Winter might be the best season in Colorado, so don’t miss out. During the holidays, we know you’re craving a white Christmas or seriously fun-packed snow day, so make sure you take advantage of some of these scenic winter wonderland hikes that are straight out of a Hallmark movie. Nothing beats a long day of smelling fresh pines and cold mountain air, so grab your coat and get outside.
Remember to check national or state park websites before you hike to make sure trail conditions are good and bring recommended gear. Happy hiking!
1. Loch Lake
Where: Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park
Length: 5.7 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: There probably isn’t a more picturesque and popular place to take a winter hike in Colorado, so make sure you visit this gorgeous spot in Rocky Mountain National Park. Number one on our list, the journey to Loch Lake is peaceful and breathtaking. After a shorter trek to Alberta Falls, hikers continue on to walk through a scenic tunnel of tall pines and climb in the snow to reach the jaw-dropping frozen lake view at the top. There are even views of Andrew’s Glacier.
2. Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Where: Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs
Length: 5.7 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: You might’ve heard of this magical place in Steamboat Springs that’s a must-see in the winter, but did you know you can hike to Strawberry Park Hot Springs? Instead of paying for a shuttle bus or driving up an icy mountain road, hikers can get a real appreciation for the therapeutic relaxation of the natural spring water after they’ve spent time walking through the cold and snow. The hike itself is gorgeous, and the end point is worth it. For more info on Strawberry Springs, click here.
3. Bear Creek
Where: Bear Creek Preserve near Telluride
Length: 4.5 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: Bear Creek Preserve is one of the most popular places to hike near Telluride, and for good reason. Full of aspen and pine groves, the sweet-scented Bear Creek Trail that starts in downtown Telluride is breathtaking all the way to Bear Creek Falls. This trail is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
4. OPUS Hut
Where: Ophir Pass in the San Juan Mountains between Silverton and Ophir
Length: 7 miles out and back via the Columbine Lake Trail
Why it’s magical: Travel to a real European-style backcountry hut when you make the trek to the OPUS Hut. Rated one of North America’s best hike-in lodges, the OPUS experience lies deep in the heart of the San Juan Mountains east of Ophir Pass. Once hikers climb the snowy slopes to this charming, rustic cabin between Silverton and Ophir, Colorado, they can warm up and eat pancakes and bacon for breakfast, afternoon soup for lunch, or curries and enchiladas for dinner. They even serve drinks at the bar. The OPUS Hut really is a magical pit stop, and the views from the cabin are gorgeous. There are numerous ways to reach the OPUS Hut. For more info on directions, click here.
5. Ice Caves at Rifle Mountain Park
Where: Koper’s Trail in Rifle Mountain Park near Rifle
Length: 1.4 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: You don’t have to travel to Iceland to see ice caves. Colorado has beautiful caves filled with icicles in Rifle Mountain Park that turn a blue color due to the absorption of all other colored light wavelengths. From Koper’s Trail in the park, you can access the Upper and Lower Ice Caves that are a result of the freezing and thawing of the water. You can climb the ice with the proper equipment, or just walk through and enjoy their beauty. This is definitely a sight to see, and all your friends will be jealous you found it first.
6. Bear Lake
Where: Rocky Mountain Park near Estes Park
Length: 0.7 mile loop
Why it’s magical: If you don’t want to seriously hike, but still want to explore a winter wonderland, Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is the place to go. With a short loop trail around the water that’s less than a mile, you will have views of the pristine frozen lake with a snow-capped mountain backdrop. It’s the beautiful and easy photo-op you’ve been searching for. The lake is literally only feet from the parking lot.
7. Shrine Ridge
Where: White River National Forest near Vail
Length: 4 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: This trail is popular for wildflowers in the spring, but the valleys, red rock formations and mountain views during the winter are just as stunning. Vail is a popular place to visit during the holidays, so take a weekend to visit this Colorado ski town and enjoy the mountain air of Colorado when you hike Shrine Ridge. We promise it’s worth the trip, and is the holy grail of undiscovered trail gems.
8. Holzwarth Historical Site
Where: Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake
Length: 1.1 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: The beautiful rustic architecture of the Holzwarth Historical Site in the snowy wilderness near Grand Lake is pretty and picturesque. As a lesser-known spot in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Holzwarth Historical Site near the Never Summer Wilderness was founded when John Holzwarth Sr., a German immigrant, built a homestead and cattle ranch after leaving Denver because prohibition closed his saloon. It later opened to the public as the Holzwarth Trout Lodge, and the historical preservation of this site is a perfect hiking destination to find a real winter wonderland.
9. Smuggler Mountain
Where: White River National Forest near Aspen
Length: 14.5 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: Hiking a section of this famous mountain in Aspen will give you scenic views of the famous ski town. Perfect during the snowy winter months, Smuggler Mountain is where locals get the best sights in the area without taking a ski lift. It’s an uphill trek, but the view at the end is a postcard waiting to happen.
10. Tennessee Pass Nordic Center Cookhouse
Where: Trails start at Tennessee Pass Nordic Center in Leadville
Length: 2 miles out and back to the Cookhouse
Why it’s magical: The Tennessee Pass Nordic Center Cookhouse is the perfect place to hike to in the cold mountain air. With multiple trails to choose from for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking, the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is home to yurts you can rent for the night, and a cookhouse that serves lunch and dinner to warm up at during the day. We recommend hiking to the cookhouse for lunch after a morning winter hike. It doesn’t get much cooler than this.
11. Herman Gulch
Where: Arapaho National Forest near Idaho Springs
Length: 6.4 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: It might sound like a long hike, but Herman Gulch is a quick jaunt through some of the most scenic landscape in Arapaho National Forest. Mountain peaks glimpsed through the trees all covered in frost and snow makes a magical day trip into the wintered wilderness. Not far from Denver, Herman Gulch is the perfect escape.
12. Purgatory Trail
Where: Hermosa Creek Wilderness Area near Durango
Length: 7.6 miles out and back
Why it’s magical: The name might throw you off, but Purgatory Trail is actually heavenly winter paradise. Typically used for camping, this hike near Durango follows a beautiful stream and traverses through birch tree groves and thick pines. Known for being a reverse hike, be wary that the trail travels downhill first and requires you to climb back up. After a long day in Purgatory, make sure you also visit downtown Durango, a city that’s voted one of the best Christmas towns in the country.