Snowshoeing Colorado: Check out this Lake Helene trip in Rocky Mountain National Park

At five bucks a day this is among the least costly winter fun around.
4 min. read
Rocky Mountain National Park. Jan. 15, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) nature; rocky mountain national park; snowshoe; hike; winter; weather; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado;

Snowshoeing at Rocky Mountain National Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

If you like to hike Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer you should absolutely give it a go while it's covered in snow. It's a whole different kind of gorgeous up there.

This is what you'd see if you tried to jaunt into the park toward Lake Helene, a 7-mile round trip and a moderate-to-difficult adventure.

Backcountry skiing trails and an ascending skier on the back side of Flattop Mountain. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Go get yourself some snowshoes.

At 5 bucks a day, this might be the least-costly winter fun known to mankind. I get mine from the Estes Park Mountain Shop, where you can also get boots and snow pants for your adventure, which are highly recommended if you don't have your own.

Supplies at the Estes Park Mountain Shop. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Snowshoes accomplish three things for you. First: They look very stylish. Second: They're equipped with claws on the bottom that make traversing even the nastiest slippery slope a piece of cake. Third: The extra surface area keeps you from sinking into the snow. Whoever made this deep boot-hole in the soft snow was not having a great hike:

A deep hole made by a boot-clad hiker. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rocky tends to get a ton of snow (it had a 67-inch base this weekend), so definitely be prepared.

Packed Snow is as high as a sign near Bear Lake. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Start at Bear Lake.

As many adventures do, this one begins at Rocky's arguably most famous lake. Start here and start early to avoid a full parking lot (even in winter) and to make sure you're not hiking into dusk. Take the trail east where the signs point to Odessa and Fern Lakes. This trail begins as the same route to Odessa, but diverges later into new territory as winter trails often do.

Bear Lake, seen from on high. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Beware downhill skiers!

For real though, this trail is the same one used by backcountry skiers on their way up Flattop Mountain. They love to cruise down the trail back home, and sometimes that means diving out of the way. Just keep your ears open.

A backcountry skier heads down the trail. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

It won't be long before rewards begin to poke through the trees.

If you're not up for this entire hike up to Helene there's plenty to gawk at on the way.

The Estes Valley, dusted with snow. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Rocky Mountain National Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Weather rolling in over Rocky Mountain National Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Magic. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

As you make your way through the enchanted frozen forest you'll come upon that area behind Flat Top Mountain where skiers have graced the powder with their own unique designs. This is where the trail begins to wander from its summer counterpart.

Ski trails on Flattop Mountain. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Ski trails on Flattop Mountain. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Stay on track.

Somehow the Park Service manages to maintain a very identifiable and well-manicured trail in the snow. Stay on it! You never know where you'll end up if you don't.

A trail winds into the woods. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Be patient.

This trail winds its way though the woods for a little while, and the persistent but subtle uphill grade might make it feel like you've been walking forever, but when the trees clear out conspicuously you'll know you're standing on top of Two Rivers Lake, just a stone's throw away from Helene.

Two Rivers Lake and Notchtop Mountain. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Notchtop Mountain seen over Lake Helene (covered in snow). (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Soon you'll reach Helene, which offers a stunning view beneath Notchtop Mountain and of the Odessa Valley. Definitely don't forget to stop and make a friend or two before you turn around to head back.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Jan. 15, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
The Odessa Valley, seen from Lake Helene. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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