Snowshoeing near Denver, CO, gives residents and visitors the chance to experience places they wouldn’t see otherwise during this time of year. The area is bursting with trails that range from beginner to expert that allow you to get out and explore the unknown.
For the beginner snowshoer, this may seem like a daunting task. So, below we have chosen our six best day trips for beginners to get you started. Bundle up, grab your snowshoes and discover the possibilities that await you near this great city.
6. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
With over 20 miles (32 km) of trails and over 330 species of wildlife, this refuge is an excellent option for beginner snowshoers near Denver, CO.
All of the trails are easy-moderate with a vast choice in length. Try the short 0.2-mile (0.3 km) Upper Derby Trail or make a day of it and snowshoe the 14.2-mile (22.8 km) Perimeter Trail. Either way, wander through grassy prairies with several opportunities for lakeside views. Just make sure to stick to designated trails in the area because of the wildlife. Also, most trails do not allow dogs. So, you might leave your furry friends at home.
After the snowshoeing, drive the 11-mile (17.7 km) self-guided wildlife drive throughout the park. Keep in mind that the drive is not always plowed. So, the road may be icy or snow-packed in areas.
As a bonus, since the refuge is located in Commerce City, it’s only 25 minutes from downtown Denver. I mean, when else can you see bison and a downtown skyline simultaneously?
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
For a longer day trip, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), about a two-hour drive from Denver, is breathtakingly beautiful in any season. From the stunning fall colours in the autumn months to the shimmering lakes in the summer to our most favourite season, the winter months where the park is transformed into a winter wonderland.
For snowshoe beginners, the trails around Bear Lake offer stunning scenery and short and easy trails that allow you to break in your new snowshoes. But, prepare to dress in layers as the wind often whips across Bear Lake and can cause quite a chill. Starting at the Bear Lake Trailhead, snowshoers can snowshoe around the lake or head into the woods up to Nymph Lake.
While the trail around Bear Lake is flat and easy, the trail up to Nymph Lake offers a gentle climb. Break your own trail, follow the well-marked path, and don’t forget to bring your snowshoes and bundle up for this amazing beginner hike. You’ll want to leave your pup at home for this one, though, since RMNP does not allow pets.
Please note that some hikes from the Bear Lake trailhead (like Lake Helene and Flattop Mountain) wander into potentially high avalanche danger areas. If you’re not prepared, you should avoid these areas.
Also, keep in mind that Bear Lake is at an elevation of almost 9,500 feet (2895 m) and could be more difficult for those unfamiliar with the altitude. For more information, consult the Bear Lake Winter Trail Guide.
Furthermore, you can also explore other snowshoe-friendly areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, including the winter trails near Wild Basin.
Read More: 11 Reasons to Visit Estes Park, CO
4. Cherry Creek State Park
After a large snowstorm, some of the best snowshoeing is often found close to home. In this case, a 20-minute drive from downtown Denver provides snowshoeing opportunities in Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, CO.
The park offers 12 miles of trails (19 km), a mixture of heavily-trafficked trails, and those off the beaten path. Snowshoers can trek on paved and unpaved trails through grasslands and marshes while admiring the vast array of cottonwood trees or wildlife.
Try the Beaver Pond Nature Trail (0.8 mi/1.3 km round-trip) or the 2.5-mile (4 km) paved Parker Road Trail. The majority of trails allow dogs and even horses. So, your animal friends can explore the winter wonderland after a fresh snowfall with you.
Find more info at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
3. Echo Lake near Mt Evans
A closed road, only 1 hour away from Denver, often offers the perfect snowshoeing trail for beginners. Smooth, flat, and well-marked are all important factors when starting in this sport. The road to Mount Evans at Echo Lake offers a gently sloping hill with plenty of opportunities for you to become “one” with your snowshoes.
Parking is available near the gate, but don’t forget to pay the park’s entrance fee. Choose to either head straight up the road or veer off and explore the backside of Echo Lake via the Echo Lake Trail. The second option is somewhat more sheltered from the wind and therefore tends to be a little warmer for the beginner.
Furthermore, the road up to Mount Evans is North America’s highest paved road, and beginners can safely ascend 2.5 miles (4 km) up without the risk of avalanche. Bundle up, strap your shoes on and go out and explore this beautiful beginner trail.
Find out more at the Clear Creek County website.
2. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Just a short 45-minute drive from Denver, CO, takes you to the spectacular Golden Gate Canyon State Park and an excellent snowshoeing area for the beginner to try out the trails. With 12 trails covering more than 35 miles (56 km), this park offers well-marked paths, gentle slopes, and incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
The visitors center is a great place to start and offers clean restrooms and knowledgeable staff to point you in the right direction towards the trails. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as lynx, snowshoe hare, birds, and more.
A great place to start is the Horseshoe Trail, which leads you through valleys, forests, and over wooden bridges, as well as taking you past a log house from the 1800s. A great stopping place to warm up with a mug of tea from your thermos as you read about the history of John Frazer and his log cabin.
Take the Mule Deer Trail to reach the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, a stopping point for many, along with views of more than 100 miles (161 km) of the Continental Divide. Pack a thermos, your snowshoes, and venture out of the city to one of the best spots to try your hand, or should we say foot at snowshoeing.
1. Lost Lake Trail
To round out our last beginner snowshoe trail in the Denver area, we head to the secluded Lost Lake Trail. You’ll find this trail in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, near Nederland, Colorado.
The Hessie Trailhead is the official start of the trek to Lost Lake. In winter, the unpaved part of the road to the trailhead closes. Thus, you’ll need to hike or snowshoe from the end of the paved road about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the actual trailhead. Once you reach the trailhead, Lost Lake is 1.4 miles one-way (2.2 km).
A great outing for any skill level, this trail allows users to enjoy a high-elevation mountain lake (starting at 9000 feet). But, don’t let the high-elevation scare you off. This trail allows for a gradual climb with manageable elevation gains that won’t have you losing your breath.
Although this trail is ungroomed, Nordic skiers and snowshoers use this trail all winter long. Beginners won’t have a problem following the path. Expect to spend around three to four hours on this trail, depending on how long you plan to stay at the lake. With views of the mountains, frozen waterfalls, footbridge crossings, a few steeper hills, and scenic lake views, the Lost Lake Trail is an excellent starter trail for the beginner snowshoer.
Please note that this trail can be busy, so it is best to arrive early. Also, the slopes leading up to the mining sites above the lake may be avalanche prone. Please be prepared if heading into these areas.
Find out more at the Lincoln National Forest website.
Would you visit any of these snowshoeing day trips near Denver, CO? Also, what trails would you recommend for other beginners? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
This article was originally published on Jan 12, 2015. It was updated on March 16, 2021, by Susan Wowk to include new trails and information.
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