We know spring is almost upon us and most people are getting ready to retire their winter gear in favor of warmer weather wear. But, March and early April can be some of the snowiest months in Estes Park and a perfect time to explore Rocky Mountain National Park by snowshoeing!
If you’ve never thought of snowshoeing before or don’t know what to expect, we’ve outlined some great snowshoeing tips for beginners along with some easy trails to try.
Of course if you’re nervous about snowshoeing or want some more hands-on instruction, there are a few great guided snowshoeing tours around town. Most guided trips also include equipment so you’ll be properly outfitted for your day on the trails. Two of our recommendations include: Kirk’s Mountain Adventures, and the Estes Park Mountain Shop.
Equipment you’ll need
- Waterproof boots with good ankle support and insulation
- Poles (help with support on your hike as well as getting back up if you fall in deep powder)
- Warm layers (opt for wool or other sweat wicking materials instead of cotton)
- Mittens or gloves
- A hat or headband
- Sun protection
- A backpack with first aid supplies, water, food, and a phone
If you can hike, chances are good that you can snowshoe! One tip for beginners is to widen your stance a bit more than you usually would for hiking, as this helps you avoid stepping on your snowshoe’s frames or getting tangled up.
A lot of snowshoes are easy to put on – you simply strap yourself in and start walking!
Going uphill is just as easy as walking or hiking since your crampons keep you from sliding around in the snow. If there’s a lot of powder, it’s important to stamp through the snow a few times to make a steady base for when you transfer your weight and push uphill. You can also try traversing, similar to carving for skiers, where you wind your way your way up the trail (instead of keeping a straight path) by making a shelf out of the snow with your snowshoes.
Going downhill can often be a challenge for first-time snowshoers. It’s OK to take it slow, especially on packed snow where you might run into some ice. On powder, keep as straight as you can and use your knees to pull the weight of your snowshoes. Dig your toes into the snow, using the crampons at the top of the shoe. Don’t be afraid to walk “tippy-toed” – it may look silly but will help you stabilize into the snow. When it comes to your poles, you may want adjustable ones that can be shorter on the climb up and lengthened on the way back down.
Poles can also be helpful if you happen to fall (don’t worry, the soft and fluffy snow will catch you!). If you do fall, it’ll most likely be on the descent. If you feel yourself falling, try to lie back or land on your side closest to the slope. Roll back up, keep your knees pointed toward the slope and stand up. Try to avoid facing downhill where your balance might give out so that you don’t take another tumble down the hill.
Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoeing trails
Ready to try snowshoeing? Let’s start out with these easy trails:
- Bear Lake Loop: A very good trail for beginners as it’s only a .6-mile loop. Make a few rounds or use this one as a warmup to get used to your equipment before trying another trail.
- Nymph Lake: Another trail off of the Bear Lake trailhead, but measures in at 1.1 miles with minimal elevation gain. If you easily conquer Nymph Lake, you can keep going to Dream Lake, adding another six-tenths of a mile to your trek.
- Bierstadt Lake: This trail has its own parking lot for easy access and is a picturesque 2.4-mile slightly-more-moderate trail.
You’ll probably be toasty after your snowshoeing adventure around Estes Park, but if you need a shot of warmth from the inside out, be sure to get tickets to the Whiskey Warm Up Weekend. Held on March 11, you can sample whiskies from fine Colorado distilleries or learn more about the spirit through seminars and workshops. Our favorite: How to pair it with food!
Start planning your snowshoeing adventure by finding an Estes Park cabin to return to after your day of exploring and indulging in some fine spirits!