With the possibility of a white Christmas looming over Colorado, you may be searching for a way to spend time in the snow-covered mountains without the price tag of a ski resort. If so, Colorado Parks and Wildlife invites you to try — or get back to — snowshoeing at its state parks.
Snowshoeing, while typically slower than hiking on dry ground, is still quite the workout. But it is still easy to learn and relatively inexpensive compared to other snow sports.
As with any outdoor activity, make sure you are dressed for the expected — and unexpected — weather, including an outer layer that can handle cold and wet conditions. Snowshoes do not include actual shoes, so have warm and waterproof boots ready. Don't forget sunglasses, and sunscreen for that matter, as well. UV rays can be stronger when reflecting off the snow. If you're planning to travel into avalanche country, understand the forecast and hazards, and carry proper equipment.
Here are CPW's top five state parks to go snowshoeing (and cross-country skiing):
Mueller State Park | Divide
All of Mueller State Park's trails are open to snowshoers and cross country skiers when conditions allow.
The park has trails of various difficulty, from the 2.2-mile Campground Trail to the 7-mile Cheesman Ranch Trail.
Dogs are not allowed on the trails of this park. Mueller does not provide rentals.
State Forest State Park | Walden
Almost all of the trails in State Forest State Park are open for snowshoeing adventures. Some are as short as one mile, and other trails can pack in 6 to 8 miles. The easier trails include Gould Loop and Grass Creek Trail.
If you're seeking terrain similar to Rocky Mountain National Park, but without the crowds, this is a great alternative. Like the state's most popular national park, State Forest State Park has jagged peaks, alpine lakes and tons of wildlife. If you visit, there's a good chance of seeing a moose. Remember to keep a safe distance from them.
Snowshoe rentals are available at the Moose Visitor Center for $5 per day.
The park also offers more than 60 miles of snowmobile trails and more than 100 miles of cross country skiing trails. The Gould Loop Trail is groomed regularly.
Vega State Park | Collbran
At 8,000 feet in elevation, Vega State Park is one of Colorado's highest state parks. This also means you're likely to find plenty of snow.
The park has a new 2.3-mile trail that closes in the winter to allow for snowmobile, ski and snowshoe traffic. It starts at the visitors center.
When conditions allow, park staff grooms the trails. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
Pearl Lake State Park | Clark
North of Steamboat Springs, this peaceful park sees plenty of snowfall each winter, meaning it's an ideal — but not crowded — place to enjoy snow sports like snowshoeing. On average, the park sees about 300 inches of snow each year.
The trails at this state park are short and not groomed, so visitors should be prepared for a fully backcountry experience. Branch off to Forest Service Coulton Creek Trail for a longer trek.
In the winter, many park roads and facilities are closed. Leashed pets are welcome.
Steamboat Lake State Park | Clark
It's no surprise that this Steamboat-area park is a beloved hub for winter fun. Whether by snowshoes or cross country skis, visitors can enjoy miles of peaceful trails, including some that are zoned as non-motorized. Trails range from easy to intermediate for snowshoeing.
Snow-capped mountains tower over the valley and lake.
Leashed dogs are allowed.