Rocky Mountain National Park is a sight to see in any season, but visiting in the winter adds a different type of awe and magic to your adventures. There is something about hiking in the winter that causes you to appreciate the outdoors in a different manner than in the summer. There’s an added sense of awe. Perhaps, it’s a sense of power the mountains hold and the quick change in weather and avalanches that makes us feel smaller, and more in-tune with mother nature. Or, maybe because it’s the cold air brushing on your cheeks and the crunching of snow underneath your feet that you don’t experience in the summer. Either way, exploring the Rockies in the middle of winter is something you can’t miss.
Winter hikes in the high country require careful consideration and attention to weather and avalanche safety before any adventure. As nature enthusiasts, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety while taking in the breathtaking winter landscapes. In this blog, we have picked some avalanche-safe trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, ensuring a memorable and safe adventure.
Rocky Mountain National Park requires fees or the annual pass for entry! Learn more about park fees or annual passes here.
Emerald Lake Trail:
Length: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 702 ft
Route: Out & Back
Grab your snowshoes and bundle up, this is a winter wonderland from beginning to end. Enjoy a hike through the Tyndall Gorge as you make your way to Emerald Lake on this extremely popular route, and you will quickly see why once you hit the trail. Starting at the Bear Lake Trailhead, enjoy pine forests, alpine lakes and beautiful vistas with rocky peaks. Take a break at Nymph Lake, and take in the magic of Dream Lake before you make your way to Emerald Lake. Once there, warm up by brewing yourself some coffee and take in the silence and views before your trek back home.
Learn more about Emerald Lake Trail when you visit All Trails.
Bear Lake to Odessa Lake:
Length: 8.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,991 ft
Route: Out & Back
Take this magical hike in the high country for a nine mile out and back adventure. Begin at Bear Lake Trailhead and whined your way past Bear Lake and through Sourdough Campsite (winter camping anyone?), Marigold Pond, Two Rivers Lake and Lake Helene. Take a little coffee and snack break before you continue your way to Odessa Lake, it’s all about the journey not the destination, right?!
Be sure to pack your snowshoes incase there is fresh snow, and your micro-spikes or crampons due to slippery trails. Winter weather can be extreme and change quickly at higher elevations. Keep your eyes on the weather and avalanche conditions. Bring extra layers and check the area before heading out on your trip!
Check avalanche conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website.
Bierstadt Lake Trail:
Length: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 620 ft
An enchanting 3 mile loop with majestic mountains views a large lake. Walk through the wintery forest, scaling switchbacks before the Bierstadt loop begins. With only 620 ft of elevation and rated moderate, this is a great hike for seasoned hikers. Even though this hike is popular, spikes or crampons are recommended. Packed snow can be slippery, so arrive prepared. Don’t forget to check the weather before you head out, pack extra layers, water and snacks!
Learn more about this trail and more at All Trails.
Alberta Falls Trail:
Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 226 ft
Route: Out & Back
For a quick adventure when the weather is a bitter chillier than expected, or you are on a time crunch but need some mountain air, check out Alberta Falls! This trail is a quick 1.6 mile out and back with just as much awe as the big hikes. Follow a creek through several aspen groves and find the falls surrounded by massive granite rock walls. Take a break and brew yourself some coffee while listening to the falls. If you find yourself with extra time, continue on the trial past the falls and find some extra beauty with several lakes.
Learn more about this trail by following All Trails.
Before heading out on any mountain adventure during the winter, it is important to check the weather forecast and avalanche risk. Check Colorado Avalanche Information Center for avalanche risk. Below is a simple chart to assess avalanche danger. To best prepare, take a look at National Parks Safety Service page to help pack the right gear and for additional safety tips.
Don’t let winter pass by without exploring the majestic outdoors! We hope this short list gives you some fun ideas for your next Rocky Mountain National Park visit! Winter hiking is so much fun, but you do need to be extra prepared. Read our The Best Snowshoeing Trails in Colorado post for additional adventures. Also check out our Essential Gear for Winter Hiking in Colorado post to learn what to bring hiking, what to wear, altitude sickness and much more.
See you on the trails!