Winter Trails Colorado-The Best Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Trails  by Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon

Winter Trails: Colorado-The Best Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Trails Guide Book

by Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon (Falcon Guides)
Winter Trails Colorado-The Best Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Trails  by Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon
Designed for everyone, from consummate skiers and snowshoers to beginners and families, Winter Trails will lead you to the best places to snowshoe or cross-country ski in Colorado. Be it a day trip or a two-hour jaunt, you can enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of winter with these 50 carefully researched trails. Each outing includes: information about the natural landscape, distance in miles, trail difficulty, surface quality, a rundown of proper equipment and clothing suggestions, and tips on safety, navigation, and trail etiquette. It also includes: point-by-point trail directions; detailed trail maps; driving directions to trailheads; rental facilities; food and lodging information; local lore and historical facts.

© 2013 Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Winter Trails: Colorado-The Best Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Trails" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 51.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 51.

This area is the home of the illustrious 10th Mountain Division Hut System. The area surrounding the town of Leadville is historically important in the genesis of the sport of backcountry skiing in America. In 1942 the US Army established Camp Hale just north of Leadville to house the 10th Mountain Division, an elite ski corps of commandos who trained for mountain combat against the Nazis in the European Alps. Also stationed there was the 99th Infantry Division. Made up of Norwegians and Norwegian expatriates, it was the only American division that included foreign citizens and was formed to aid the planned invasion of Norway.
Leadville, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 8.8
While Sunlight Mountain Resort has four chairlifts for downhill skiing and charges a daily fee, they also maintain just over 10 miles of backcountry cross-country ski and snowshoe trails that are available to everyone at no charge. Simply pick up a free day pass at the resort. Or if you want to use their lifts, you will have to purchase a ski pass for the day. Skinny skis are allowed on the chairlifts, but snowshoes are not.
Glenwood Springs, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 10-18 miles
Established by Congress in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is 265,727 acres of spectacular mountain scenery, including one of the most famous Colorado fourteeners—Longs Peak at 14,255 feet. In the park you might see elk, deer, and an occasional moose. During the winter months, great horned owls and Steller’s jays make the park their home. Located on the east side of the Continental Divide, the park is a convenient distance for winter enthusiasts from Denver and the Front Range. Snowmobile traffic is not permitted on the cross-country and snowshoe trails described here.
Estes Park, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 0.75-3.6 miles
Rocky Mountain National Park offers 415 square miles of untamed forests, valleys, and mountain areas for the cross-country skier and snowshoer. All are a relatively short distance from metro Denver and the Front Range. Even in the wintertime Moraine Park Campground is open for tent and RV camping, while Longs Peak Campground is open to tent camping only. There is a fee for camping in these sites. There’s no firewood in the park, and campers must bring their own water. But an overnight adventure on one of the unmarked trails is truly worth the experience for skiers or snowshoers who are familiar with Colorado’s temperamental weather conditions and are experienced in reading topographical maps and using a compass and a GPS unit.
Estes Park, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 10
The Berthoud Pass ski area was one of the first major ski resorts in Colorado, dating back to 1937. After decades of up-and-down financial problems, the popular downhill ski resort closed in 2002. The ski lifts and all the buildings have been removed, and all that remains are the chairlift foundations. What is left today are lots of open backcountry runs (sixty-five trails on 1,300 acres) for skiers, shoers, and snowboarders who can hike up from the bottom of the pass (1,530 vertical feet) and enjoy steep and often deep powder trails all throughout the winter season.
Winter Park, CO - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding,Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 3
Boreas Pass was originally built as a wagon train road and was later used as the route for the nation’s highest-elevation narrow-gauge railroad. From 1872 to 1938 a host of specially designed locomotives clanked along the tracks, handled the high altitudes, and ascended high grades and tight curves. Today the remnants of the route provide winter enthusiasts with great cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. In this best of all worlds, you’ll experience the joy of skiing and snowshoeing into and out of glade after glade of spruce, aspen, and fir trees.
Breckenridge, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 7.2-13.4 miles
Often described as the most popular area for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in all of the Front Range, the Brainard Lake area has a great variety of trails for both cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The Brainard Lake Trail, Waldrop North Ski Trail, CMC South Ski Trail, and Little Raven Ski Trail all leave from the Red Rock Lake trailhead and lead to Brainard Lake. There are also connections to the South Saint Vrain Trail and the continuation of the Little Raven Ski Trail. This system makes a great place for both day trips and overnight adventures. To the west the 73,391-acre Indian Peaks Wilderness Area offers unlimited access to valleys carved by ancient glaciers and bowls that tempt the telemark skier and snowshoer looking for an extended tour and slopes to hike and ski.
Ward, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 4.4
While the Breckenridge area has a lot of open, free, and wild cross-country skiing and snowshoeing areas, the Breckenridge Nordic Center, with over 2,100 acres of combined trails for all ability levels, has become an extremely popular and affordable destination for snow enthusiasts. With more than 18 miles of trails for skiers, and 12 miles for shoers, 30 percent are designated as novice/beginner, 50 percent as intermediate, and 20 percent for the advanced group.
Breckenridge, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 1.5
The Commando Run from Vail Pass back to Vail Resort is regarded as one of the most challenging and best ski tours in Colorado. It is named for the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division soldiers, who used to train along this demanding route for high-altitude skiing combat and commando raids during World War II. Popular today for its outstanding views and quality of snow, it’s often tracked and can be accomplished in one full, hardy day of skiing. As with all winter activities at the top of Vail Pass, skiing the Commando Run requires paying a modest per-person day-use fee. Vail Pass is now part of a “fee demonstration area.” The money collected is being used to manage this heavy-use area. Day fees can be paid at the kiosk, or self-fee envelopes are available at all access points to the area.
Vail, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 16
If you want to get a head start on the cross-country skiing or snowshoeing season, this is a great trail because it is in one of the areas that gets lots of snow early. Here you can enjoy the backcountry without actually being too far from the city. The Corral Creek Trail is on the east side of I-70, and it’s a sweet and relatively easy alternative to the Shrine Pass Trail to the west, which gets so much snowmobile traffic. As with Shrine Pass and Commando Run, skiing in Corral Creek requires a day-use fee.
Vail, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 5
While Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte have long been well known for their ski resort and fantastic downhill/alpine skiing, the town of Crested Butte itself has developed a full system of 34 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trekking trails to challenge everyone from the novice to the expert. Located less than 4 miles below the Mount Crested Butte ski resort, the skinny ski and shoe trails found in and all around the Crested Butte Nordic Center are made up of 20 percent novice, 50 percent intermediate, and 30 percent advanced routes. In total there are twenty people-only trails and four trails that are designed to be Fido-friendly.
Crested Butte, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 1.3
The Deer Creek Trail is a short, easy route for novice Nordic skiers or snowshoers who don’t want the crowds they may encounter at the Saints John or Peru Creek Trails. Located at the end of Montezuma Road, the trail gets less use than the popular routes found throughout the area. If you want to be alone in the backcountry, Deer Creek is the answer. Laced with remnants of once bountiful silver mines, the trail offers much to look at in terms of mining history, and the four-wheel-drive road it follows is usually well tracked. Don’t choose a windy day, though. Even though the tour is below tree line, the large, open clearings and meadows can make for a blustery outing.
Montezuma, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 6
Less than a two-hour drive from Denver, the majestic Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is considered by many outdoor enthusiasts to be a top Nordic and snowshoeing destination, combining great cross-country/skate-skiing and snowshoeing trails with a high- end luxury resort that features a fifty-two-room lodge, sixteen cabins, a host of casual to fine-dining opportunities featuring New American cuisine with a Rocky Mountain flair, and a fully equipped Nordic Center.
Tabernash, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 4.75
Francie’s Cabin is one of three huts built by the Summit Huts Association. It has quickly become a popular destination because of its proximity to Spruce and Crystal Creeks, wonderful backcountry areas for ski touring and snowshoeing. There are two ways to get there: one that’s easy and one for intermediate skiers. If you want a relatively easy trip from the trailhead, take Spruce Creek Road. It’s a gentle road that was built for summer travel. While it’s about a mile longer, it’s easy to follow, fast, and takes you right to the cabin.
Breckenridge, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 3.4-5.5 miles
Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is a popular year-round destination for a host of outdoor enthusiasts that include hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, ATV/motorcyclists, snowmobilers, and skiers/shoers. Crowded by Colorado standards in the summer, Hartman Rocks is a lot quieter and less crowded in the snowy winter months. Located just a few miles and a few minutes outside of Gunnison, it consists of 160 acres at the base area managed by the City and County of Gunnison as well as an adjacent 8,000 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Gunnison, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 11
Janet’s Cabin is one of the area’s most popular huts, partly because its trailhead is conveniently located close to the Denver metro area at Copper Mountain Resort. Nestled in the trees near the head of Guller Creek along the Colorado Trail, the cabin was built in 1990 and is a memorial to Janet Boyd Tyler, a Vail resident who was active in Colorado skiing for many years before she died of cancer in 1988. This area was also a favorite training ground for the 10th Mountain Division, elite ski troops during World War II.
Copper Mountain, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 7.6-9.2 miles
The Keystone area has over 16 miles of groomed trails and an additional 31 miles of backcountry trails, mostly on old mining roads. The Keystone Gulch Trail is a fun route because it runs up alongside the southwest boundary of the ski area and is convenient for alpine skiers who want to try cross-country touring or snowshoeing for a different adventure. The only snowmobiles you’ll see belong to employees of the resort who are using Keystone Gulch Road as a service road. The trail climbs gradually and only becomes too steep for the novice toward the end, where it is recommended for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowshoers. Many skiers or snowshoers stop before the big ascent begins and head back about 5 miles from the trailhead.
Keystone, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 15
A short trail but steep enough to provide a challenging uphill hike to the lake, and then a great downhill run back to the trailhead. Rental costs are reasonable and cover the overnight stay for your entire group. Both the cabin and the hut are well stocked and about all you need to bring is bedding, food, and drinks. A wood-burning stove supplies heat. No dogs are allowed in the winter, as you have to use snowmelt for water. The Nokhu Hut, named after the Nokhu Crags to the east of the hut, can accommodate up to six people for an overnight stay.
Fort Collins, CO - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 7
This is a popular trail for Nordic skiers and snowshoers in the Dillon and Silverthorne area. Because it enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, no mechanized vehicles or snowmobiles are allowed. Ideal for beginners, the trail is pleasant for even the most inexperienced skier and snowshoer. The Lily Pad Lake Trail is short, has the gentlest of grades, and meanders through meadows and in and out of stands of spruce and aspen to wind up at the pristine, frozen lake. Lily Pad Lake is ideal for picnicking and picture taking. Surrounded by beaver ponds, the area was a favorite of fur trappers in the early 1800s. Gold was reported to the north in the Salt Lick Gulch area by a pioneer who told everyone that he had found “gold dust” in the mouth of a deer he had just shot for food. When the word got around, hordes of miners arrived, and the Salt Lick Gulch area became an important mining center. Like so many of the reported “get-rich-quick” mining areas, those who came and mined the Salt Lick went home licking their financial wounds. Today the area is a novice skier and snowshoer’s paradise.
Silverthorne, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 3
Located in the spectacularly rugged Elk Mountains, the trails stemming from the Aspen area enter into remote and difficult terrain where skills of route finding and avalanche safety and intermediate skiing ability are a must. The trail to Lindley Hut is technically one of the easier trails in this area. The first half of the route is relatively flat and well marked to avoid dangerous avalanche chutes. The second half of the trail follows a road offering a climb that snowshoers will enjoy and skiers will have to work at. The trail leaves the road sometime during the second half and some route finding will be necessary. Lindley Hut is actually the largest in the Alfred Braun Hut System and can accommodate up to fourteen people. Like most huts it offers a wood-burning stove for heat. Water is obtained by melting snow. During the summer of 2002, the hut was remodeled and new sleeping, cooking, and latrine facilities were added. Because the area is so isolated and skiers or snowshoers can easily trigger avalanches, a minimum of eight people are required to reserve the hut overnight for safety reasons. Surface quality: Ungroomed but sometimes tracked by skiers or snowshoers. Avalanche danger: Extreme potential for avalanches exists along the trail.
Aspen, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 8