Winter brings deep snows to Rocky Mountain National Park west of the Continental Divide, so you’ll find great snowmobiling and cross country skiing near Grand Lake. But the lighter snowfall on the east (Estes Park) side of the park often leaves low elevation trails open for hiking. Trails below 8,700 feet (2,700 m) make great winter hikes, sometimes without the aid of skis or snow shoes.
The top ten trails listed below are great hikes for winter visitors.
1) The Pool (5 mi.; 200 ft elevation gain)
2) Chasm Falls (5 mi.; 400 ft elevation gain)
3) Deer Mountain (6 mi.; 1075 ft elevation gain)
4) Gem Lake (3.2 mi.; 1000 ft elevation gain)
5) Lily Lake (1 mi.; flat)
6) Upper Beaver Meadows (3 mi.; 140 ft elevation gain)
7) Sprague Lake (.5 mi.; flat)
8) Dream Lake (good snow shoe tour – 2.2 miles to 9,900 ft; 425 ft elevation gain)
9) Cub Lake (snow shoes may be needed the last mile or so – 4.6 mi.; 540 ft elevation gain)
10) Bierstadt Lake (good show shoe tour – 4.6 miles; 566 ft elevation gain)
Trail Tips: Even for short day tours, be sure to pack gear for all types of weather (sun, snow, wind), as well as water and high energy food. The weather changes fast, and strong winds are quite common. It is essential to wear or carry windproof clothing.
Avoid hiking in deep snow. You’ll get tired fast as well as creating hazardous holes for skiers and snowshoers who follow. When conditions are icy, use crampons or ski poles for extra safety.
December (and the late November) is Big Horn Sheep rut time around Estes Park. Like most other hooved wildlife, the rut season can be very exciting to observe. Generally, the most exciting thing to watch is surprisingly not the largest males. It's the medium sized guys (the ones who don't get the girl) that provide the best show. These poor losers have a lot of extra time on their hands, and a lot of extra testosterone! So, they often take out their hormone driven aggresion on each other by smashing their heads together. To see and hear the crash of two of these horned beasts is just as good as 4th of July fireworks.
Guest Blogger: Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding. Find out about the many guided tours offered by Yellow Wood Guiding here.