New Year, New Adventures – 5 Colorado State Parks to Explore This Winter
By Lisa Blake
Take your winter wanderlust to these Colorado state parks for snowy solitude.
State Forest State Park near rural Walden serves up 71,000 acres of rugged woodlands dotted by crystal alpine lakes and the jagged peaks of the Medicine Bow and Never Summer mountain ranges. This is the moose capital of Colorado with a year-round population hovering around 600. Take to snow-packed trails for prime wildlife viewing via snowmobile, cross-country skis or snowshoes. Sportsmen and women enjoy pristine hunting grounds and untapped ice-fishing holes and the park hosts full moon hikes on the groomed Gould Loop Trail. Follow moonlight and glow sticks through the forest and make a night of it by booking a cabin, yurt or hut.
Situated near Pagosa Springs and extending 20 miles south into New Mexico, Navajo State Park is known as Colorado’s Lake Powell. The reservoir’s surface totals 15,600 acres, with about 3,000 on the Colorado side, and rarely freezes in winter, allowing for year-round boating and open-water fishing. Quiet winter months mean ample wildlife that include deer, river otter, fox, raccoon, jackrabbit and many others. Keep eyes peeled for majestic bald eagles and take advantage of year-round campsites and three cabins. Some areas of the park allow deer, elk and bird hunting during established seasons.
Mueller State Park sprawls along 5,112 acres outside of Divide, a small town southwest of Colorado Springs. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers enjoy 50 miles of un-crowded and well-marked winter trails. Follow Outlook Ridge for an easy 1.4-mile trek or the Homestead Trail for a 3.3-mile intermediate outing past two scenic ponds. Five designated sledding and tubing hills roll through the park delivering exhilarating downhill and stunning views of Pikes Peak. Winter camping is first-come, first-served and Mueller offers 17 electrical sites along with three modern cabins.
Head to western Colorado’s Vega State Park for a high-alpine lake and gorgeous meadows perched on the edge of the Grand Mesa National Forest. Winter activities run the gamut from snowmobiling to cross-country skiing and birding to hiking. Hundreds of miles of OHV-friendly trails are easily accessed—Vega is one of the few Colorado State Parks with OHV and snowmobile access to Grand Mesa National Forest lands directly from the park. Five cozy cabins are open year-round and sleep six people each.
With proximity to Golden and Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a Front Range winter gem loaded with 36 miles of hiking trails set among dense forest and beautiful aspen stands. Explore 12,000 acres of foothill space ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice fishing and ice skating. Visit Panorama Point Scenic Overlook where you can see 100 miles of the Continental Divide. Stay in one of five cabins and two yurts or rent a guesthouse—Golden Gate is one of the first Colorado State Parks to offer this luxury amenity. Hunting is permitted on the Jefferson County side of the park the Tuesday after Labor Day through the Friday prior to Memorial Day and is limited to 35 hunters per day.