Walking in a winter wonderland: Estes Park snowshoeing and skiing trails
Snow is one of the best reasons to explore Rocky Mountain National Park! Whether you've got winter hiking boots, snowshoes, or cross-country skis, here are some of our favorite winter trails!
When the snow is fluffy and falling, strap on your snowshoes and hit the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park! Prime snowshoeing season is from December to March. Don’t forget – we offer snowshoes for rent, free with your stay at any of our properties!
Bear Lake Loop – Perfect your snowshoeing technique on this easy .6-mile loop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this immensely popular trail. Or, use it as your warm-up before hitting some of the other trails out of this great snowshoeing basecamp.
Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes – Knock out all three lakes on this moderate 3.6-mile hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Catch views of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge, Hallett Peak, and more on this trek.
Gem Lake – A moderate, 3.3-mile hike from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead filled with snowy switchbacks and amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Check conditions before you head out, though, as this trail is exposed to sunshine and can often be passable with just microspikes!
Bierstadt Lake – This easy 2.4-mile trail is perfect for snowshoers looking for wintry forests and amazing lake views with a mountain backdrop.
Want more snowshoeing trails? Check out our blog: Top 9 snowshoeing trails in Estes Park.
If you’re unsure of how to navigate the snowy trails or want expert advice on snowshoeing, try a guided trip through Rocky Mountain National Park. Kirk’s Mountain Adventures offers snowshoeing trips, for easy and intermediate treks, as does Yellow Wood Guiding, and Estes Park Mountain Shop offers a four-hour, six-hour, and eight-hour guided snowshoe trips.
You can also join a ranger-led program in the park for free and try the full moon walk, beginner snowshoe, or ski the wilderness in winter. These activities are free through Rocky Mountain National Park but reservations are required!
Backcountry and cross-country skiing is also well suited to the park’s snowy terrain and a great way to enjoy the great outdoors during the slower season. Hidden Valley is the place to go for backcountry skiing and has connections with snowshoeing trails if not everyone in your party is ready for skiing. If you prefer groomed trails for downhill skiing, Eldora Resort is only an hour and a half from Estes Park and offers affordable ski passes.
Once the snow’s packed, many cross-country skiers make their way to the park to trek along Trail Ridge Road as it’s now closed to cars. Please check with the park on current conditions before heading out and make sure you’re dressed in sweat-wicking layers and have plenty of water – it’ll be kept nice and cold!
Safety alert: Be sure to check with Rocky Mountain National Park or the Colorado Mountain School about the latest avalanche conditions. Fresh powder is great for skiing but can cause unstable conditions in some areas.
If we get a lull in the snowfall or you simply prefer to stick to hiking boots, there are a variety of trails open for winter hiking. It doesn’t hurt to have snowshoes or poles for spots where the trail is packed with snow.
Upper Beaver Meadows – At 1.5 miles, this hike is easy and has minimal elevation change and chances are good you’ll spot some elk nestled down near the trees.
The Pool – This easy, 2.5-mile from the Fern Lake Trailhead offers views of the Arch Rocks and frozen waterfalls.
Cub Lake – A moderate 2.3-mile hike, which can be combined with The Pool, that travels through a variety of terrain and landscapes and passes streams and frozen ponds. Some in-the-trees spots on the trail can have deep snow, so if we’ve had a recent snowfall in the area, strap some snowshoes on your pack for an easier trek!
Deer Mountain – You’ll need good tread on your winter hiking boots for this 3-mile, strenuous trail. Park at the Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead off of Highway 36 and begin your climb through forests of pine and aspen. You’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the Continental Divide at the summit. You may need snowshoes or skis for the summit as the snow can get quite deep.
Winter is a great time to visit Estes Park to really explore the trails and surrounding area without the heavy summer crowds. You may run into a bit more traffic with the first fee-free days of the year: January 16 and February 20, but it’s also a good time to visit if you’re looking for an affordable getaway.
Another way you can have an affordable getaway is by booking one of our specials for our Estes Park cabins!