Snowshoeing in Clear Creek County

Snowshoe in Clear Creek County Colorado

It starts as a yearning. The need to escape the hustle and bustle of the ski resorts and crowded highways. The desire to become an adventurer and make your own mark on a pristine trail through woods. The longing to feel the crisp, cold, mountain air deep in your lungs as you watch the sunshine glint through the flocked evergreens. Exploring Colorado’s great outdoors on snowshoes is an activity that quickly can turn from a novelty, into a hobby, into a passion. And with more than 70 percent of our community covered by public lands and trails, Clear Creek County is the perfect place to begin your Colorado adventure.

Snowshoeing experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s. Before that it was an activity that had been relegated to memory, kept alive by old leather-and-wood decorator pieces hanging above fireplaces in rustic cabins. In an earlier day hardly anyone used snowshoes for fun – they were a cumbersome necessity used to move around when snow piled deep. Not anymore.

When you’re getting a group of friends or family together for a day of fun in the snow, snowshoeing is the perfect activity. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Many of Clear Creek County’s best summer hiking and mountain biking trails are transformed magically into a snowshoeing wonderland during the winter months.

Make sure you go to the Trails page for detailed map and descriptions of some of the trails in Clear Creek County.

Snowshoe & Clothing Rental & Advice

Winter CampingIndisputably, the major factor in this revival is the shoe itself.

Modern technology has transformed the cumbersome old beartrap into a marvel of efficiency, one that is durable, lightweight, loose-heeled, easy to strap, with bindings that stay tight. These new shoes made from aluminum or metal composites and space-age fabrics aren’t as classic as the traditional models, but they perform just as well or better. Most models feature a metal claw beneath the foot to grip hard snow or ice and can be purchased for $150 to $300. Locally, you can rent snowshoes at Idaho Spring’s Maison de Ski 303-567-2044; Downieville’s Empire Sports 303-567-2996; Dumont’s Breeze Ski Rental  303-567-2087; or Georgetown’s Black Diamond Ski & Cycles 303-569-2283

Clothing isn’t much of a problem either. Dry, comfortable hiking boots (preferably water proof) work fine for recreational jaunts. Just about any warm clothing will suffice. The trick is to match apparel to the conditions, which means layering – pulling off and putting on as weather and degree of activity dictate. You’ll also want to bring along a backpack to hold extra clothes, plenty of liquid and high-energy food. Don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses.

Trails

The listings below will tell you where trail heads within the county are located; the length of the trail is listed in parentheses. For additional information on the trails, you may want to purchase a specific map for the area that you are going to explore. These maps can be obtained at the Clear Creek Ranger District Office, located at Exit 240 on I-70. As with every snow-related activity outside ski area boundaries, be acutely aware of avalanche danger and approaching storms. To obtain the most up-to-date information, call 303-275-5360 or 303-567-2901 before you go.

Beginner Trails:

  • Echo Lake: Located 14 miles south of Idaho Springs on CO 103. (No mileage, just get out and explore.)
  • Bakerville-Loveland Trail: Located off of I-70 at Bakerville, Exit 221. (5 miles)
  • South Chicago Creek: Located approximately 9 miles south of Idaho Springs on CO 103. (2 miles)

Moderate Trails:

  • Resthouse Meadows: Located at Echo Lake Campground near the restrooms on the east side of CO 103. (5 miles)
  • Silver Dollar Lake: Located 9 miles south of Georgetown on Guanella Pass Road. (3 miles)
  • Fall River Reservoir: Located at the bottom of the second switchback on Fall River Road. (3 miles)
  • Waldorf: Located 2.5 miles south of Georgetown on the right side of Guanella Pass Road. (5.5 miles)

More Difficult:

  • Herman Gulch: Located on the north side of I-70 at exit 218 (2.7 miles)
  • Jones Pass: Located next to the Henderson Mine off CO 40. Turn right, just before the guardhouse. (5 miles)
  • Devil’s Canyon: Located on the east side of CO 103, 14 miles past Ponder Point Picnic Area. (3 miles)

Most Difficult:

  • Butler Gulch: Located at the Jones Pass Trailhead. Travel up Jones Pass trail 14 miles and turn right. (2 miles)
  • Stevens Gulch: Located at Exit 221 off I-70. The road heads south out of the parking lot. (5 miles)
  • Grizzly Gulch:It splits off Stevens Gulch approximately 1 mile from the parking lot. Take the right fork. (4 miles)

Avalanches

AvalancheThe avalanche is the most underestimated danger in the mountains. People generally think that they will be able to recognize the hazards and survive being caught. The truth is a somewhat different story. The vast majority are reasonably experienced male skiers aged 20-35 but also include ski instructors and guides. There is always a lot of pressure to risk a snow crossing. Turning back takes a lot of extra time and effort, supreme leadership, and most importantly there seldom is an avalanche to prove the right decision was made. Making the decision to turn around is especially hard if others are crossing the slope, but any next person could become the trigger.

When traveling in alpine terrain, parties are advised to always carry: an avalanche beacon, a probe shovel (retrieving victims with a shovel instead of your hands is five times faster) and to have had avalanche training!

Paradoxically, expert skiers who have avalanche training make up a large percentage of avalanche fatalities; perhaps because they are the ones more likely to ski in areas prone to avalanches, and certainly because most people do not practice enough with their equipment to be truly fast and efficient rescuers. Even with proper rescue equipment and training, there is a one-in-five chance of dying if caught in a significant avalanche, and only a 50/50 chance of being found alive if buried more than a few minutes. The best solution is to learn how to avoid risky conditions.


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