Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park: What Locals Know

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park has to be one of the best winter activities in Colorado. The serene landscape provides plenty of wintery fun, thrilling beginners and experts alike.

So if snowy scenes are your thing, then you’ll want to check out this guide to winter hikes in Rocky Mountian National Park. You’ll get exclusive, local insights into the best trails and everything you need to know to travel like a local, not a tourist.

I’ve lived in Colorado for nearly 15 years. Every winter I venture out in Rocky Mountain National Park for a few snowy adventures. I want to deliver you the best local advice about winter hiking in Rocky.

About this Guide to Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Inside this pro guide to snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll find:

  • Hot info about when and how to snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Avalanche safety tips
  • How to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in winter
  • Local insights into the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park including difficulty, mileage, elevation gain, and more

Can You Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Absolutely! There are plenty of wonderful snowshoe trails in Rocky. Snowshoeing also happens to be one of the best things to do in Colorado during the winter.

However, keep in mind that many snowshoe-friendly trails have high avalanche risks. Therefore, it’s really important to do your homework (and take an avalanche awareness clinic) before heading out.

Clinics are free and offered all over Colorado – check with your local gear shop!

Snow covering the pine trees and mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park as you go snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

When Can You Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Typically you will need snowshoes in Rocky Mountain National Park from December through May.

Some trails may take longer than others to become a snowy wonderland – so always be sure to scope out recent trail reports.

Or simply pack your snowshoes when you head out and deploy them if the snow gets deep and you punch through.

What You Need to Know About Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

The entrance fee when visiting RMNP is $30 per vehicle for a 1-day pass or $35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass.

You can also use a National Parks pass for entry, which is $80 annually. Unlike during the busy summer season, there is no timed entry for Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

Local tip: Credit and debit cards are the only accepted form of payment at the entrance stations – no cash.

Also, keep in mind that while you can bring dogs into the park, pets are not allowed on the trails to join you snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Another consideration in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter is that Trail Ridge Road is closed, so you can’t drive across the park.

Winter Hiking Safety in Rocky Mountain National Park

Be aware that avalanche danger exists on several of the winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Before heading out on many of these trails, it would be a good idea to have AIARE 1 training, and, at minimum, you should take an avalanche awareness class.

Many local outfitters, including Colorado Mountain School and Colorado Mountain Club, offer avalanche awareness courses.

Another important thing to know about winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park is that navigation will be trickier than in the summer.

Because snow covers the trails, they won’t always be easy to follow. You should have a GPS app or device in order to navigate in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

Also, make sure you know how to stay warm in winter when snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. You should always have proper winter hiking clothes and know how to layer properly before you hit the trail.

The Best Easy Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

These easy snowshoeing trails in Rocky Mountain National Park deliver big on views without too much effort.

1. Sprague Lake

For a quick and easy intro to snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, take the loop around Sprague Lake.

This loop is less than a mile with minimal elevation gain, so it’s a great snowshoeing adventure for the whole family with some lovely mountain views in the distance.

Distance: 0.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 36 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 30 mins

Woman sitting by a lake in winter in Rocky Mountain National Park.

2. The Pool

The Pool is another nice, easy trail if you want to snowshoe for a few miles. It has relatively little elevation gain, so it makes for a mellow winter hike through a lovely forest with views of Big Thompson Valley.

Distance: 3.3 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 259 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 2 hours

3. Dream and Emerald Lake

The classic hike to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake is one of the best hikes in RMNP in any season, and it is definitely one of the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

You’ll snowshoe through a forest and then across Dream Lake to reach Emerald Lake, with a beautiful backdrop of Flattop Mountain.

Distance: 3.2 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 698 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

The Best Moderate Winter Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Looking for more of a challenge? Check out these moderate winter hikes in Rocky Mountain that are perfect for snowshoeing.

4. Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha is an awesome trail for snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the most beautiful lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Haiyaha offers views of Hallett Peak and Chaos Canyon.

Along the trail, you can also catch some glimpses of Longs Peak.

Distance: 4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 846 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 3-4 hours

People snowshoeing through the snow at Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park.

5. Mills Lake

Explore alpine forests on the moderate hike to Mills Lake. You’ll also pass Alberta Falls, which is cool to see when it’s frozen, and get good views of Longs Peak along the way.

Distance: 5.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 856 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 3.5-4.5 hours

6. Cub Lake

One of the best hikes in Estes Park, the trail to Cub Lake winds along the western edge of Moraine Park. It’s an especially good area to see wildlife, so keep an eye out for elk and moose.

Distance: 6 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 744 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 4-5 hours

7. The Loch

The Loch is truly one of my favorite winter hikes in Colorado. You really can’t beat this trail for snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, as it takes you to many highlights including Alberta Falls, Lake Haiyaha, and Taylor Glacier. You’ll also see plenty of incredible mountain peaks.

Local tip: For a real winter hiking challenge, you can continue on to Sky Pond if avalanche conditions aren’t too extreme.

Distance: 5.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,056 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 4-5 hours

The Best Difficult Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Want to test your skills? These difficult hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park offer lung-busting elevation gain, plenty of mileage, and a lot of stellar scenery.

8. Odessa Lake

Step up your snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park with the hike to Odessa Lake.

You’ll get some steep elevation gain on this trail but the incredible views of the surrounding peaks – including Flattop, Notchtop, Knobtop, Gabletop, and Little Matterhorn – are worth the workout.

Distance: 8.3 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Estimated Time: 5-6 hours

9. Flattop Mountain

The hike to Flattop Mountain is one of the most stunning winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Along with a unique perspective down onto Dream Lake, you’ll also encounter incomparable views of Hallett Peak.

On the summit, you’ll see many more mountains, including the Mummy Range, Never Summer Range, Notchtop Mountain, and Ptarmigan Point.

Distance: 8.2 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,870 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Estimated Time: 5.5-6.5 hours

10. Black Lake

Hiking to Black Lake is a continuation of the trail to Mills Lake. You’ll get even more amazing views, but it’s definitely a really strenuous challenge, especially when the winds are whipping.

But the vista of Spearhead, Chiefs Head, McHenrys, and Arrowhead make the trek well worth it.

Distance: 10 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,950 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Estimated Time: 6-7 hours

More Local Travel Resources

Headed to RMNP? I’ve got you covered with a lineup of awesome tips and tricks for visiting the park and nearby Estes Park. Check it out.

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.