Winter is a spectacular time to visit the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park. With a little bit of preparation, many exciting activities await you. Be sure to layer up with insulating, waterproof clothing, wear sunglasses, use sunscreen and carry water.
Snowshoeing Ever thought how fun it would be to hike in the winter, but there's all that snow? Consider snowshoeing! It's as easy as strapping snowshoes on your boots and grabbing a couple of poles. No training is necessary and if you can hike, you can snowshoe. Most park trails can be explored with snowshoes. A few pieces of equipment are essential: you will need a pair of snowshoes and waterproof boots. Poles are helpful for maintaining balance, but optional. Waterproof pants or gaiters help keep you warm and dry.
Cross-country Skiing Picture yourself gliding through a silent forest full of fresh, white snow. Cross-country skiing is a rejuvenating sport that pairs physical exercise with the beauty of nature. You will need skis and poles with large baskets. Waterproof pants or gaiters help keep you warm and dry. In general, terrain and deeper snows on the west side of the park make for better for cross-country skiing, but you are welcome to strap on your skis throughout the park.
Sledding Hidden Valley is the one place in Rocky where sledding is allowed. No tows are provided, and you must provide your own plastic sled, saucer, or tube (if you don't bring your own they may be rented in Estes Park at most any outdoor shop). You walk your sled/saucer/tube up the hill and slide down. It's a pretty gentle hill, being the bottom of the bunny slope of the former Hidden Valley Ski Area. Skiers, snow boarders, and snowshoers may pass but must use caution around sledders, and slow down to yield the right-of-way. A restroom (flush/running water) is at the bottom of the hill by the parking lot. On most weekends when there's an attendant, a warming room is also available. Winter winds can scour the area, causing conditions to vary, so call the park Information Office for the latest information, 970-586-1206.
Snowshoe or Ski with a Ranger Check theFree Ranger-Led Programs for snowshoe and cross-country ski opportunities with a ranger; reservations are required.On the East side of the park Beginning Snowshoe walks are offered each Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday from January through March, depending on conditions. On the West side of the park, Beginning and Intermediate Snowshoe walks are offered along with a "Ski the Wilderness in Winter."
What if I don't have my own equipment?
The communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake have shops where winter recreation equipment, including snowshoes, cross-country skis, poles, boots, sleds, tubes, saucers, gaiters, stabilizers can be rented or purchased. For renting equipment in Estes Park see the Visit Estes Park website. For rentals in Grand Lake and the surrounding area, see the Visit Grand County website.
Wildlife Watching Many park roads are open in winter to provide access to the wintry world park wildlife call home. Winter is an especially good time to look for elk, mule deer, moose, and other large mammals. Look for moose along the Colorado River on the park's west side. Elk and mule deer are most active at dusk and dawn, and are usually seen in meadow areas. Look for bighorn sheep along the Highway 34/Fall River corridor on the park's east side. Coyotes may be seen any time of day. Members of the Jay family, including Steller's jays, with their striking blue bodies and crested heads, gray jays, Clark's nutcrackers, and the iridescent, long-tailed black-billed magpies are commonly seen in the park.