Five Great Places to Snowshoe in Northern ColoradoPosted by David Young, Contributor | 01.21.2022
Snowshoeing is one of the best winter sports and workouts that oftentimes gets overlooked for more adrenaline-packed sports like skiing and snowboarding. Nonetheless, snowshoeing through a quiet forest filled with fresh snow is one of the most amazing outdoor experiences to be had.
If silence is golden, as they say, then snowshoeing is Fort Knox. The silence in a forest after a fresh snowfall is unlike anything you have ever heard, or not heard, before. It has a magical Narnia-like quality that can only be experienced while snowshoeing.
In the winter, walking through the woods or open meadows takes on an entirely different feel - snow crunching under your snowshoes, stillness in the air, the winter sun sitting low in the sky, muffled smells of pine and sweet bark in the air, and the isolation of having this snow-globe world to yourself.
If you have never snowshoed before, or are unfamiliar with where to start your adventure, we have got you covered - JAX has a variety of snowshoes, winter packs, and accessories to fuel your winter adventure.
Once you are outfitted and ready to go, the options for destinations are endless. One of the great things about snowshoeing in the winter is that you make the trail! It is a choose your own adventure where you determine everything from how far you go to which destination you’d like to reach.
Go wherever the snowscape takes you but make sure that you can follow your tracks back out or navigate with a map/GPS, and always avoid avalanche areas. Check avalanche conditions with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) before venturing out.
We’ve combed through our list of favorite snowshoe spots in Northern Colorado to offer five great places to consider sinking your snowshoes into this winter.
Distance: 2 miles (round-trip loop)
Elevation gain: 518 feet
The Zimmerman Lake trail is located west of Fort Collins up the Poudre Canyon. It is a nice and easy 2-mile out-and-back trek, or a 3-mile loop if you go around the lake, that offers some nice relaxing snowshoeing with scenic views of the frozen lake and Montgomery Pass region. To get there, take 287 north out of Fort Collins to Route 14, or Poudre Canyon Road, then head west past the Joe Wright Reservoir and turn left for the trailhead located just off the main road. Once the trail winds through meadows and pines, you can expect low to moderate elevation gain throughout the first mile or so, less than 1,000 feet. There is also a chance to see wildlife on this trail. The lake will pop out in a clearing offering a winter wonderland for snowshoers to enjoy.
Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
Located up the Poudre Canyon in State Forest State Park, Lake Agnes is a classic snowshoe trail that offers a moderate hike with rewarding views. To get to this trail, take the Poudre Canyon Road west over Cameron Pass. As you start to descend, the trailhead is on the left just past the Crags campground. The trail descends from the parking area before climbing close to 1,000 feet up to the lake. The trail is just 2.5 miles long to the lake, but depending on snow conditions, it can require some work to get there. You will know when you arrive, as the frozen snow-covered lake hangs in a picturesque glacial valley.
Distance: 5.9 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
Ouzel Falls is located within Wild Basin, tucked away in Rocky Mountain National Park, offering some of the best snowshoeing in Northern Colorado. The trailhead is located south of the Park’s main entrance off of Colorado 7. In the winter, you can park where the road ends and then snowshoe to the summer trailhead. From there, the moderate trail winds its way towards Copeland Falls. From here, climb through the winter landscape towards Ouzel Falls. The trail will veer south (left) as you get closer. The frozen falls are hard to miss and provide an amazing perspective of the park in the winter. Keep in mind that Rocky Mountain National Park charges an entrance fee for visitors.
Distance: 10.3 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 1,794 feet
Another scenic snowshoe trek up the Poudre Canyon is Blue Lake. Located just past Chambers Lake as you drive west up the canyon road towards Cameron Pass, this trailhead takes you to a frozen high alpine lake. The trail goes through the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire burn area, and the charred trees create a stark landscape in the winter. A spectacular view awaits you when the trail ends at Blue Lake in the alpine tundra of the Rawah Wilderness. The reward of the winter lake is well worth the effort.
Distance: 3.2 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 698 feet
A not-so-hidden gem in Rocky Mountain National Park, Emerald Lake is popular amongst hikers and snowshoers year-round for a reason. The Lake is relatively easy to get to and offers visitors the unparalleled backdrop of Rocky Mountain National Park. To access the trailhead, go through the Park’s main entrance (Rocky Mountain National Park charges an entrance fee for visitors for this trail) and follow the signs to the Bear Lake Trailhead. From Bear Lake, which is worth a photo or two itself this time of year, climb past Dream Lake and into the Emerald Lake amphitheater. At around 10,000 feet, the hanging frozen lake offers amazing views in every direction.
A snowshoer stands on Lake Agnes in Northern Colorado with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Lake Agnes is a moderate snowshoe trek with amazing views located west of Fort Collins up the Poudre Canyon. (Photo by: David Young)