The yellow aspen leaves have fallen and the the snowflakes will be next, hopefully. Winter hiking can be magical, but also dangerous.
Are you prepared for winter hiking and snowshoeing in Colorado?
Hiking in the winter is different. You MUST be prepared and it isn't something to take lightly because the conditions can change in a moment in the mountains. Make sure you have the Ten Essentials in your pack and all the layers you need. Double check that you have gloves and a hat with you! I often have two pairs of gloves for winter hiking: a pair of thin glove liners for chilly mornings or when the wind kicks up and a pair of thicker, waterproof mittens for truly cold and snowy days. Hats are small and easy to bring along. I have a wool headband for days when my ears are cold but I don't need a full hat and a hat with a brim and earflaps for when the snow and wind are blowing all around you.
Don't let this happen to you:
YOU NEED TRACTION & POLES!
Really, you do. I carry traction in my backpack almost year-round because it can snow in the mountains at any time. Even when it is 60 degrees out, the trail can be in the shade and have a layer of ice that can be treacherous.
Kahtoola spikes are fantastic. Join a hiking group on social media and when people ask "what kind of traction device should I buy?" everyone recommends the Kahtoola spikes. . They are lightweight, easy to put on (important if you are somewhere icy!) and offer great stability. Pair that with poles and you are in business. They usually cost $70 and I think they are worth every penny, but keep an eye out for a 20% off coupon at REI to save some cash.
Where to go?
Here are some good places to try winter hiking and snowshoeing:
1. First time on snowshoes? Try Echo Lake! Stunning views and a nice easy place to get comfortable on your snowshoes.
2. Mayflower Gulch is a great hike not far from Copper Mountain Ski resort. I have spent the morning hiking here after dropping off my kids to ski at Copper.
3. Emerald Lake via Dream Lake in RMNP is a must-do if you are near Estes Park. It gets packed down quickly so you probably don't need snow shoes unless you are the first one out in the morning after a fresh snow.
4. Roxborough State Park has some great trails that can be hot in the summer, but after a snowfall the trails are stunning with the snow contrasting with the red rocks.
5. Maxwell Falls in Evergreen is a fun spot for a short hike and try out your traction devices. The lower loop trail gets icy, but the main reason for spikes is to walk directly out on the frozen waterfall (when safe to do so!)
6. Heading out solo? Try a Colorado State park. They tend to have more hikers on the trails and really well-marked trails. Staunton State Park posts trail updates so you know which trails are icy or clear. Golden Gate Canyon State Park has lots of trails to choose from and with trail markers placed close together, you won't lose your way.