Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding is today's guest blogger:
February is generally the dead of winter in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it can also be one of the most beautiful and captivating times of the year. The thought of an icy landscape, bare branches, and howling winds conjures up images of stagnancy and hibernation – though this time of year is more alive than one would think if you are willing to look closely! Even the ice on Rocky’s subalpine lakes that we think of as a frozen solid is moving and shifting as it constantly freezes and refreezes while the temperature fluctuates and the wind blows. The sights of the undulating ripples of ice can transport you into another world…that is until a 30 mph gust of wind jolts you back to reality! Even the rivers come alive with the ice. Imagine walking down the river beds as they wind through the Park’s meadows, catching glimpses of a coyote against the snowy back-drop, and following the tracks of an elk as he uses the river bed as an easy winter route to travel.
If you're more of an armchair adventurer, you can even enjoy some of these wintry sights from the warmth of your car: just drive into Rocky Mountain National Park on Bear Lake Road.
For help planning your Rocky Mountain National Park adventure (information on renting snowshoes, places to stay, and other winter activities in Estes Park) visit: Estes-Park.com.
For many visitors, winter is their favorite season to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Beautiful backcountry areas can be reached on snowshoes, skis, and at lower elevations - even with hiking boots! Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife remain active through the winter. Their story is told by the tracks left in the snow. For those visitors who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the park.
Snowshoeing and skiing are fun ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. This winter, join a park ranger on a wintry excursion! Rocky Mountain National Park offers ranger-led snowshoe ecology walks for beginner level snowshoers on the east side, and for beginner and intermediate level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. No additional fees are charged to participate, however reservations are required.
Snowshoeing is easy to learn and opens up a new way to see the beauty of nature during its quietest season. For beginners, the snowshoe program is a two-hour exploration of the natural world of the subalpine forest. No previous snowshoe experience is required. On the east side, this walk is held on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. through March 27. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. through March 19. Beginning on February 5, an additional west side tour will be offered at 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays.
For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour snowshoe walk is offered on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. through March 13 on the west side of the park. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.
Ranger-led cross country ski tours are offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. through January 29. Participants ski a snow-draped landscape and learn about the Kawuneeche Valley. All snowshoe walks and ski tours require reservations. Reservations can be made in advance, seven days or less prior to the desired program. Participants must furnish their own equipment, including poles with baskets, and be at least 8 years old. To make reservations for east side snowshoe walks, call the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center at (970) 586-1223 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.
Frontcountry and backcountry camping take place in the winter too! Longs Peak Campground, Timber Creek Campground and designated sections of Moraine Park Campground are open all winter; the fee is $14 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter at the campgrounds. Self-registration permits for backcountry camping in winter zones are available. There is no charge in the winter for backcountry camping.
Sledding activities can be enjoyed in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Hidden Valley area. Hidden Valley slopes have been contoured to enhance the safety of sledding and other snowplay activities. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut, which is open weekends, and heated restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for visitors interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.
Podcasts on Winter Recreation and Introduction to Snowshoeing can be found on the park website at, http://www.nps.gov/romo/photosmultimedia/roaming_rocky.htm Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions, check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website at http://avalanche.state.co.us/
Whenever visiting Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe, ski or hike, stop by a park visitor center or call (970) 586-1206 for current trail, road, snow and avalanche conditions. Come enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter!