Friday, November 29, 2013

A Wonderful World Awaits: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park this Winter

For many visitors, winter is their favorite season to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Beautiful backcountry areas can be reached on snowshoes, skis, and at lower elevations - even with hiking boots! Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife remain active through the winter. Their story is told by the tracks left in the snow. For those visitors who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the park.

Snowshoeing and skiing are excellent ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park will once again offer ranger-led snowshoe ecology walks for beginner-level snowshoers on the east side, and for beginner and intermediate-level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. Reservations are required and there is no additional fee beyond the regular park entrance fee.

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and opens up a new way to see the beauty of nature during its quietest season. For beginners, the snowshoe program is a two-hour exploration of the natural world of the subalpine forest. No previous snowshoe experience is required. On the east side, this walk is held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. between January 4th and March 23rd. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. between December 28th and March 8th. 

For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour snowshoe walk is offered on the west side of the park on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. between December 29th and March 9th. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.

Ranger-led cross-country ski tours are also offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. between December 28th and January 25th. Participants ski a snow-draped landscape and learn about the Kawuneeche Valley.

All snowshoe walks and ski tours require reservations. Reservations can be made in advance, seven days or less prior to the desired program. Participants must furnish their own equipment, including poles with baskets, and be at least 8 years old. To make reservations for east side snowshoe walks, call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1223 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

Frontcountry and backcountry camping take place in the winter too! Timber Creek Campground and designated sections of Moraine Park Campground are open all winter; the fee is $14 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter at the campgrounds. Self-registration permits for backcountry camping in winter zones are available. There is no charge in the winter for backcountry camping.

Sledding activities can be enjoyed in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Hidden Valley area. Hidden Valley slopes have been contoured to enhance the safety of sledding and other -more- snowplay activities. The gentle sledding hill is especially enjoyed by younger park visitors. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut, which is open weekends, and heated restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for visitors interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.

Podcasts on Winter Recreation and Introduction to Snowshoeing can be found on the park website at, Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions, always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website at before an adventure.

Full Moon Walks will be offered on November 17, December 17, January 15, February 14, and March 16.. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1223.

If planning an overnight trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this winter, please visit our Accommodations page on to find a wide variety of lodging opportunities in Estes Park or Grand Lake.


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