5 Fantastic Colorado Winter Hikes
Embark on these frozen trails for outstanding mountain views and solid winter workouts.
By Lisa Blake
These five Colorado winter hikes reveal stop-in-your-tracks wonderland scenes.
Shrine Ridge Trail
This moderate out-and-back trail near Vail begins in an open snow-coated meadow at 10,601 feet and climbs through pine forest and red rock formations to arrive at panoramic views along the 11,105-foot ridge. Take in sweeping eyefuls of the Ten Mile Range, Copper Mountain and the Gore Range. Pack cross-country skis or snowshoes to traverse the four-mile round-trip winter path and avoid Shrine Pass Road, which sees heavy snowmobile traffic.
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
This popular 770-acre foothills open space is crisscrossed with easily accessible trails rated easy to moderate. The Three Sisters refers to a trio of landmark rock outcroppings, highlighted by a fourth formation dubbed The Brother. Check the map and choose one of many scenic loop routes. Join hikers and snowshoers along the Bluebird Meadow and Homestead trails and be sure to hit the Brothers Lookout where your summit comes with views of the surrounding valley, Mount Evans and majestic Longs Peak.
Staunton State Park
Colorado’s newest state park (est. 2013) serves up 3,828 acres of winter bliss across granite cliffs, high pristine meadows and weaving aspen stands. The Staunton Ranch Trail is a rewarding, moderate cool-weather hike. Pass historic buildings and wondering wildlife on this 3.3-mile journey. The wide all-season trail serves as the park’s main thoroughfare and delivers superior big-picture views of the surrounding canyon-hugged forestland.
Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the park’s most sought summer trails is transformed into a stunning high-altitude frozen fairytale each winter. Strap on snowshoes and begin at the Bear Lake trailhead for this moderate 3.6-mile round-trip classic Colorado outing. Walk among deer, snowshoe hares and the occasional elk, passing by Nymph Lake and rising to Dream Lake before topping out at 10,110 feet at Emerald Lake. The intense postcard-perfect views are magnified by photo-framing Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Tip: The park also offers ranger-led snowshoe tours and full-moon walks.
Rifle Mountain Park
For an easy but off-the-grid winter hike, head to Rifle Mountain Park 15 miles north of Rifle and seek out the ice caves. A quick 1.4-mile out-and-back trek leads you to an open area of rock where ice covers the front, melting and freezing to form a glorious turquoise-tinted curtain. Visit the Upper and Lower Ice Caves, crossing gurgling mountain streams and enjoy the beauty of this magical secluded canyon during winter.