The Dillon Nature Preserve is a family-friendly snowshoe trip or the perfect place for the beginning cross-country skier to learn a new sport on the mostly flat, wide trail to the West Portal of the Roberts Tunnel.
The 23.3-mile Harold D. Roberts tunnel was completed in 1962 after 20 years of construction. It serves as a route to divert water from Dillon Reservoir through the Continental Divide to Denver and its residents. The Denver Water Board even moved the town of Dillon to be able to build the tunnel. The town acquired the peninsula through an annexation with Denver Water in 1996, where it was named the Dillon Nature Preserve.
Despite over a million people annually traveling by the Dillon Nature Preserve on Highway 6 on their way to Keystone Resort just 3 miles down the road, the open space area feels a bit secluded. Begin by parking in the lot off Highway 6, then walk about a third of a mile along the bike path until you reach a gate to enter the preserve out on the peninsula. From here, hikers and skiers can take the scenic trail out to the West Portal, where the expansive mountain views of Tenmile and Gore Ranges take center stage. Retrace your steps to return back to the parking lot, or if snow conditions allow, take either Ridge Trail or Meadow Loop to return back. The two 2-mile trails are often obscured by snow after a storm, so if that’s the case, stick to the main trail. Along the way keep an eye out for fox, deer, squirrels, hawks and osprey. You might even see kiteboarders out on the frozen reservoir!
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.