Snowshoeing in Boulder
There’s a funny thing that happens when you head out into Boulder’s surrounding wilderness on snowshoes. A calm descends on you, a natural reflection of the hushed and sparkling snow-covered landscape that is delightfully less traveled in winter. Plus, there’s the simplicity of the sport. No training is necessary; just strap on some snowshoes and go.
It’s pretty rare for Boulder to get more than a few inches of snow at a time, and even rarer for it to stick around long enough to build up in town, so a lot of our best snowshoeing trails are in the foothills and mountains west of town. Here’s where to experience a soul-reviving trek atop the snow.
Please use caution when driving mountain roads. It's best to download a map before you leave in case you go into areas with no cell coverage. In winter, ensure you have snow tires or chains. And if you need to take a moment to enjoy the scenery or consult your map, pull over in a safe, out-of-the-way spot.
Walker Ranch Open Space
Past the summit of Flagstaff Mountain and in a snowier, higher-elevation microclimate than Boulder, Walker Ranch is often just right for an easy-to-access snowshoeing outing. Choose from the easier out-and-back Meyers Homestead Trail or the challenging (1600 feet of elevation gain) Walker Ranch Loop, and you’ll be treated to sweeping vistas, fascinating rock formations, wildlife sightings, and quiet forest paths through snow-draped pine boughs.
Quite close to Boulder but often with a healthy dusting of snow mid-winter, Betasso Preserve is a gem of a spot, with acres of pristine wilderness and the moderate, 3.3-mile Canyon Loop as its signature trail. You’ll take in every kind of terrain along the way: mountain meadows, rolling valleys, narrow cliff-clinging paths, and heart-pumping uphill stretches. And it all looks magical when covered in snow.
In muddy spring conditions, stay on snow or walk in the middle of the trail to avoid creating new trails and erosion.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area
The snow is plentiful and scenery spectacular at Brainard Lake, one of the most well-loved snowshoeing areas near Boulder (about an hour’s drive). In winter, the upper section of the road to the lake is closed, so you’ll start your trek at the winter closure gate and snowshoe up the road, which will be workout enough for many. Or opt for the Waldrop or CMC snowshoeing trails for a longer, more challenging journey. Any way you slice it, this is an enchanting landscape in winter, with thick pine forests and one of the most photogenic, jagged-mountain-framed lake views as a reward. Maps and more information here.
In winter months, organic matter is slow to break down, so it’s especially important to pack out all waste, including shells, peels, crusts and cores. This goes double for dog waste.
Eldora is Boulder’s local ski mountain, just 21 miles (about a 35-minute drive) away. It’s a fantastic family alpine skiing destination, but perhaps its best-kept secret is its Nordic Center, a quieter side of the resort with an extensive network of trails weaving through old-growth forests and through sunny valleys. You’ll cross paths with cross-country and skate skiers while taking in the crisp mountain air and panoramas. Post-snowshoeing, head back to Boulder for apres-ski drinks at Rosetta Hall, Avanti F&B, Upstairs Cocktail Lounge, West End Tavern, or Corner Bar.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
If it’s snow you want, it’s snow you’ll get at this high-elevation state park just 50 minutes from Boulder. Stop at Panorama Point to take photos of the dramatic mountain ranges on the horizon, then try Raccoon Trail Loop, a moderate, 2.5-mile jaunt that runs creek-side, past an old cabin, and then back up to Panorama Point. There are a number of other wonderful snowshoeing trails at Golden Gate.
Monitor snow conditions frequently and carry an avalanche beacon if you are heading to the backcountry.
Rocky Mountain National Park
This spectacular and truly jaw-dropping national park is the fourth most-visited in the country. But visiting in wintertime lets you hit some of the more popular trails minus the crowds. Jagged peaks, waterfalls, crystal-clear alpine ponds, glassy lakes, dense pine forest — they all await snowshoers venturing out on the park’s vast network of trails. Beginners will enjoy the iconic Bear Lake Loop, which is less than a mile long yet impressive in scenic beauty. Or from the Moraine Park area, opt for the Pool, which gets is name from the confluence of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River. Find some additional ideas for snowshoeing RMNP.
If you didn’t bring your own snowshoes to town, there are several places to rent by the day.