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Jonathan Stull | 02.21.2018

There’s no excuse in Colorado to slack off during the winter—this state is for the four-season outdoorsmen and women. Denver is, of course, sitting at the doorstep of prime backcountry snowshoeing terrain, and these are some of the best trails to seek within an hour and a half of city limits. There are plenty of options for all: short and flat family-friendly trails, landmarks for history buffs, leg burners for those who want a challenge, and always the beauty of the Rocky Mountain backcountry.

  • Crater Lakes: Beginning at the Moffat Tunnel, itself a feat of modern engineering, the snowshoe to Crater Lakes is a relatively manageable 6 miles with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain. The 20-century history is a plus, and the secluded alpine lakes are the prize.
  • Sallie Barber Mine: Accessible after a short 3 miles on level terrain, the snowshoe to Sallie Barber Mine is a great option for families. Wide-open views abound, and much of the old mining site remains in place for curious exploration.
  • Dillon Nature Preserve: Well known and often traveled, the Dillon Nature Preserve remains an ideal location for winter retreats because of its easy access from Denver and mellow difficulty. Clear days offer amazing views of the Tenmile Range, including Buffalo Mountain. While here, be sure to make a short trip to Sapphire Point, which clocks in at under a mile and offers higher, more open views than those at Dillon.
  • Loch Vale: Tucked in Rocky Mountain National Park, Loch Vale offers a winter challenge to avid snowshoers. Being at 10,000 feet, the elements are the biggest foe, but the frozen lakes and snowcapped mountains here are otherworldly—and largely alone in the dead of winter.
  • Squaw Mountain: A relatively short and steady ascent offers views of both Pikes Peak and Longs Peak, and perched near the summit is a reservable shelter for overnight reservations. Micro-spikes would be a good backup option here; snow can be deep enough for snowshoes, but it thins in certain areas of the trail.
  • Buffalo Mountain: Perhaps the most challenging snowshoe on this list, the loop at Buffalo Mountain covers 13 miles of terrain and more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The option to Lily Pad Lake is more mellow, but those seeking a workout will be rewarded with beauty and backcountry.
  • Mount Royal: With a vertiginous summit, Mount Royal is a busy hike with an adrenal payoff: a steep drop-off on its north side to striking views of the valley and interstate below. Because it’s easily accessed, expect it to be busy.


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