So maybe you don’t feel like camping in the snow. Maybe you just want to go on a rad hike. Excellent! That’s why I’m writing this post.
I have to admit, for how much I love winter camping, some days I don’t want to do it. I just want to be outside for a handful of hours. Coming home to my lovely fire and comfy blankets. And that’s exactly why I feel like this post needed to happen. Because there isn’t always time to camp and sometimes we just want to have a quick adventure.
Luckily for us here in Colorado, there is never a bad time to hike or snowshoe or explore. Every season comes with this shiny new vibe that brings equal amounts of beauty and fun. I want to share with you, dear reader, my list of wonderful go-to winter hikes. And my list of fantastic winter backpacking routes.
If you have not been to the mountains in the snowy times (November-June) and have a trip planned out here for those months, I urge you to do lots of research on the conditions you’ll be playing in and what gear you’ll need to have for that. It can feel a little overwhelming to arrive for a hike only to realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Or more than you planned on... chewing. In the snow plan to double your hike time and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. And if you aren’t using snowshoes, get ready for some post-holing. Yay winter!
“The sunbeams are welcome now. They seem like pure electricity—like friendly and recuperating lightning. Are we led to think electricity abounds only in summer, when we see in the storm-clouds as it were, the veins and ore-beds of it? I imagine it is equally abundant in winter, and more equable and better tempered. Who ever breasted a snowstorm without being excited and exhilarated, as if this meteor had come charged with latent auroræ of the North, as doubtless it has? It is like being pelted with sparks from a battery.” -John Burroughs
- Flat Top Mountain-RMNP-8.6 miles round trip-2909ft of round trip gain
Flat Top is a moderate hike that’ll get you stunning views. In the summer, it’s a popular day hike for folks visiting the park, but in the winter, it’s not as popular; not even close. This is a great hike for checking out the sunrise or as a solid intro to summitting peaks in the winter. Don’t forget your ice axe and be prepared for changing weather.
- Odessa Lake-RMNP-8.9 miles round trip-1900ft of round trip gain
Odessa Lake has one of my favorite views in the park; that of Hallett and Flat Top. plus you can connect it with gorgeous Lake Helene. This as a snowshoe is quite magnificent and very picturesque. You may want to brush up on your navigation skills for this one, or at least load some maps onto your GPS. The signs are easily buried in snow and it can be easy to get a bit turned around.
- Black Lake-RMNP-9.6 miles round trip-1480ft of round trip gain
Black Lake is a beautiful and serene lake located at the base of some rugged and lovely mountains. The snowshoe to Black Lake is captivating, as you pass many picture perfect locations, including Mills Lake. This can be a very windy area, so prepare for that. All in all, this hike will be refreshing, exciting and beautiful. It’s one of my go-to’s and in the winter sees far less traffic.
- Herman Gulch-I-70 corridor near Loveland Pass-6.4 miles round trip-1814ft of round trip gain
Herman Gulch is a hike I’ve recommended many times for various seasons. It offers a little bit of everything; deep woods, vast mountain meadows, views of high peaks, alpine lakes and the change to summit some peaks if you want to continue further. As a snowshoe, this is a hike through a winter wonderland.
- Silver Dollar Lake-Guanella Pass-3.9 miles round trip-1145ft of round trip gain
The hike to Silver Dollar Lake is a quick out and back that can easily be done as a morning snowshoe, with time to make brunch after the fact. This hike offers lovely views and a chance to see big horn sheep. It’s far less trafficked in the snowy months. Be sure to check the forecast before you head out, as Guanella Pass can close with no notice, even on the bits that stay plowed in the winter.
- Bergen Peak-Evergreen-9.4 miles round trip-2332ft of round trip gain
This is a little mountain in Evergreen. It’s a bit of a haul in the warm months and a lot of a haul via snowshoe. So if you’d like a solid little workout, check out Bergen Peak. The views from the top are wonderful and if youre coming from the city, you don’t have to worry about a long drive for this. And you might see a bunch of elk! As far as easily accessible and bang-for-your-buck, Bergen is a great pick for a winter day hike.
- Chasm Lake-RMNP-8.5 miles round trip-2500ft of round trip gain
Oh, Chasm Lake. It’s one of my favorite places in this country. At the base of Longs Peak, this lake should only be reached in the winter by people who have a grasp on winter snowshoeing in the mountains, as avalanche is a threat here. So bring your crampons just in case, along with an ice axe, which is not a “just in case” piece of gear for this hike. Also be sure to check the weather forecast and snow conditions for this one. It’s more of a “I hope we can do this one today” and not so much a “we will for sure do this one today”. So if you don’t come to this area frequently, you may want to have a backup hike picked out.
- Centennial Cone-Golden-13.3 miles round trip-2618ft of round trip gain
Centennial Cone is a long loop hike near Denver. As a snowshoe it’s extra long! Yay! This goes through many terrains and offers stupendous views of the big mountains that surround the area. In the warmer months, this makes a great run, so it’s a fun change to snowshoe this big old loop. Plus it’s just incredibly accessible and will never see the amount of snow that my other hikes will. Which is awesome if you aren’t well versed in winter foot travel.
There is a solitude in the cold months unlike any other time.
It’s a time to reflect and explore and get deep.
Even if all that means is finding yourself in awe.
Because sometimes that can be the most introspective and beautiful state of mind.
A reminder of how lucky we are to be alive.