The Color of Winter

Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and many other mammals remain active in the park through the winter, covered in dense winter coats. Hardy birds stay north for the season, ranging in color from that of winter (the ptarmigan), to that of night (the raven), to a combination that includes both those hues and more (the magpie).

For some active residents of this park, winter is the time to don a coat of splendid white. The short-tailed weasel, also known as the ermine, becomes beautifully white in winter, save for its shiny dark eyes and black tip of tail. The ptarmigan changes from a mottled gray-brown in summer (the color of tundra), to the color of snow in winter. The snowshoe hare also turns mostly white. Some suggestions for places to look for these beautiful wild creatures are:

  • Ptarmigan: Trail Ridge Road, walking beyond the winter gate at Rainbow Curve.
  • Snowshoes hares: Trails leading out of Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge.
  • Ravens and magpies: Anywhere there is open ground and vegetation; they are both abundant.
  • Ermines: This will require much luck. Sometimes seen in the vicinity of lower lakes (Lily, Sprague).

Last updated: March 31, 2012

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

Contact Us