Being from the South, snow-sports is not something we get to take part of that frequently. But for a long time now we've wanted to try snowshoeing - something about traversing the white powder without sinking knee deep seemed like an amazing way to experience the backcountry. We set out to Estes Park, a small mountain town located right at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. This park is open year-round and experiences a fraction of the tourist pressure in winter than it does in summer. It’s also the direction to go if you want to avoid the ski traffic. Win win.
GET THE GEAR
Snowshoes can be rented for 5$/pair at Estes Park Mountain Shop. Check out their bargain basement for garage-sale prices on some pretty sweet gear!
FUEL UP IN ESTES PARK
Grab a donut from Donut Haus on your way to the park entrance. Be sure to go before 10 AM or they may sell out. And, always get their special donut of the day. Lastly, get your morning joe from Coffee on the Rocks.
RMNP typically keeps the road clear to Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge. Glacier Gorge will fill up by 10:00 am on weekends, but there’s almost always parking at Bear Lake. Both are great starting points for backcountry snowshoeing to any of the subalpine lakes on the map. We were able to see Emerald Lake, Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, and Loch Vale (Loch Vale was our favorite).
WHAT TO WEAR
- Windproof, insulated jacket. Emphasis on the windproof!
- Long sleeve base layer top
- Windproof or water resistant pants
- Sunglasses are a must - snow reflects a lot of sunlight that can damage your eyes
- A buff to protect the exposed areas of skin on your face when the wind starts blowing
- A good pair of gloves
- Waterproof boots or hiking shoes
- Gaiters to keep loose snow out of the tops of your shoes
WHAT TO EAT
Be prepared to eat while you’re walking. Stopping for too long and sitting down in the snow may allow your core body temperature to drop. Movement is your best way to keep warm. We crushed some leftover pizza (highly recommended), but any pre-made sandwich, bagel, granola bar will do. Also don’t forget to stay hydrated. When you’re not sweating, it’s easy to forget to keep drinking water.
Have a fully charged phone with GPS or a map and compass in case you need it. Windy conditions can erase a lightly trafficked trail in just an hour or two. If this is your first hike at altitude, take a few ibuprofen with you to fight off the headaches. An extra pair of dry socks or glove liners can be helpful if you need the extra protection. Apply chapstick and sunscreen before you go