It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of snowshoeing seemed to be reserved for nutty people that thought a hike in the cold and snow is somehow a great idea. Load up on your winter clothing, strap something similar to oversized tennis rackets to your feet and start walking in some weird, bow-legged method and waddle your way around the trail. Oh joy.
Fast forward to today, however, and snowshoeing is gaining in popularity not just because the snowshoes are smaller and lighter, but because winter hiking is an incredible way to enjoy the outdoors and see nature in an entirely different perspective. Whether it is a hike through freshly fallen snow in the city park, a local hiking trail or summiting a 14er, you can snowshoe virtually anywhere and at any time of your choosing (nothing like a full-moon hike) provided there is snow.
For those of us in Colorado that love the outdoors and the snow but despise ski traffic and hordes of people, snowshoeing is a great alternative to skiing. No, there isn’t the thrill of bumping down Outhouse, but snowshoeing doesn’t require a lot of money and there are no lift-lines to deal. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear and you don’t need lessons. You just need snow, a pair of snowshoes and an overwhelming desire to get outside.
With as little as six inches of snow, you can blaze a trail at your local park or through your neighborhood. For us Coloradoans, the Front Range is loaded with easily accessible trails to snowshoe and with a little more drive time, any National Forest is or State Park is an ideal place to strap on a pair and make your own trail. That’s the beautiful thing with snowshoeing: you are not limited to a specific trail as you can make your own and create your own wintery Little House on the Prairie moment.
If you need snowshoes, there are many stores that sell them and a few places that rent snowshoes. For a convenient option in the Metro-Denver area, Mountain Side Gear Rental in Golden is just off of I-70 at the Colfax exit and offers snowshoe rentals and sales for kids and adults. (See their list of recommended trails near Golden at the bottom of this article.)
Featuring Crescent Moon Snowshoes from Boulder, Mountain Side rents snowshoes for just a day, a weekend or longer for very little cost. Their expert staff can provide trail recommendations, personal gear tips and properly fit you to your snowshoes ensuring a great experience. Their store also has a large inventory of backpacks, maps, hydration equipment, apparel, trail food and snacks along with most everything else you need for a great day on the trail.
Snowshoeing is a true equalitarian sport – anybody and everybody can do it. With the amount of snow in our foothills and mountains, it is time you get out there and try it for yourself. But be warned, once you find the perfect trail loaded with champagne powder on a bluebird day, you’ll find yourself telling your friends and family how awesome it is and they may think you are one of those nutty people.
About Mountain Side Gear Rental: Since 2010 Mountain Side’s mission is to make it easy for everybody to get outdoors. In addition to their camping gear rentals and outdoor adventure gear rentals, they are a full-service store, selling new and used camping gear, backpacking equipment, supplies, accessories, maps and food. Visit Mountain Side Gear Rental’s store at 15985 South Golden Road, Unit A, Golden, CO or contact them via the phone 303-955-2290 or the world-wide-web: https://www.mountainsidegearrental.com/
Trails In and Near Golden, CO
CLEAR CREEK TRAIL – Start at Lions Park and work your way west and go as far as you want. As it is mostly a concrete trail, there needs to be a good snowpack or fresh snow. While the trail is mostly level, there is a slight grade at the base of Lookout Mountain but overall this trail is fairly easy. When done, head into downtown Golden and enjoy one their numerous breweries or coffee houses. Checkout the Visit Golden website for a complete list of restaurants and things to do while in Golden.
GOLDEN GATE CANYON STATE PARK – Multiple trail options of varying lengths and difficulties. Check out the Golden Gate State Park website for updated conditions and weather. While it is hard to find a trail not worth a hike in snowshoes within this gem of a state park, we have a couple favorites:
MULE DEER LOOP TRAIL – A 9.1-mile-long trail that delivers views and an excellent opportunity to view wildlife. Best to start at Ole Barn Knoll. Mildly difficult due to its length so make sure to pack a lunch. Plenty of ups and downs through aspen groves, open meadows and stands of pines.
SNOWSHOE HARE – Only 3 miles long but with plenty of climbing makes this trail a difficult rating on snowshoes. Great views and amazing scenery make this trail worth the effort. Tie in a spur hike to Panorama Point if you would like more distance. Start on the north side of the park at Aspen Meadow. DO NOT park in Rifleman Phillips campground if the gate is opened. It is a group site and the last one out locks the gate regardless of how many cars may be parked there.
COLUMBINE CAMPGROUND ABOVE CENTRAL CITY – This is a great location for all snowshoeing abilities and just to try it out, especially if you want to trailblaze. With open areas, trails and jeep trails (closed to vehicles in the winter) your ability to go for as far and long as you want is boundless. If you are trailblazing, make sure you have some navigational aids with you. Check out the Arapaho National Forest website for more information and trip planning.