Just because the temperature drops a few degrees and a couple white flakes fall from the sky doesn't mean you can't enjoy a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Non-existent crowds, snow parks, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and snowshoeing are just a few of the perks you can take advantage of during wintertime. So check out these options to help plan your perfect wintertime getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
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Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Ever wondered what it feels like to walk on top of fresh powder? How about through a deep ravine flanked by 13,000-foot mountains drenched in snow? Then grab a pair of snowshoes (shops located in Estes Park and Grand Lake rent them out) and explore Rocky Mountain's amazing backcountry.
East Side of Park
Hikers on the eastern edge of the Park should make it a point to check out Bear Lake located at the end of Bear Lake Road. From there trails lead to several other backcountry lakes including Nymph Lake, Emerald Lake, and Dream Lake.
The grand daddy of snowshoeing though is Glacier Gorge, accessed from Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge Trailhead located on Bear Lake Road. The hike to Mills Lake through Glacier Gorge is spectacular, and relatively gentle in regards to elevation gain. Our only advice is to make sure you have a map since sometimes trail signs can be covered in snow and it's hard to tell which way leads to the Mills.
West Side of Park
On the western edge of the Park, check out the Sun Valley Trail, a loop hike that passes through open meadows along the Colorado River. One of the major highlights is stunning views of the Never Summer Range to the west. If you're looking for a bit more of a rugged getaway, then head up the East Inlet Trail to Adams Falls and Long Pine Lake.
Cross Country and Backcountry Skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Just because there are no chairlifts in the Park doesn't mean you can't enjoy a spectacular time skiing. Cross-country and backcountry downhill are available, but high avalanche danger is probable, so make sure you come prepared and check with rangers before heading out. Locals will tell you some of the best backcountry skiing can be found inside the remnants of Hidden Valley Ski Area, the only resort to have existed inside the Park from 1955 to 1991. To access the old resort head up Trail Ridge Road from either direction and use topo maps to help navigate the steep backcountry terrain.
Need a topo map? You can buy the Rocky Mountain National Park Trails Map Pack at REI.com.
For cross-country skiing, several of the Park's main trails are good options including Tonahutu Creek Trail to Grand Lake, and Bierstadt Lake Trail off Bear Lake Road.
You can rent skis in the gateway towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park, and you can even get lessons at Grand Lake's Nordic Center. Or you can get help online. Here are some great articles to get you started.