Snowshoe Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hiking in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is always a sight to behold – but have you considered how the Park looks in winter? Covered in snow and littered with frozen lakes and snow-clad peaks, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) completely changes come winter. While lower elevations in the Park are usually free of deep snow, the higher you climb, the more snow you find. In fact, most high-country overnight trips require you to prepare for weather at -20 degrees or below.
Though it certainly requires more preparation, you can still snowshoe among the 265,000 acres of nature provided by Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Depending on your skills and the time you have, there are short, long, summit, and looped snowshoe trails through frosty meadows and snow-covered trees. You can snowshoe to frozen waterfalls, lakes, and see different kinds of animals on your trip. With well over 350.0mi of different hiking and snowshoe trails to choose from, you can spend weeks exploring all that Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer. Check out our 10 Best Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoe trips below.
Each lake, waterfall, and mountain summit is unique and beautiful in its own way; there are so many great snowshoe trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. We have compiled a collection of the 10 best snowshoe trails in RMNP and have included a couple of snowshoe trips that culminate with breathtaking views of different frozen waterfalls and lakes, as well as great views of the snow-capped mountains. We have also included some snowshoe routes that offer a great introduction for beginners to get a better taste of what snowshoeing in RMNP is like. Beware, the elevation in these trips also can make them seem more difficult than the raw numbers would imply.
Remember, though snowshoeing in winter is a great experience, it can be dangerous. Trails in the park are harder to navigate as they are not maintained or marked for winter use. The RMNP Park Service recommends that you possess, and know how to use, a topographic map and compass. Please also discuss your plans with park staff at trailhead kiosks and visitor centers.
Additionally, when it comes to equipment in the winter months, make sure you prepare adequately. Even if you intend on only snowshoeing for a day, during winter months it is best to have enough supplies on you to stay overnight in case of an emergency. Some of these trails will take you through snowfields and may be icy; good quality snowshoes are highly recommended. Ideally, before snowshoeing some of these trails you should have the ability/ knowledge to self-arrest with a trekking pole or mountaineering ice axe.
The risk of hypothermia is also very real so wear warm quick-drying layers made of synthetic material or wool. Take extra layers of clothing with you too in case of emergency as well as windproof outer layers, a warm hat, and warm gloves. Remember, even though it is winter it is possible to get burnt – wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Finally, make sure you eat lots of high-energy snacks and drink lots of water.
Given most of these trails explore mountainous areas, there is the chance of an avalanche. RMNP advises that you avoid walking in steep gullies and on ridge tops. If you do go to these areas, ensure you carry an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel. For the latest up-to-date advice on the condition of trails in winter please check https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/trail_conditions.htm and http://avalanche.state.co.us/
- Dream Lake (2.1mi, 501ft, 2-3h): This snowshoe to Dream Lake takes you to a beautiful alpine lake, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. From here, you can enjoy the view of Hallett Peak - at 12720ft tall, Hallett Peak dominates the landscape.
- Emerald Lake (3.2mi, 705ft, 3-4h): The snowshoe to Emerald Lake is a fantastic trail in the backcountry of RMNP. This trek takes you to a beautiful alpine lake nestled in a panoramic mountain cirque at the base of Hallett Peak.
- Lake Haiyaha (3.7mi, 803ft, 4-5h): Snowshoeing to Lake Haiyaha takes you to an awe-inspiring alpine lake with frozen crystal blue waves carved out by an ancient glacier. The snowshoe to Lake Haiyaha is unbelievably beautiful; the sight of the beautiful crystal blue mountain lake frozen in place is truly one to behold!
- Chasm Lake (7.9mi, 2421ft, 5+h): Snowshoeing to Chasm Lake should be on every list for anyone in RMNP. Chasm Lake trail takes you to a high alpine lake that sits below the towering Diamond on the famed Longs Peak.
- Sky Pond (8.4mi, 1729ft, 5+h): The snowshoe up to Sky Pond is a favourite with the locals. It is an epic trip to a high alpine lake at the base of The Sharkstooth! The Sky Pond snowshoe is described as challenging, but it is definitely worth the trek!
- The Loch (5.5mi, 1066ft, 3-4h): The Loch is a large alpine lake at the intersection between Andrews Glacier and Taylor Glacier. The snowshoe to the Loch is serene and scenic; the Loch itself boasts many vantage points to take in the full beauty of RMNP.
- Ouzel Lake (9.9mi, 1610ft, 4+h): The snowshoe to Ouzel Lake really adds meaning to the sentiment: “It’s all about the journey, not the destination”. Ouzel Lake, located in Wild Basin, offers amazing panoramic views of RMNP and Longs Peak, however, the many waterfalls along the way are what truly make this snowshoe spectacular!
- Nymph Lake (1.1mi, 288ft, 1.5-2.5h): If you are new to snowshoeing, the trip to Nymph Lake is a great introduction. Nymph Lake is a beautiful alpine lake not far from the trailhead. If you get here and are feeling comfortable in the snow, keep on going to Dream or Emerald Lake!
- Bear Lake (0.7mi, 23ft, 0.5-1h): The snowshoe to Bear Lake is another great introduction to winter hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail to Bear Lake is short but definitely has some sweet scenery to check out as you make the loop!
- Lily Ridge (1.2mi, 160ft, 1h) Lily Ridge Trail is a popular snowshoe that offers an amazing view of the Diamond on Longs Peak (14259ft) while overlooking Lily Lake.
The best Snowshoe Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
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