5 Colorado Parks That Are Even Better In The Winter


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Skiers walk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy of Visit Estes Park

Compass

Attendance may decline during the off-season, but when the snow flies, these city, state, and national parks become ripe for new adventures.


Rocky Mountain National

Although there are no ski lifts nearby, Estes Park ranks among the best ski towns in Colorado thanks to its proximity to Rocky. Vertically inclined backcountry skiers can reach the boast-worthy peaks around Bear Lake or head to Hidden Valley, the park’s long-abandoned 1,200-acre ski area. Meanwhile, the Trail Ridge and Old Fall River scenic drives offer steep but scenic challenges for backcountry skiers and snowshoers. If you don’t feel like exploring on your own, Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park offers guided outings suitable for intermediate alpine chippers and novice snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

Steamboat Lake State Park

Over 300 inches of annual snowfall draws ice fishermen, cross-country skiers and snowshoers from all over Colorado to this state park, 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs. But it’s the snowmobilers who dominate the place: while a small portion of the 2,820-acre lot is set aside for non-motorized recreation, everything else is a fair game for on- and off-trail riding. And if that wasn’t enough, the park also provides access to the 146 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the adjacent Routt National Forest. You don’t have a snowmobile? Steamboat Lake Outpost, located just one mile south of the Visitor Center, offers rentals and guided tours.

State Forest State Park

This 70,000-acre parcel of land located two hours west of Fort Collins is Colorado’s largest (and most pragmatically named) state park. With so much space to explore, it’s best to book a base camp through Never been a Nordic, a family business that manages 11 yurts and huts scattered around the national forest. Getting there requires a 0.25 to 2.8 mile ski or snowshoe, but you’ll still need this gear for day hikes to icy Lake Agnes (within a mile of Nokhu and Agnes Creek huts) or low-angle ski touring. just outside the two yurts on the west side of the 11,215 foot Montgomery Pass. From $ 120 per night

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Freezing temperatures, often single digits, drastically reduce visits during the winter, that is, human visits. The calm attracts elk and antelopes to the grasslands surrounding the dunes in the morning and evening to graze, and in February, more than 20,000 migrating sandhill cranes stop by the area to feed and dance to court. bowing and chuckling. Most nearby accommodations close during the off-season, but the new Mellow Moon Lodge, an hour from Del Norte, offers dog-friendly rooms, free coffee and a fireplace to warm your feet. From $ 112 per night

Ruby Hill Park

Every winter since 2007, Denver Parks and Recreation and Winter Park Resort have teamed up to transform Ruby Hill Park in southwest Denver into one of the only urban ski and snowboard snow parks in the United States. This season, the free operation run by volunteers offers snowboard rentals and free lessons for young people on site. (To verify denvergov.org for details.) Combine that with the beginner-friendly rail and box progression of Ruby Hill, and your kid’s X Games Gold is just a jib, grind, and boardslide.

This article appeared in the December 2021 issue of 5280.

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