Few things are better than being the first to tread on virgin snow
Winter is here, and with it, snow. While there hasn't been much snow in Colorado Springs — we didn't get our first measurable snow fall until after the beginning of December — there's been plenty in the high country, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation — you just have to be willing to work a little to get to it.
For the hiker, snowshoeing is the most natural progression for keeping on the trails when the snow hits. And although snowshoeing isn't particularly difficult, as you can imagine, it's a bit different than hiking on dirt in your usual hiking boots.
First, you need a pretty good base of snow for snowshoeing. There isn't really a set amount of snow you need before strapping on some snowshoes, but my rule-of-thumb is that it should be at least a couple of inches over the toe of my boot. You can snowshoe with less snow, but then you run the risk of the bottom of your snowshoes constantly hitting hard dirt, and that can get uncomfortable after a while.
When it comes time to buy a pair of snowshoes, there are a couple of key factors to look at before making your decision. Snowshoes are sized by the length of the snowshoe, and the length you need is based primarily on the weight they'll be supporting. This isn't just your weight, but the weight of your clothing, and any thing else you're carrying. If you're backpacking, you made need bigger snowshoes than if you're day-hiking. Also, there are different types of snowshoes for different types of terrain and activities. For the Pikes Peak region, if you're planning on snowshoeing in steep terrain, I suggest "mountaineering" snowshoes, with "heel-lifters" that help keep your feet horizontal while your snowshoes are at an angle. You'll want to go to your favorite outdoor equipment retailer for advice before you buy. Hiking poles will help make snowshoeing a little easier, and don't forget insulated, waterproof hiking boots.
So, now you're ready for some snowshoeing, but where? The usual snowfall doesn't last long in Colorado Springs, either packed down or melted after a day or so, neither of which makes for suitable snowshoeing. But with the right timing Red Rocks Canyon Open Space, the Seven Bridges Trail, Gold Camp Road up to and past tunnel #3, St Mary's Falls Trail, and Cheyenne Mountain State Park are good locations near Colorado Springs, as is Homestead Ranch Regional Park near Peyton.
Venturing out a little further, Catamount Ranch Open Space, Mueller State Park near Divide, and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument are good options. Further away, the area around Buena Vista — Mt Princeton, Chalk Creek, St. Elmo and Cottonwood Pass — to the west, and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north offer good snowshoeing conditions well into the spring.
Don't let the winter weather keep you from enjoying yourself.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.