Winter Hikes in Colorado You’ve got to Try this Season

You can still get outside and hike in Colorado well after the freezing weather sets in. In fact, the best winter hikes in Colorado often features glistening snow scenes out of a fairy tale. As a local, I’ve done the field research to bring you the most amazing winter hikes across the state.

What’s in this Guide to Winter Hikes in Colorado

There’s quite a bit to know before you hit the snowy trails in Colorado. This guide to winter hiking trails in Colorado gives you everything you need for the perfect winter adventures. Here’s what you’ll find in this guide:

  • The best easy winter hikes in Colorado
  • A list of amazing moderate winter hikes in the Centennial State
  • The most challenging winter hikes in Colorado for your bucket list
  • Tips for avalanche safety
  • What gear you’ll need for a winter hike (including winter hiking clothes)
  • Tips for winter hiking in Colorado

7 Easy Winter Hikes in Colorado

Located throughout the state, each of these beginner winter hikes in Colorado offers a different landscape. Most of these hikes feature little to no elevation gain, but plenty of scenic vistas.

These easy winter hikes in Colorado are best suited for those just getting into winter hiking, or if you’re looking for a low-mileage, leisurely adventure.

Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Featuring one of Colorado’s most beautiful alpine lakes, this 3.6-mile out-and-back trail features incredible high-alpine beauty.

Continue on another half mile to Lake Haiayaha, one of the most beautiful vistas in Rocky Mountain National Park. Bonus point if you catch Lake Haiayaha for sunrise.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation: 
846 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 No dogs. Be aware of avalanche terrain. There are two distinct spots, one before Emerald Lake and one right after on the way to Haiayaha making this an excellent spot to practice avalanche awareness.

The Bear Lake parking area fills up by 8 am, even in winter, so plan on arriving early or take a shuttle.

Make it a day with these amazing hikes in Estes Park you can’t miss.

Related: The Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park this Winter

best winter hikes in colorado

St. Mary’s Glacier in the Arapaho National Forest

For an awesome high-alpine experience with minimal effort head to St. Mary’s Glacier. This 1.9-mile hike is one of the most beautiful easy hikes near Denver. I visit this lake at least once a year and every time I’m blown away by how beautiful it is.

If you’ve got microspikes (or crampons) and an ice axe you can hike a ways up the glacier and glissade on your butt down. Keep in mind, “glacier” means permanent snowfield in Colorado, there’s no concern for moving ice or crevasses.

Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation: 
807 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 There is a $5 parking fee at both parking lots. Dog-friendly.

Canyon Rim Trail to Window Rock In Colorado National Monument

For some of the best winter hikes in Colorado, beat the deep snow and head to the western slope. Colorado National Monument is one of the best winter hiking destinations in Colorado.

This gentle trail meanders its way along a deep sandstone canyon where you can admire monolithic sandstone towers whose beauty rivals that of nearby Moab.

Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation: 
246 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 It’s $15 to enter the monument or free with a national parks pass. The scenic drives are well worth it. No dogs.

Bush Creek Trail in Crested Butte

Located a stone’s throw away from downtown Crested Butte, this easy winter hiking trail in Colorado skirts the backside of Mount Crested Butte. You’ll get plenty of sweet mountain and valley views with this relaxing hike.

Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 
374 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 None. Dogs can use this trail.

best easy winter hikes near denver

Mayflower Gulch in the Tenmile Range

Looking for incredible mountain views without the big elevation gains? Look no further than Mayflower Gulch.

Located right off of Highway 91 outside of Copper Mountain Resort, you’ll find world-class hiking with dramatic mountain views. Not to mention, it’s one of the top areas to go snowshoeing in Colorado.

Make your way up the gentle road (closed in winter) to the stunning view of Atlantic Peak and Fletcher Mountain. You know you’ve made it when the road peters out and there’s a dilapidated mine shack.

Distance: 3 miles
Elevation: 
705 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 None. Dogs can use this trail.

Maroon Bells Scenic Loop in Aspen

Rise and shine before the sun to watch the sunrise over the most iconic mountain formation in the state. As one of the best winter hiking trails in Colorado, the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop lives up to its namesake.

Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation: 
160 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
There are a lot of rules here, please respect signs and regulations. No dogs.

Rainbow Lake Trail in Frisco

This simple hike gives you all the glory of beautiful snow-capped mountains and a scenic lake without much effort. It also happens to be one of the best hikes near Breckenridge too!

An ideal winter hike in Colorado for kids, this trail is less than 2 miles and features a beautiful forest with views of Peak One at the Lake.

I loved this little hike so much, I actually wrote my wedding vows here!

Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation: 
150 feet
Difficulty: 
Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
If the grounds is dry and you don’t mind the cold, you can combine this trip with a road bike adventure down the Frisco bike path.

6 of the Best Moderate-Difficulty Hikes in Colorado

If you’ve been on a few winter hiking outings and you understand the differences between snowy hikes and summer jaunts, you’ll want to check out this list of the best winter hiking trails in Colorado for moderate hikers.

Devil’s Canyon Loop Trail in Fruita

Another amazing hike on the western slope, Devil’s Canyon Loop offers plenty of beautiful sandstone formations. You might even think you’re hiking in Moab!

What I love about Devil’s Canyon is that it offers similar scenery to the Colorado National Monument, but it’s also dog-friendly.

Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation: 
764 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
None. Dog-friendly.

best winter hiking in colorado

Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Although this hike is much longer than it’s summertime counterpart, most of the walking is easy, snowy road walking. A long-time favorite for good reason, Lake Isabelle is a fantastic winter hike in Colorado that features a view of amazing glaciers.

Distance: almost 11 miles
Elevation: 
1,030 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
You’ll be parking in the summer overflow lot and walking the road to Brainard Lake, then onwards to Lake Isabelle. Dog-friendly.

Bridal Veil Falls in the San Juan Mountains

Located just outside of Telluride, this multi-use trail is best hiked in the winter, when you aren’t sharing the road with Jeeps. Slowly make your way up to a stunning frozen waterfall for a real wintery treat.

Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 
1,368 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
Be aware of avalanche terrain. Just because you are walking a road does not mean that you aren’t on dangerous slope angles. Dog-friendly.

Mount Sniktau on Loveland Pass

As one of Colorado’s best 13ers to hike, Mount Sniktau makes a lovely winter hike.

For those who have experience spotting avalanche terrain and are looking to get experience summiting mountains in winter, Mount Sniktau is a great place to start. If you’re feeling strong, continue on to Grizzly Peak.

Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation: 
1,532 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate to difficult (this depends on how familiar you are with summiting mountains in the summer)
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
The trail itself avoids avalanche terrain, but if you get off-route you can get into serious trouble, so be aware. It’s also often very windy in winter. Dog-friendly.

best winter hiking trails in colorado

Herman Gulch Near Loveland Pass

The mighty Citadel Mountain is the stuff of legends. It’s dramatic couloirs and skyscraping ridge line are the prize for making it up Herman Gultch in the winter. As one of the most popular winter hikes in Colorado, this trail offers amazing scenery and a bit of a challenge.

Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation:
1,7554 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
Share the trail and watch out for backcountry skiers. Dog-friendly.

Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is the place to be after a dusting of snow has settled in the front range. The contrasting white snow with the red rock fins are absolutely jaw-dropping.

Catch a glimpse from above with the Carpenter Peak Trail. You don’t have to go far from town to get killer views!

Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation: 
1,007 feet
Difficulty: 
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
No dogs. You might want microspikes for the steeper sections.

Colorado’s Most Difficult Winter Hikes

The most difficult hikes on this list of the best winter hikes in Colorado and even include the easiest winter Colorado 14er.

These hikes are for those who love a challenge but don’t intend on doing any mountaineering. They are the ultimate winter hikes for any seasoned Colorado hiker.

Mowhawk Lakes Near Breckenridge

This trailhead is home to a variety of amazing hiking trails in the summer, but it’s best known for the trail to Mowhawk Laks.

If you’re looking for sky-high views of the Tenmile Range, you’ll love the challenge of making it to Mowhawk Lakes.

Distance: 8.6 miles
Elevation: 
2,129 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
The Upper Mowhawk Lake may be inaccessible due to avalanche hazards. Dog-friendly.

Rattlesnake Arch Outside of Grand Junction

If you want desert solitude in Colorado, head to Rattlesnake Arch. This trail is long, crossing down and up two separate canyons before a brutal uphill grind. It’s one of the top Grand Junction hikes thanks to the changing scenery

My advice? Just keep going! Seriously, the end of this trail is a phenomenal canyon that is littered with arches as far as you can see.

Distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation: 
2,444 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
Dog-friendly. You’ll be using your hands in a few spots and navigation can get a little tricky without a trail so bring a GPS.

best backpacking trips in colorado

Bergen Peak in Evergreen

If you’re looking to train to hike a Colorado 14er, then you’ll love making your way up Bergen Peak in the winter (one of the best hikes in Evergreen). Start at the Elk Meadow Park Stagecoach Trailhead and wander you way up this challenging winter hike in Evergreen. The views from the top are pretty amazing!

Distance: 9.4 miles
Elevation: 
2,100 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
None. Dog-friendly.

Mill-Castle Trail Near Gunnison

This long-haul trail located outside of Gunnison is an excellent choice for winter hikers in Colorado who also like to backpack. If you aren’t into backpacking, you can still catch plenty of stellar views just a few miles in, making this one of the most versatile winter hikes in Colorado.

Distance: 25.1 miles
Elevation: 
6,902 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: 
None. Dog-friendly.

Hiking in winter

Chicago Lakes Near Mount Evans

Sneak up to the base of Mount Evans the back way on this scenic winter jaunt. The trail starts with a steep (and slippery) descent, then makes its way along the valley floor before gaining some serious elevation to Chicago Lakes.

Distance: 9.1 miles
Elevation: 
2,142 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 None. Dog-friendly.

Mount Royal Trail in Frisco

Okay, so this is more of a torturous uphill grind than a scenic trail (I personally prefer to rock climb to the top of Mt Royal), but the views from the top are quite lovely.

You’ll be treated to scenes of Frisco, the Dillion Reservoir, and the Gore Range after you reach the top of this easily accessible trail.

Mt Royal makes for a great option for those that want a quick, yet difficult hike.

Distance: 3.9 miles
Elevation: 
1,374 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 None. Dog-friendly.

Mount Quandary’s East Ridge

Looking to snag your first Colorado winter 14er? Mount Quandary’s East Ridge is where it’s at. The winter trail has one avalanche hazard to avoid, but otherwise, this will give a good idea about the endurance required for a winter summit.

This is an intense trail, and should only be attempted by those who have plenty of winter hiking experience and have summited a Colorado 14er in the summer.

Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation: 
3,339 feet
Difficulty: 
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips:
 Be aware of adverse weather and avalanche terrain. This hike is dog-friendly, but it’s a lot to ask your pup to summit a winter peak, consider leaving Fido at home.

Winter Hiking and Understanding Avalanche Terrain

Here in Colorado, avalanche hazards are a super-serious issue. People die every year by being un-prepared. Before you head out on any winter adventure, be sure to understand avalanche risks and hazards.

There are free avalanche awareness classes you can take in Colorado to be in the know. If you plan on skiing or winter mountaineering, definitely consider getting your AIARE Level 1.

winter hiking in colorado

What Gear Do You Need for Winter Hiking

Winter hiking gear isn’t too different from summer gear. You’ll obviously want plenty of extra layers that are waterproof. This will help keep you warm in the winter as you stop for breaks or if bad weather rolls in. Your hiking boots should absolutely be waterproof. Other winter hiking gear includes:

  • Microspikes. These slip over your boots for traction and are a must-have for any winter trail.
  • Snowshoes. Ideal for the dead of winter when trails are fluffy and you’ll punch through the snow with just boots. Snowshoes are pricey, consider renting them first.
  • Trekking poles with snow baskets. If you want to winter hike, be sure to select trekking poles with snow baskets.
  • Noncotton layers. Layer up when you’re stopped, and wear less while you walk to regulate your body temperature.
  • Waterproof footwear. Don’t let your tootsies freeze by wearing waterproof boots when you hike.

Tips for Winter Hiking in Colorado

Winter hiking is a lot different than summer hikes. You’ll need to be extra prepared. I’ve written a complete guide to winter hiking for beginners to help you get started.

Planning a trip to Colorado? Here are a few handy resources:

The best winter hikes in Colorado provide a unique array of jaw-dropping scenery. You don’t have to be an expert as there are plenty of easy winter hikes in Colorado to enjoy. So beat cabin fever and get outdoors this winter.

Amazing winter hikes in Colorado. A local's list of the best winter hikes in Colorado including winter hikes near Denver, Boulder, and Rocky Mountain National Park. #hiking #Colorado #travel
Amazing winter hikes in Colorado. A local's list of the best winter hikes in Colorado including winter hikes near Denver, Boulder, and Rocky Mountain National Park. #hiking #Colorado #travel

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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.