One of the best ways to enjoy the wintery trails is to go snowshoeing near Denver. There’s plenty to love about winter in the Mile High City and easy access to snowshoeing trails is one of them. In fact, getting your cheeks rosy on a frosty trail is the perfect way to spend the day.
These incredible snowshoeing trails near Denver deliver plenty of wintery fun. The best part is, you don’t have to go far to enjoy some of the best snowshoeing near Denver. Some trails are less than an hour away from downtown! Meaning you can head out on a wintery wander in the morning and be back for a late lunch.
I’ve lived in Colorado for the past 12 years, and I spent 5 years writing for the outdoor industry. I’m a literal pro at hiking near Denver. So if you’re looking to explore the snowy trails of Colorado like a local, not a tourist, then you’re in the right place.
About this Guide to Snowshoeing Near Denver
Get top-notch recommendations for the best snowshoeing near Denver. Inside this guide you’ll find:
- Info about Denver’s winter weather
- The best trails for snowshoeing near Denver
- Where to rent snowshoes in Denver
- Tips for snowshoeing
When Does it Snow in Denver?
Denver can get snow anytime between October and May. Each year is different and in general, the best time of year for snowshoeing near Denver will be from mid-December through mid-April.
Higher elevation locations such as Rocky Mountain National Park, St Mary’s Glacier, and Mayflower Gulch will be snowy from November through May. Lower elevation spots like Golden Gate Canyon State Park may have intermittent snow throughout the winter. Sometimes you’ll need snowshoes and sometimes the trails will be pretty clear.
Remember Colorado in winter is truly fantastic, but the weather is always a little unpredictable, so come prepared with plenty of layers!
The Best Places to Go Snowshoeing Near Denver
Snowshoeing is arguably one of the top things to do in Colorado besides ski. Here’s a look at the best snowshoeing trails near Denver for all abilities.
St Mary’s Glacier
As one of the more popular hikes near Denver, St Mary’s Glacier sees plenty of traffic throughout the year. Although it’s technically not a glacier, this area holds snow year-round, making it one of the most reliable places to snowshoe near Denver since there’s always snow.
St. Mary’s is a fun-filled easy introduction to winter activities. The lake and views are pretty stunning to boot.
Local Tip: The place gets packed on the weekends. Plan at arriving by 8 am to beat the crowds.
Mileage: 2.2 miles
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours for the experienced, 2 for the inexperienced to reach the lake and come back. Plan on more time if you want to try to hike up the “glacier” or soak in the views.
Drive Time from Denver: 45 minutes
Red Tape: it’s $5 per vehicle to park. It can get WINDY here, so pack accordingly.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area
As one of the top Boulder-area hikes, the Brainard Lake Recreation area offers a wide range of hiking opportunities. For a challenge, Lake Isabelle offers a tough, day-long snowshoeing trail near Denver. Or you can road hike to Brainiard Lake for a more leisurely pace. Both routes offer up spectacular winter vistas.
Recommended trails: Waldorp Trail, Lake Isabelle winter trail
Drive Time from Denver: 1 hr, 20 minutes
Red Tape: The main road into Brainard Lake is closed during the winter, you will need to park in the auxiliary lot, which can occasionally close for seasonal work, so check conditions before you go.
Hessie Trailhead: Lost Lake
When it comes to snowshoeing near Denver, the Hessie Trailhead delivers. This moderate romp through the famous Indian Peaks Wilderness delivers big mountain views. Plan to spend at least a half-day snowshoeing Hessie. You’ll be treated to jagged peaks, alpine lakes, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a moose or elk sighting!
Mileage: 3.5 miles (Lost Lake Trail via Devil’s Thumb Trail)
Estimated Time: 4 hours
Drive Time from Denver: 1 hour 20 minutes
Red Tape: None
Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park
With hundreds of miles of high-alpine trails, there are plenty of Rocky Mountain National Park hikes that are suitable for snowshoeing. The Bear Lake area and Sprague Lake have plenty of beginner-friendly trails that offer up big mountain views.
However, as one of the top snowshoeing near Denver, solitude is hard to find in the park. If you want to beat the crowds, consider going for a sunrise snowshoe. (Psst…New Years Day is the least crowded).
Local Tip: Avalalanche hazards make many trials (like the famous Sky Pond) seriously deadly in winter. Stick to easier trails with plenty of winter traffic such as Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, the Loch, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake.
Recommended Trails: Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Sprague Lake, the Loch, or hiking Trail Ridge Road.
Drive Time from Denver: 2 hours
Red Tape: It’s a $25 fee to enter the park and the Bear Lake Parking lot fill up quickly, even in winter, so plan to take the free shuttle if you arrive past 7:30 am. You don’t need reservations during the winter months, however, you’ll want to arrive early to beat crowds. Trail Ridge Road is typically closed from October until June. No dogs.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
For a quick snowshoeing experience, head to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Located just 30 minutes from Denver in the foothills, this state park has plenty of beautiful trails to choose from. Most trails are a beginner to intermediate in difficulty, which makes this one of the best places to snowshoe near Denver for newbies.
The gentle landscape also has beautiful views of the nearby Continental Divide to enjoy.
Recommended Trails: Snow Hare Trail, Mountain Lion Trail, Burro Trail
Drive Time from Denver: 30 minutes
Red Tape: It is a $10 entry fee to visit the park.
As one of the best winter hikes in Colorado, you’ll want to put Mayflower Gulch on your to-see list. This stunning hike takes you to a dramatic mountain cirque. Park at the winter parking lot (the big, wide lot right on the side of the road).
Next, hike your way up the old mining road until the trees clear and you’re greeted with the saw-like ridgeline that runs between Atlantic Peak on the left (one of Colorado’s best 13ers) and Drift Peak on the right. Don’t forget to scope out the old mining cabin while you’re there!
Local Tip: This cirque is quite the sunset and sunrise spot.
Mileage: 6 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Estimated Time: 3 hours
Drive Time from Denver: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Red Tape: Leave earlier than 6 am or after 10 am to avoid ski traffic from Denver. Expect to sit in ski traffic on the way home if you’re coming back after noon.
Echo Lake near Mount Evans
Located in the aptly named Echo Lake Park, you have a few options for snowshoeing near Denver at this iconic spot. Situated near Mt Evans, you’ll get a taste of high-altitude winter hiking. The easiest way to enjoy the views is to hike the relatively flat 1.3-mile trail around Echo Lake.
If you’re well-seasoned, nearby Chicago Lakes (around 10 miles) offers a challenging winter snowshoe romp that has some lung-busting elevation.
Estimated Time: 45 minutes
Drive Time from Denver: 1 hr, 15 minutes
Red Tape: none
Snowshoe a 14er – Quandary Peak
Okay, so you’ve become quite the winter hiker. If you’re looking to tackle a monumental challenge, then trying to snowshoe to the top of Mt Quandary is a real challenge. Don’t let the fact that Quandary is one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado – this is a serious undertaking, especially in winter.
Thankfully the avalanche danger along the standard east ridge is relatively low, making it a great introduction to winter summits.
Mileage: 6.3 miles with over 3,000 feet of gain
Difficulty: very challenging
Estimated Time: 8 hours
Drive Time from Denver: 1 hr 50 minutes
Red Tape: You’ll need to reserve a parking spot in advance
Where to Rent Snowshoes in Denver
There are a few places where you can rent snowshoes in Denver. REI and Feral Mountain Company are two popular choices. As is the Wildnerness Exchange in LoHi.
Rental prices vary, but in general, it’s anywhere between $12 and $20 per day. If you don’t have hiking poles or ski poles, then you’ll want to rent those as well, since snowshoeing is far easier with poles! Especially if you accidentally fall over.
Quick Tips for Snowshoeing Near Denver
Looking to try snowshoeing near Denver for the first time? Be in the know with these handy snowshoeing tips.
Dress in layers. It’s certainly cold in the mountains during the winter, but as you hike, you’ll heat up. Bring plenty of non-cotton layers for snowshoeing. As you warm up, shed layers. If you sweat and stop, it will be twice as cold. Oh, and don’t forget a windbreaker!
Bring sun protection. Sunscreen is essential in winter. Snow reflects the sun’s harmful rays so be sure to dab sunscreen under your knows and chin too! Pack sunglasses or UV-protected goggles as well. Snowblindness is a real threat with Colorado’s sunny weather!
Pack a water bottle. The air is dry and you’ll get thirsty. Unfortunately, water bladder hoses freeze and when you bite on the valve, it will crack (speaking from experience here). The bladder hose insulators don’t really work, so pack a water bottle instead.
Check the forecast. Avalanche danger is a real threat in Colorado. People die every year in avalanches. Check the avalanche forecast before you go out, even if you’re in safe terrain. If you don’t know, consider taking a free avalanche awareness class (available multiple times a week from virtually any gear shop in town). Don’t venture into avalanche terrain if you aren’t properly trained and don’t have proper safety equipment. Lastly, check the forecast using weather.gov for your exact trailhead too!
Be careful walking backward. Snowshoes are unstable when walking backward. Instead, go in a small circle to turn around.
Pack microspikes. Sometimes you won’t need snowshoes in Colorado. Be prepared by packing microspikes, or tiny strap-on chains, that give you traction in the snow. Sometimes microspikes are easier to wear than snowshoes if the snow is packed or thin.
Additional Denver Travel Planning Resources
Want to make the most of your winter in Colorado? Check out these handy resources.