6 scenic snowshoe destinations around Steamboat Springs
January 2, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — From open meadows to high vistas with panoramic views of mountains and frozen waterfalls, there are many scenic snowshoe hikes just minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs. You won’t encounter any lift lines out here or big crowds, but do keep in mind that snowshoe tracks damage cross-country ski tracks, so walk parallel to existing trails when possible.
This trail very close to town offers great views of Fish Creek Falls and canyon and a great workout. The trail is usually lightly-traveled and doesn't get the crowds you would find making the trek down to the base of the waterfall or the other viewpoints. Moose also frequent this area, so keep your eyes peeled when heading up the switchbacks.
The trail gains about 800 feet on the 1.5-mile trip up to the mine. To get here, take Fish Creek Falls Road to the upper parking lot for Fish Creek Falls. A $5 parking pass is required. Walk back toward the lower parking lot, and keep an eye out for the start of this trail on the right. If you hit the lower parking lot, you’ve passed the trail.
Sarvis Creek/Routt County Road 18
Snowshoers looking for a little less foot traffic than what is found on Emerald Mountain can take a relatively short drive south and find a scenic snowshoe path along the Yampa River. A good portion of Routt County Road 18, which leads to Sarvis Creek, is not plowed in the winter and is open to skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers. Local snowshoeing guide Karen Vail said snowshoers might encounter snowmobiles on the trail as fishing guides ferry clients up to good fishing spots. To get to this spot, head south on Colorado Highway 131 and make the left turn on Routt County Road 18 toward Lake Catamount. Stay on C.R. 18 past Catamount and continue on this road until it turns to gravel and park at the end of the winter county maintenance portion.
Dry Lake/Buffalo Pass
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A trip into the backcountry from the Dry Lake Campground area usually offers solitude combined with chances to see moose. Snowmobiles don't go in this non-motorized area, and many of the trails lead to a large open valley where Soda Creek runs through. Cross-country skiers frequent this area with snowshoers, so be mindful of walking parallel, not on top of existing ski tracks when you can. Time a trip to this area with the sunset and be rewarded with great alpenglow views on the surrounding mountains. The Dry Lake parking lot can fill up at certain times, as this is where snowmobilers park to start their journeys. Do not park in any no parking areas.
Emerald Mountain/Howelsen Hill
Day or moonlit night, the trails closest to downtown Steamboat Springs offer a scenic workout to snowshoers and cross-country skiers. And visitors looking for a little less vertical climb can skip some of the biggest climbs by purchasing a ride on the Barrows chairlift on Howelsen when it's running. Snowshoers can also start a climb up to the Emerald Mountain quarry on Blackmer Drive at the trailhead that starts at the top of Routt Street.
Prospectors Trail/Trilby Flats
On sunny, clear days, the open meadows in Trilby Flats north of the town of Hahn's Peak make an ideal snowshoeing destination. Summertime hikers know the trail in this area as the Prospectors Trail, which starts off Forest Service Road 486. The Trilby Flats area lies between Forest Service Roads 486 and 488, about 11.2 miles north of the Clark Store on the left side of Routt County Road 129.
Rabbit Ears Pass
There are several scenic snowshoe tours you can take on Rabbit Ears Pass, with varying levels of difficulty. Snowshoers can use the same routes as cross-country skiers, but snowshoers should walk parallel to existing ski tracks, not on top of them. View all of the information about these trails here, or stop by the U.S. Forest Service office at 925 Weiss Dr. to pick up a brochure.
Yampatika, a local environmental education group, leads several snowshoe tours in the winter. The group leads tours up the Uranium Mine Trail near Fish Creek Falls every Friday starting at 10 a.m. ($5 parking fee). Yampatika also offers tours on Emerald Mountain from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday ($20 admission includes snowshoe rental), and attendees can use the chairlift to start the hike if the lift is running. The most popular tours led by Yampatika include moonlight snowshoe tours, which coincide with full moons. Those tours are scheduled for Jan. 31 and March 1 and generally see long waitlists. Tours require RSVPs. Call 970-871-9151 to reserve a spot.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.