Hayden full of winter fun

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About 22 miles west of Steamboat's bustling resort atmosphere is the small community of Hayden, which offers numerous winter activities in quiet settings.

Cross-country skiers need not go far to find fast and fun loops that will put color in their cheeks and get the heart pumping.

The closest option to downtown Hayden is a one-mile groomed trail just south of the Routt County Fairgrounds off of Poplar Street.

This year the loop will run the winding course established by the Colorado Cog Rally in September, said Richard Bush, who maintains the trail and plans to approach the Hayden Town Board with a plan to purchase a trail groomer.

Though snowmobiling tends to be the dominant winter sport among Hayden residents, cross-country skiing is catching on as a fun activity in the area, Bush said.

"I had a lot of people skiing it last year," he said.

Another groomed trail, about 1 mile long, circles the Yampa Rive State Park headquarters about two miles west of Hayden on U.S. Highway 40.

Skiers looking for a serious workout can head north on Routt County Road 76 to Elkhead Reservoir, where a 10-mile ungroomed trail circles the lake.

The nearest access to National Forest land is California Park north of Hayden and the Dunkley Pass area, which is south of Hayden in Rio Blanco County. Both places are favorite areas for snowmobilers and skiers, though road access may depend on snow depth and conditions.

Fishermen prepared to weather the cold may take advantage of ice fishing opportunities at Elkhead Reservoir. Fishing conditions are available at Rainbow Sporting Goods, 118 S. Walnut St. in Hayden.

When the snow is deep, children flock to the town's favorite sledding area on the hill behind Hayden Valley Elementary, which is on Poplar Street near the fairgrounds.

"You can get going pretty good," Hayden Recreation coordinator Lindsay Heer, said.

In addition to sledding, Heer recommends children and adults try ice skating on the town's portable ice rink in the Hayden Town Park on Third Street. The activity is free and the ice rink is usually up by Christmas time, she said.

For some holiday cheer, the town has tentatively scheduled a Christmas Craft Bizarre, which raises funds for high school students heading to college, on Dec. 4. A holiday tree festival has been scheduled for Dec. 5. For more information, contact Heer at 276-3741. n

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