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