10 Best Winter Hikes in Colorado

Don’t let the winter deter you from getting out on the trails this year! There are so many benefits to winter hiking, including the pure bliss you experience on the snow dusted trails, getting way more bang for your buck on cardio, encountering significantly less traffic on the trails, and so much more! Be sure to bring the right gear to keep yourself warm and safe—especially when going up in elevation—check weather conditions the day of and bring plenty of food and water just like you would any other outing. Winter hiking allows you to view the trails with a fresh lens and experience hiking in a new and beautiful way.

Add some of these local status winter hikes to your bucket list… we promise they will not disappoint! 

1) Maroon Bells Scenic Loop

Located near Aspen, CO. this winter wonderland hike features stunning wine-colored peaks, a reflective lake, and a forest of aspen trees that can suck you in for miles. Because of these awe-inspiring views, this loop is heavily trafficked in the summer, but much more mellow in the winter. The trail is nearly flat and is wheelchair accessible in some areas. If you enjoy this scenic loop, you can continue on and explore more trails including the popular Four Pass Loop and Conundrum Trail and hot springs. Though, if you are looking for a winter hike that is more challenging or off the beaten path, continue reading to see some of our longer hiking expeditions!

Trail Summary

Where: Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, Snowmass Village, CO.

Distance: 1.9 miles.

Elevation gain: 160 ft.

Route type: Loop.

Entry fee: None.

In the summer and sometimes spring, you do need to get a permit if accessing by vehicle. 

There is also a shuttle that you can book, with more information here.

Dog friendly: No.

Known for: Iconic wine colored, bell shaped peaks towering 14,000 feet over a crystal clear lake.

Route map: You can find the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop on a map here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

NOTE: Independent pass is weather dependent! In the winter the road can close and be converted into a cross-country ski trail making the trek 12 miles round trip. 

2) Dream lake

This hike is a literal dream! Located in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, Dream Lake offers stunning views of Hallett Peak and a pristine lake to reflect the park’s many colors. When frozen, you’ll find plenty of footprints and snowshoe tracks creating their own paths across the lake. A common route is to link this up with Bear Lake and Emerald Lake to make for an epic day of alpine hiking. In the winter, many would encourage bringing micro-spikes as it can get icy in some areas, or snowshoes to wander a little further. It can also get very windy very quickly, so be sure to bring layers and face protection. 

Best winter hikes in Colorado - Dream Lake

Trail Summary

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, CO.

Distance: 2.0 miles.

Elevation gain: 426 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: $25 per vehicle, or annual pass.

Dog friendly: No.

Known for: High alpine lake along with being the most photographed place in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can also link up to Emerald lake for a longer route, passing by three lakes total!

Route map:  You can find the map for Dream Lake here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

3) St. Mary’s Glacier

While St. Mary’s glacier isn’t technically a glacier, it surely makes for a stunning hike. The semi-permanent snowfield may be known for its impeccable views hiking, but you can also go cross-country skiing or fishing in the beautiful alpine lake near the glacier. Depending on the snowpack and time of year, you will need spikes or snowshoes to go past the lake to get to the glacier. 

Trail Summary

Where: Arapaho National Forest, near Idaho Springs, CO.

Distance: 2.4 miles.

Elevation gain: 1,030 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: $5 parking.

Dog friendly: Yes (must be kept on leash).

Known for: Semi-permanent snowfield and Saint Mary’s lake. This is the perfect winter hike if you are looking for a quick day trip.

Route map:  You can find the map for St. Mary’s Glacier here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

4) Bear Lake Trail and Emerald Lake

A beloved trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, you will always find company when trekking out to these lakes. Most of the time the trail is packed down from other users so you can get away with just having spikes, but snowshoes could be useful if you feel like venturing off. Linking up these lakes is a great way to spend the weekend with the family. If you have younger children, consider hiking Dream Lake for a slightly shorter route without compromising the striking views. 

Trail Summary

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, CO.

Distance: 3.8 miles.

Elevation gain: 734 ft.

Route type: Loop.

Entry fee: $25 per vehicle.

Dog friendly: No.

Known for: Linking up scenic lakes–walking over the lakes when they are frozen.

Route map:  You can find the Bear Lake and Emerald Lake trails mapped out here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

5) Shrine Ridge

This packed down out and back near Red Cliff, CO. is the perfect destination for a winter weekend getaway. You can extend your trip by staying in one of the three huts that Shrine Mountain Inn provides and explore all sorts of trails that overlook the Gore Range. After your chilly hike, you can warm up in the sauna that is located between the three cabins—the perfect weekend getaway! Snow can get quite deep the higher up you go, so snowshoes may be necessary. Shrine Ride is a great destination for large groups. 

Trail Summary

Where: White River National Forest, up on Vail pass.

Distance: 4.3 miles.

Elevation gain: 1,030 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Free.

Dog friendly: Yes (must be kept on leash).

Known for: Being one of the most popular trails in the Sawatch Range with impeccable views of the Gore Range. Shrine Ridge is also known for the three cabins (Jay’s, Chuck’s, Walter’s) that sleep a total of 36 people–quite the mountain party!

Route map:  The map for the Shrine Ridge Trail can be found here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

NOTE: Be sure to check here for seasonal road closures.  

6) Carpenter Peak Trail

Carpenter Peak is the highest point in Roxborough State Park and offers stunning views of the red geometric rock formations and 360-degree views. You’ll surely get a workout in with the steady climb up to 7,166 ft. but the contrast of the white snow against these clay-colored rocks is a sight worth seeing. Spikes are recommended in the winter and early melting seasons as it can be icy and muddy in some areas.

Trail Summary

Where: Roxborough State Park, near Louviers, CO.

Distance: 6.3 miles.

Elevation gain: 1,059 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Day pass is typically $9-11 per vehicle, or there is an annual pass.

You can check here for current park rates.

Dog friendly: No.

Known for: Beautiful contrast between the red rocks and iridescent snow.

Route map:  The Carpenter Peak Trail can be found here

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

7) Quandary peak

One of Colorado’s many 14ers, Quandary Peak offers a challenging 3,000+ ft climb and rocky switch backs submerged in stunning landscape–this along with the views are a well earned reward for those willing to tackle it. Considering that it is a popular trail, following the packed down snow path in the winter seems to be no problem for those pursuing the peak. Keep your eyes peeled, because you will surely run into a mountain goat as they are constantly grazing over this summit. 

Trail Summary

Where: White River National Forest, just south of Breckenridge, CO.

Distance: 6.6 miles.

Elevation gain: 3,326 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Reservation parking at trailhead only. There is also an option to take the shuttle.

Dog friendly: Yes (must be kept on leash).

Known for: Only 14er in the Tenmile Range, so it is a very popular hike. A great introduction to 14ers–meaning it is one of the easier, less technical trails to do in Colorado. But beware, Quandary will surely get you hooked on tackling all 58 of the 14ers!

Route map:  The Quandary Peak trail can be found here.

Driving directions:  Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

8) Mt. Sniktau and Grizzly Peak Traverse

This trail provides the solitude that you have been craving. The Mt. Sniktau and Grizzly Peak Traverse is considered to be harder than the previously discussed trails given its vertical gain and longer distance. The views are worth the effort as you look out and see a strong contrast between the mountain tops and the deep blue skies. If you are looking for a view that practically looks like a painting, I would recommend hiking this at sunrise—you’ll encounter colors that feel so warm and peaceful. Though, a word of caution, it can get extremely windy on this ridge. So make sure to check the weather before setting out and bring the appropriate gear for if you do run into some gusts. 

Trail summary

Where: Arapaho National Forest, near Montezuma, CO.

Distance: 7.2 miles.

Elevation gain: 3,248 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Free.

Dog friendly: No.

Known for: One of Colorado’s best 13ers to hike, great experience for winter mountain summits. Grizzly Peak is an optional add on, otherwise you can just do Mt. Sniktau (3.5 miles, 1,532 ft) for something a little bit shorter but equally as rewarding. Though, in my opinion, the views are worth the extra effort.

Route map: You can find the Mt. Sniktau and the Grizzly Peak traverse trail here.

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

NOTE: This trail is subject to seasonal closures, check here for updates.  

9) Herman Gultch

Herman Gulch is considered to be a moderate hike that features a small alpine lake and over seven miles of winter wonderland hiking views. With Mt. Bethel on one side and Mt. Machebeuf on the other, you’ll feel infatuated by the 12,000+ ft peaks. While snowshoeing is popular on this trail, you can also expect to run into some cross-country skiers, horses, and fat bikes. This is a great day hike as it is only an hour west of Denver and allows you to see a small section of the Continental Divide.  

Trail Summary

Where: Arapaho National Forest, Silver Plume, CO.

Distance: 7.2 miles.

Elevation gain: 1,774 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Free.

Dog friendly: Yes (must be kept on leash).

Known for: The majority of the hike is above tree line and you get views of Pettingell Peak towering over the lake. You also get a brief look at the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

Route map:  Herman Gultch trail can be found here

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

10) Bergen peak

This trailhead is located in Evergreen, CO. and is great for all hiking distances. You can make it longer by tagging Bergen peak and connecting to Elk Meadows loop. Conversely, you can shorten your stride by opting for one of the trails in Elk Meadow, or just tagging the peak—the options are endless! If you need something to warm you up after this longer winter hike, this trail is conveniently located near a fantastic coffee roaster named Bivouac Coffee Co. 

Trail Summary

Where: Elk meadow park in Evergreen, CO.

Distance: 10.3 miles.

Elevation gain: 2,227 ft.

Route type: Out and back.

Entry fee: Free.

Dog friendly: Yes (must be kept on leash).

Known for: As the park name suggests, you can expect to see herds of elk grazing in the meadow. While there are also quite a few fat bikes moving through the trail, this is a popular snowshoeing and running trail in the winter.

Route map:  Bergen Peak trail can be found here, along with Elk Meadow Open Space Park for more trail variations. 

Driving directions: Directions from Denver can be found here—though you can adjust your starting point. 

Winter hiking tends to get a bad rep for the cold and muddy conditions, but it grants you a whole new perspective on both seasoned and new trails. It also adds another element of beauty by laying blankets of snow and enhancing the trails overlooked features. There is also the bonus of less traffic and more time to be in a meditative headspace! As always, make sure you dress appropriately to stay warm and check weather and avalanche conditions in the area. You can find some outfit inspiration here to keep you warm and stylish this winter. Additionally, check out some more of our tips and tricks for hiking in the snow!

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