Squaw Mountain is one of the more accessible Front Range summits by in the winter, and it is a good choice for both snowshoes and cross-country skis. Because this hike begins above 10,500 feet, altitude can make this hike moderately challenging. Start out directly on Forest Service Road 192.1 and follow the wide, unplowed four-wheel drive road. If the sky is clear you'll be able to see James Peak, the Indian Peaks, and Longs Peak. After approximately a third of a mile you’ll pass Old Squaw Pass Road (Forest Service 252.1D), another recreational trail.
Keep going straight, continuing your steady ascent. The trail heads southeast with a few curves before a series of four fairly long switchbacks take you to your final approach. As the view clears up on the right, Chief Mountain and Papoose Mountain, both over 11,000 feet, will be in view. At the top there are a surprising number of telecommunication towers and auxiliary buildings. A quick climb further up a mound of lichen-encrusted granite takes you to the Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout, a 1940s Civilian Conservation Corps-built structure with tall windows on all sides. It can be reserved in advance, and it has typical amenities such as an electric stove, heat source, beds, refrigerator, and cookware. Note that guests must provide their own drinking water. A string leads you down to the outhouse during in storms.
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.