Colorado’s mountain resorts aren’t the only places to go the morning after a snowstorm. Deep snow can make running and hiking difficult, but strap on a pair snowshoes, and you’ll be able to explore the Centennial State’s best trails with much less effort. Colorado’s wide selection of national forests, parks, and other protected natural areas makes it easy to find quality areas for snowshoeing.

Before you go out, though, you should learn the basics about avalanches and avalanche terrain. Avalanches are most associated with skiing and snowboarding, but the truth is, they are a potential danger every time you head out into snow-covered country. Check out AMGA Certified Ski Guide Nick D’Alessio’s avalanche advice here, for more information on how to stay safe.

Here are five of the best trails for snowshoeing in Colorado in order of difficulty:

1. Emerald Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park

emerald lake trail winter

Posted by Colti Webb on AllTrails


Distance: 3.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 708 feet

Route: Out and back

We start this list off with the easiest and more widely used trail. Taking the Bear Lake trailhead to Emerald Lake, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, is one of the most rewarding hikes to do during every season. Along the route, you’ll pass the pristine Nymph and Dream Lakes, ending at the spectacular Emerald Lake set below towering mountain peaks at an altitude of more than 9,500 feet.

This Colorado trail is about 3 miles long out and back with very little gain in elevation, making it one of the easiest trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail’s signs, however, do tend to get covered with snow, so follow tracks from previous hikers carefully. As the snow is usually packed down from foot traffic, you will be able to complete most of the trail in microspikes, but may need to switch to snowshoes. This is a perfect snowshoeing trail for beginners in Colorado or those looking for an easy and rewarding way to enjoy the state’s wilderness in winter.

2. Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail, Uncompahgre National Forest

Jud Wiebe Trail winter

Distance: 3.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,213 feet

Route: Loop

With the trailhead located in the heart of Telluride in Uncompahgre National Forest, Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail is somewhat of a rite of passage for locals, but it is also a state favorite. The trail is a relatively short three-mile loop gaining a little over 1,200 feet in elevation located on the “sunny side” of the town. Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail is considered moderately difficult because almost all of the elevation gain happens in less than a mile.

This trail is often considered an amalgamation of everything hiking in Telluride has to offer. You’ll trek through a dense forest, cross frozen Cornet Creek, and be rewarded with stunning views of Telluride and the surrounding mountains from the trail’s summit at about 10,000 feet. On the way down, you’ll cross the creek again with the option of taking a quarter-mile detour to the frozen 80-foot-tall Cornet Creek Falls.

3. Three Sisters Trail, Alderfer/Three Sisters Park

alderfer/three sisters trail winter
Posted by Olivia Lehman on AllTrails


Distance: 6.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

Route: Loop

Located in Evergreen, the Three Sisters Trail is a 6.7 mile loop around the famous rock formations known as the Three Sisters. The trail doesn’t stay at one elevation very long, transitioning from hills to valleys, snaking through dense forest, large boulders, and wide open meadows.

This trail is frequented quite often, even in winter, so the snow on the trails will be mostly packed down, but the sheer number of trails in the area can make it confusing to navigate. Make sure to purchase a Three Sisters Trail Map before heading out. You may also want to pack spikes to switch to as the trail can get icy in areas.

4. Royal Arch Trail, Chautauqua Park

royal arch trail winter
Posted by Matt Lynch on AllTrails


Distance: 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,377 feet

Route: Out and back

This trail marks the beginning of the difficult trails in this guide. Located within the Chautauqua area of Boulder County’s Open Space and Mountain Parks, the Royal Arch Trail is known for its beautiful scenery and the beautiful Royal Arch rock formation. While this trail is only three miles long, the constant changes in elevation are what make it challenging.

Royal Arch Trail takes you through Bluebell Canyon, descending at first before starting to climb towards the famous arch. The ascent includes plenty of stairs, which are often points of high congestion along the trail. The winter weather may thin out the crowd a bit, but this is still one of the most popular hikes in Colorado,  so it is best to hike it in off-peak times like the early morning or weekdays. The view of Boulder and the surrounding areas from Royal Arch is well worth dealing with a little congestion, though.

5. Quandary Peak Trail, White River National Forest

quandary peak trail winter
Posted by Sarah Frost on AllTrails


Distance: 6.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,339 feet

Route: Out and back

The most difficult trail on this list, Quandary Peak Trailhead is located in the White River National Forest just outside of Breckenridge. Quandary Peak is the 13th highest mountain peak in Colorado at 14,265 feet, making it a hike that requires proper preparation. Despite all of this, the trail is heavily trafficked all year long as it is one of the most popular hiking trails in Breckenridge.

This popularity most likely boils down to Quandary Peak being one of the easiest fourteeners, also known as peaks higher than 14,000 feet, to summit. The distance to the summit and the trail’s elevation gain is shorter than many of the other fourteeners in the state. There is also plenty of wildlife to be seen along the trail throughout the year, including mountain goats and raptors. Combined, the wildlife, the views from the summit, and the feeling of accomplishment will make all of your hard work worth it. You’ll want to make sure you have ski poles to accompany your snowshoes for the steeper sections and goggles for above the tree line where the wind can whip snow into your eyes.

Snowshoeing in Colorado is one of the most rewarding ways to get active during the winter. Many of the popular trails have a lull in traffic during these months and a layer of fresh snow adds a wondrous element to the already spectacular scenery. For those that want more of a challenge, check out our article on Colorado’s most underrated ski and snowboard venues.

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