Winter Day Hikes
Winter brings deep snows to the Rocky Park west of the Continental Divide. Lighter snowfall on the east side of the park leaves low elevation trails open for hiking. Trails below 8,700 feet (2,700 meters) offer diverse opportunities to those who wish to travel without the aid of skis or snowshoes. The trails listed below are some of the more accessible hikes available to winter visitors. Before each outing, check with the Park Rangers for local snow conditions and current avalanche hazards. The distances listed for each hike is ONE-WAY.



Hiking Safety

Winter in the Rocky Park is an inviting yet silently dangerous time for hikers. The seasons bring short days with strong winds, low temperatures and rapidly changing weather. Be prepared for these conditions by carrying extra clothing for layering, as well as water and high-energy food.

Prevent frostbite by keeping your extremity and face well protected. Watch for the first warning signs of frostbite-a tingling, the numbing feeling. Your toes, fingers, ears and face are generally the first to be effected.


Avoid hiking in deep snow, which is quickly fatiguing and creates hazardous holes for skiers and snowshoes that follow. When conditions are icy, use instep crampons or ski poles for extra safety.


  The Pool     
  Cub Lake     
  Chasm Falls     
  Fall River (Endovalley)     
  Gem Lake     
  Deer Mountain     
  Upper Beaver Meadows      


Also the 1/2-mile walks around the three major lakes (Lily, Spraque and Bear) are recommended for beginners and those with young children. Bear Lake is the most difficult because of its altitude and deep snows.


The Pool
Difficulty Easy Trailhead: At road closure on Moraine Park Road past Cub Lake Trailhead. Follow signs to Fern Lake Trailhead (.7 mile).
Distance 2.5 mi (4 km)
Elevation Gain 200 feet

The Pool is a turbulent water pocket formed below the confluences of Spruce and Fern Creeks with the Big Thompson River. The winter route is along a gravel road, which soon narrows to a trail at the Fern Lake Trailhead. While hiking this relatively flat trail long the Big Thompson River, look for beaver-cut aspen, frozen waterfalls on the cliffs and the Arch Rocks.


Cub Lake
Difficulty Moderate Trailhead: Cub Lake. From Bear Lake Road, turn right at Moraine Park; follow signs to Cub Lake Trailhead.
Distance 2.3 mi (3.7 km)
Elevation Gain 540 feet

The Cub Lake trail begins in the willow thickets along the Big Thompson River and continues upward through a varied landscape of moraines, cliffs, streams and ponds. Ice or deep snow sometimes makes the last mile difficult, and may require the use of skis or snowshoes. This hike may be combined with the pool hike for a 6-mile loop by taking a connecting trail beyond Cub Lake to the Pool. This section of trail may also contain deep snow or ice.


Chasm Falls
Difficulty Moderate Trailhead: West Alluvial Fan. Follow Highway 34 into Horseshoe Park. Turn onto Endovalley Road at the west end of Horseshoe Park and follow Endovalley Road over the bridge to the road closure.
Distance 2.5 mi (4 km)
Elevation Gain 400 feet

From the West Alluvial Fan Parking lot, hike 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the junction of Endovalley Road and Old Fall River Road. Along the way, you will pass the remains of cabins used by the prison laborers who built Old Fall River Road early in the Century. At the road junction, take the right fork and continue up Old Fall River Road one mile to the falls. Upon reaching Chasm Falls notice the beautiful, but dangerous, ice formations. Negotiate this zone with caution.


Fall River (Endovalley)–South Side
Difficulty Easy Trailhead: No actual trailhead exist, so use the parking lot at the West End of Horseshoe Park.
Distance 2.2 mi (4.4 km)
Elevation Gain 150 feet

From the West Horseshoe Park Parking lot, hike on animal trails or just follow the Fall River .7 miles to an area just opposite the Alluvial Fan and return or continue an additional 1.5 files to the Endovalley picnic area and the junction of Endovalley Road and Old Fall River Road. Along the way, you are likely to see elk in the open meadows or bedded down in the tree areas as well as coyote looking for a meal. At the road junction, you can continue up Old Fall River Road one additional mile to the Chasm Falls and/or return via the Endovalley Road to the parking lot.


Gem Lake
Difficulty Moderate Trailhead: Twin Owls. Drive north from downtown Estes Park on MacGregor Avenue. Cross Highway 34 bypass and continue to a sharp right turn and signs for the MacGregor Ranch. Follow the blacktop ranch road to the parking lot. An alternate trailhead is approximately 1/2 mile past the sharp right turn.
Distance 1.8 mi (2.9 km)
Elevation Gain 900 feet

The shallow waters of Gem Lake are cradled high among the rounded granite domes of Lumpy Ridge. Untouched by glaciations, this outcrop of 1.8 billion year old granite has been sculpted by wind and chemical erosion into a backbone-like ridge. Signs of these erosional forces-pillars, potholes, and balanced rock-appear midway along the trail to Gem Lake. Other highpoints include spectacular views of the Estes Valley and Continental Divide, and a curious balanced rock called Paul Bunyan's boot. Hint: it's the one with the hole in it.


Deer Mountain
Difficulty Strenuous Trailhead: Deer Ridge Junction. From the Park Headquarters drive 4.5 miles along Highway 36 to roadside parking.
Distance 3 mi (4.8 km)
Elevation Gain 1,705 feet

The route up Deer Mountain begins in a stand of mature ponderosa pines and winds upward past lodgepole pine, aspen and limber pine to the summit plateau, which offers spectacular views of the Continental Divide. While the lower trail generally has little snow, you can expect packed and drifted snow on the switchbacks. Snow cover on the summit may be three to five feet deep, making snowshoes or skis necessary for safe travel.


Upper Beaver Meadows
Difficulty Easy Trailhead: Upper Beaver Meadows Road. From the Park Headquarters drive 2 miles and look for the closed gate on the west side of the road at the first hairpin curve. Park off the road surface on gravel.
Distance 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Elevation Gain 140 feet

Upper Beaver Meadows offers two hike routes—the road which winds along the north side of Beaver Creek for two miles and a trail that leaves the dirt road on the left just inside the barricade. The trail crosses the stream and runs along the south side of the meadow at the base of the moraine. The trail and road meet at the parking area at the west end of Beaver Meadows. You may choose to make a loop by using both the road and trail, or you may follow either route in both directions. Hiking along the trail, you may see elk bedded down among the trees near the trail or along the stream.


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