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Snowshoeing Epic Rocky Mountain National Park for all Ages

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park is epic!

It’s a great outdoor activity for all ages because “if you can walk, you can snowshoe”!

  • Snowshoeing with Kids
  • Bear Lake Snowshoe Trails
  • What to Wear and Bring

Are you tired of carrying your kids ski gear and waiting in line for a ski lift?  Tired of the resort crowds and the $25 hotdogs?   It’s time to try snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

While snowshoeing may still be a sleeper-sport, it is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and can be enjoyed by just about anyone.  If you can walk, you can snowshoe!

Snowshoeing with Kids

A great idea for a winter outing with the kids is to take them snowshoeing in RMNP.  Here are 8 tips to get the family ready:

1)  Make sure you have all the necessary clothing and equipment for the kids – hats, mittens, snowsuits and protective gear for the eyes (sunglasses or goggles), as well as waterproof hiking shoes or winter boots and sunscreen.

2)  Prepare snacks and water so there are no “hungrys” to complain about.

3) If you need to rent snowshoes, head to Estes Park Mountain Shop or The Warming House in Estes Park.  Be sure to have winter boots that are not too big for the snowshoes (some Sorel boots and other  big winter boots don’t fit well into the kid’s snowshoes).

4) Bring poles — they help with balance if the snow surface is tracked and uneven.

5) Click on this link for a great list of winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The easy hikes are all ones that kids can do.  The list shows you what area of the park the hike is in and its difficulty level.

6) Check the weather report for RMNP and plan on going on a nice, sunny day.  Pay attention to the level of wind, as well.  If you’re going on a day when there is lots of wind, pick a hike that’s protected from the wind (for example, a forest hike instead of a lake hike).   My family picked the hike “The Pool in Winter” which begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead.  It’s nicely protected from the wind and quite easy for the kids.

7)  If your kids are small or might get tired, bring along a sled and pull them behind you.

8) Bring a camera to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery and wildlife that you’re sure to see.

Now that you’re prepared for a great snowshoeing trip with the kids go have fun!!

Bear Lake Snowshoeing

Destinations for all ability levels

Bear Lake Snowshoe Trails

Easier destination :  Nymph Lake

Go to the Bear Lake Parking Area.  Be sure to put your snowshoes on at the shelter.  If it’s a windy day, don’t be deterred.  As soon as you get going and get into the trees the world will be a wonderful place.

Just beyond the shelter and kiosk, take the Emerald Lake Trail 1/2 mile to little Nymph Lake.  On arrival, look to the right.  At the other end of the lake you’ll see a trail marker.  To the right of that marker is a fire trail which will take you back to Bear Lake where you can exit back to the parking lot or make a trip around Bear Lake.

Harder Destination :  Dream Lake and Emerald Lake

Follow the directions above to Nymph Lake.  At the lake you have two choices.  The winter route turns left into the trees and eventually climbs steeply up to Dream Lake.  Follow the tracks.  Or, you can go right to a marker where you’ll see the main trail to the left that continues from Nymph to Dream Lake.  It’s fun to take the winter trail up and the main trail down.

At Dream Lake, continue across the lake or to the right of the lake and pick up the track that heads up higher to Emerald Lake.

Bear Lake is a fun, relatively high altitude area with several beautiful destinations in a short distance, and a big trailhead parking area.  You’ll really feel like you’re “in” the mountains.

The Park road to the Lake is plowed in winter, but be sure to check on road and weather conditions before heading up.

Remember, snowshoeing is more difficult than hiking.  An easy hiking trip is a moderate snowshoe trip.

We highly recommend a guided trip.  Going with a guide enables you to snowshoe off-trail on the way down which is the best of what snowshoeing has to offer.  You’ll be hooked.


What to Wear & Bring

  • Wear layers that you can add or subtract.  Be sure to bring a windproof, waterproof pant and jacket for an outer layer.   Cotton doesn’t work well because once it gets wet, it stays wet and doesn’t insulate.  Wool or synthetics are much better because they insulate even when wet.
  • Once you start heading uphill, too many layers will make you too hot and sweaty.  Under layers that are breathable allow heat and moisture to escape and keep you dry.
  • A down or synthetic down sweater is a great layer to put on when you stop for a break so that you don’t cool off too much
  • Be sure to have warm gloves, a hat, sunglasses, and warm socks.  A neck gaiter can be pulled up over your chin to keep snow out and your neck warm.
  • Bring a thermos of hot chocolate, sweet tea or coffee, water bottle, and something yummy for high energy snacks.  If you’ll be out all day, pack a lunch to enjoy along the trail.
  • Sandwiches in plastic bags tend to get squashed in your pack, but if double-bagged with a cardboard layer on each side, the sandwich will be protected.  Insulate your water bottle so it doesn’t freeze.
  • Be really prepared  – add these things to your day pack.  They don’t weigh much and could prove very handy in an emergency:   a topo map and compass, a small flashlight or headlamp, a space blanket, a first-aid kit for blisters & cuts, and a Swiss Army knife.



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