Opt to stay in the Ruby Jewel Yurt for a night or two to experience the magic of snowshoeing in Colorado with a dash of winter coziness.
The Ruby Jewel Road is a great moderate snowshoe (easy if you stay at the yurt to break up the journey). For a mega-challenge, continue onwards and upwards all the way to Jewel Lake. Or check out the North Fork Michigan River Reservoir for a leisurely jaunt.
There are tons of other options to hike along 4×4 roads that are completely closed for winter nearby too.
Additional Local Colorado Travel Resources
Ready to experience Colorado like a local, not a tourist? Then check out these additional resources: