Easily Accessible Snowshoeing near Fort Collins

Snowshoeing - The Best Outdoor Wintertime Activity

I’m not ashamed to admit (maybe I should be) that I’m not a winter person.  I’ve grown to accept, ahhh, it’s more than that – I’ve come to appreciate winter, but this season is sometimes (usually) all too long, especially in states like Colorado.

As a non-native to cold states, I don’t know how to downhill ski, and I’m far too afraid of falling to learn (and scared of jumping from the ski lift with or without skis on), but snowshoeing, well, snowshoeing was always a wintertime activity I could get on board with.

This post is all about easily accessible places to snowshoe near Fort Collins because let’s face it, we all need something close by with these short winter days.

I’m also listing a few clubs you might be interested in joining – these clubs aren’t exclusive to snowshoeing but offer group snowshoeing and cross-country skiing activities during the wintertime.

Finally, just in case If you’re not quite sure if snowshoeing is something you’ll enjoy, I’ve listed a few places where you can rent gear (and included a couple guides in the reference section for properly selecting snowshoes… assuming you fall madly in love with this wintertime activity).

I know you’re busy, so I’m going to get right to it.

Where to snowshoe near Fort Collins

RMNP

It’s no surprise this is top of the list (and right now you’re thinking NSS), but hang with me here, I’ll give you some trail head info here in a sec. 

RMNP is easily accessible from Fort Collins, and even better, you can take advantage of one of the free snowshoeing tours (these run on select dates through mid-March each year – you can call 970-586-1223 for dates, deets, and to make a reservation, Reference 1).

So, where, exactly, in RMNP?

West Creek Falls (RMNP)

Distance:  4.3 miles out and back
Difficulty:  moderate
Elevation gain:  1394 feet

 

How to get to the trailhead:  Head to the Safeway just south of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.  If you’re on Highway 34, then head north on MacGregor Avenue (it’ll be on the right after the Safeway if you’re coming in from Fort Collins). 

You’ll take a left on the last dirt road you come to before you make it to Devils Gulch Road (it might be marked Black Canyon Creek Road).  About 2.3 miles down that dirt road, you can find parking (small parking lot, about a dozen cars can fit).

Since this is a trail less traveled, you can find the trailhead by looking for the McGraw Ranch building. 

Start at the Cow Creek trailhead and follow the trail labeled something along the lines of Northbound trail (it’s probably a good idea to load a trail app like AllTrails before setting out on this one since it isn’t obviously marked at the trailhead).

What to expect:  The first mile is a pretty steep climb, so you'll definitely get a workout in.  Don’t worry, it levels out!  Once you make it to the top, you’ll get a great vista view to motivate you for the remaining trek to the falls.

Mills Lake

Distance:  4.9 miles (from Glacier Gorge Trailhead) out and back
Difficulty:  moderate
Elevation:  836 feet

 

How to get to the trailhead:  Enter RMNP through the Beaver Meadows entrance and hang a left on Bear Lake Road.  You’re looking for the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, which is the last one you come to before Bear Lake. 

As you well know, in the summertime, finding parking either at Glacier Gorge Trailhead or at Bear Lake is nigh on impossible.  But, that's one of the beauties of winter - the park is usually relatively deserted (comparatively speaking).

What to expect:  In the winter time, most folks recommend using the winter trail (Fire Trail on AllTrails instead of Glacier Gorge Trail) as it’s the most sheltered from the wind and maintains snowpack better than the Glacier Gorge Trail. 

You’ll hike to Alberta Falls and continue on towards the Mills Lake/The Loch junction.  At this junction, head south (left) and keep trekking onward to the lake where you’ll be greeted with stunning vistas of Chief’s Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain, and Longs Peak. 

If you’d like, you can continue your hike to Black Lake and on still to Frozen Lake.

snow covered peaks RMNP <a style="background-color:black;color:white;text-decoration:none;padding:4px 6px;font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;San Francisco&quot;, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Helvetica, Ubuntu, Roboto, Noto, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Arial, sans-serif;font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.2;display:inline-block;border-radius:3px" href="https://unsplash.com/@riccardoch?utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=photographer-credit&amp;utm_content=creditBadge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" title="Download free do whatever you want high-resolution photos from Riccardo Chiarini"><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" style="height:12px;width:auto;position:relative;vertical-align:middle;top:-2px;fill:white" viewBox="0 0 32 32"><title>unsplash-logo</title><path d="M10 9V0h12v9H10zm12 5h10v18H0V14h10v9h12v-9z"></path></svg></span><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px">Riccardo Chiarini</span></a>

Red Feather Area

Mount Margaret Trail

Distance:  7.2 miles out and back
Difficulty:  all skill levels
Elevation gain:  541 feet

 

How to get to the trailhead:  Take Highway 287 north to West County Road 74E/Red Feather Lakes Road.  You’ll travel 20.1 miles on Red Feather Lakes Rd and the trailhead parking will be on your right.  The lot can accommodate about 23 cars. 

What to expect:  Frequented in the summer time, this trail is much more lightly trafficked in winter.  You’ll cross South Lone Pine Creek and wander through meadows dotted with lodgepole and ponderosa pines snow crunching underfoot. 

Roads diverge at Five Points, and you have options of taking a few loops off the main tail or heading over to Dowdy Lake Campground.  Continue on the main trail for another couple miles to reach the base of Mount Margaret. 

From this vantage point, you’ll enjoy a picturesque view that includes North Lone Pine Creek.

Closer to Boulder

Eagle Wind Trail

Distance:  4 mile loop
Difficulty:  all skill levels
Elevation gain:  about 500 feet (mostly gained in the first half mile)

 

How to get to the trailhead:  You’re looking for Rabbit Mountain Open Space 15140 N 55th St. Longmont, CO 80503. 

You can either take I-25 south to Highway 66 West or just take Highway 287 south (typically my preference in the wintertime) to Highway 66. 

Travel west on Highway 66 to North 53rd Street in Boulder County.  The road name changes to Vestal Road and then to North 55th Street. 

Once the road name changes to N 55th St, you’ll keep going for 1.9 miles and turn right to park (the trailhead is across the road from the parking lot, and the road ends at the parking lot and trailhead).

What to expect:  About half a mile up the trail, you’ll have three options – Indian Mesa Trail, Little Thompson Overlook Trail (left), and Eagle Wind Trail (right).  Feel free to choose your own path, and I might circle back around and cover each of these in a future post, but for now, let’s choose the Eagle Wind Trail.

You’ll enjoy great views of Longs Peak and to the north, Indian Peaks.  The trail skirts the ridge and loops back on itself.

Important Notes:  This trail is closed Monday through Wednesday September through February 1st for elk management efforts.

woman looking out over a lake during winter time onto a picturesque mountain scene <a style="background-color:black;color:white;text-decoration:none;padding:4px 6px;font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;San Francisco&quot;, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Helvetica, Ubuntu, Roboto, Noto, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Arial, sans-serif;font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.2;display:inline-block;border-radius:3px" href="https://unsplash.com/@katiedrazz?utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=photographer-credit&amp;utm_content=creditBadge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" title="Download free do whatever you want high-resolution photos from Katie Drazdauskaite"><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" style="height:12px;width:auto;position:relative;vertical-align:middle;top:-2px;fill:white" viewBox="0 0 32 32"><title>unsplash-logo</title><path d="M10 9V0h12v9H10zm12 5h10v18H0V14h10v9h12v-9z"></path></svg></span><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px">Katie Drazdauskaite</span></a>

Groups/Clubs

Colorado Mountain Club

If you’re in Fort Collins, check out the Northern Colorado Group.  Active year-round with mini-hikes to full day events.  This group also offers special workshops (like avalanche avoidance workshops that teach you how to assess potential avalanche terrains and about the different factors that increase risk of avalanche).

If you’re like me and enjoy warm weather hikes over wintertime treks, then this group has a TON to offer – hiking classes covering the basics (navigation, nutrition, back-country ethics, gear, etc.). 

You can find Colorado Mountain Club on Facebook

And, on their website (includes link to an activity schedule):  Colorado Mountain Club - Fort Collins Chapter

Loveland Mountain Club

Loveland may be even more conveniently located to Estes Park than Fort Collins (sorry FC), so it’s little surprise that Loveland has its own very active mountain club. 

The Loveland Mountain Club maintains a calendar and hosts about 4, yep, you read that right – four hikes per week!  Of course, one of those hikes (all really, but one in particular each week) is dependent on snow level.

Gearing Up

Grab your gear in FC from JAX Outdoor Gear or from Rocky Mountain Adventures.

One more thing about JAX – they offer quite a few classes at stores up and down the Front Range covering some of the same topics offered by the mountain clubs (and they do this at smart times for those of us who hold a day job). 

Keep in mind that most of the classes require an RSVP, and not all are in the Fort Collins area, but their calendar is definitely worth checking out.

AND, JAX offers some classes strictly for women (like their Ladies Backpacking Basics Series + Overnight Trek, a four-part series ending in an overnight backpacking trip!)

Bonus – Selecting a good pair of snowshoes

snowshoes looking towards adventure Colorado mountain <a style="background-color:black;color:white;text-decoration:none;padding:4px 6px;font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;San Francisco&quot;, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Helvetica, Ubuntu, Roboto, Noto, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Arial, sans-serif;font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.2;display:inline-block;border-radius:3px" href="https://unsplash.com/@elmuff?utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=photographer-credit&amp;utm_content=creditBadge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" title="Download free do whatever you want high-resolution photos from Sandra Grünewald"><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" style="height:12px;width:auto;position:relative;vertical-align:middle;top:-2px;fill:white" viewBox="0 0 32 32"><title>unsplash-logo</title><path d="M10 9V0h12v9H10zm12 5h10v18H0V14h10v9h12v-9z"></path></svg></span><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px">Sandra Grünewald</span></a>

If you decide you love snowshoeing, then check out this guide for selecting a great pair of snowshoes.

And, the links below contain more information about great hikes (not all are suitable for snowshoeing) along the Front Range.

Enjoy the serenity of the season!

References

15 Secret Colorado Lakes and Waterfalls

Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing in Colorado

Best Snowshoeing Trails near Fort Collins

Photo Credits: 

Nazym Jumadilova
Riccardo Chiarini
Katie Drazdauskaite
Sandra Grünewald

Disclaimer: For these types of posts, I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer.  While I've done my due diligence to provide up to date and accurate information, our environment is in constant flux.  Please check your local conditions and cross check park closures before heading out.  Of course, we take no responsibility for any accidents, incidents, or injuries.  You can read our full disclaimer here.

Brandy Searcy founder Rain Organica

About the Author

Brandy Searcy is an outdoor girl who loves hiking, gardening, bird-watching, and body boarding.  Her innate curiosity means she's constantly researching something, and she's likely sharing what she's learned here on the blog. 

Nearly obsessive about her skincare, she started developing products to pack with her on day hikes and soon realized her backpacking friends were searching for a portable skincare routine as well, and that's how Rain Organica started.

Brandy's LinkedIn Bio

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