Snowshoeing: RMNP Loch Vale Out and Back

How many times have you promised yourself, “this year I am definitely trying Snowshoeing!”

How many times have you made up excuses not to follow through with your promise…

#1: “It’s too cold”

Dress in layers, that is the secret. Yes it is that simple. Where base layers that wick moisture away from your body, insulating layers that trap body heat and an outer shell that repels wind and rain/snow. The beauty of layers is that you can strip layers off when you get too warm and add layers on when you get chilled.

#2: “I don’t have the gear.”

Rent it. The first few times we went snowshoeing we rented snowshoes from our local REI. If you can’t rent it borrow it. Snowshoes are very inexpensive to rent and if you need a snowsuit you can even rent those too! A couple tips on gear here. Take your backpacking stove and enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea when you reach the Loch. Take sunglasses, on sunny days the snow can be blinding and you can potentially damage your eyes. Also the trail to Loch Vale is moderately to heavily used so it’s usually groomed meaning you won’t need “tails” on your snowshoes designed to give you a larger footprint in soft powder. When you rent/borrow shoes make sure to take the tails to the trail head at least and you can decide if you’ll need them before heading out.

#3: “I don’t know a good trail for beginners.”

loch-valeWell if you’re in Colorado take a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park and try out the trail to Loch Vale! The trail is relatively easy and typically very well traveled. Two positives for beginning snowshoers!

Also the trail is only 2.7 miles one way plus a couple hundred feet to the parking lot! Note: The trail is not dog friendly so make sure to leave your four legged friends at home for this quick trip.

You can easily do the Hike up and back in a few hours but there are plenty of side trails and options available if you want to extend your day.

TIP: Once at the Loch it will probably be windy and the trip will be at it coldest with wind whipping over the frozen body of water. However after you get your snap shots to prove your adventure, you can drop back into the surrounding pine forest to enjoy a short break with a cup of warm coffee and lunch!

#4: And of my favorite excuses, “I don’t know how to snowshoe!”

If you can walk using the ‘one foot in front of the other’ method, you can definitely snowshoe.

Final Thoughts:

Before heading out to the trail make sure to check the official RMNP site for any weather advisories and to be safe it may be worth a call to the Ranger to be sure the trail is open and accessible.

Beyond your snowshoes and cold weather clothing, I personally believe that trekking poles are an absolute must and can help you navigate areas that get sketchy when covered in ice.

You will begin your trip at the Glacier Gorge trail head off of Bear Lake Road. After making it to Loch Vale you can either head straight back to the trail head or double back to the intersection to visit Mills Lake or turn and head towards Bear Lake, stopping at Nymph lake on your way!

After a short (or long) day of snowshoeing under your feet you can head back into Estes Park and visit one of the many excellent restaurants for a celebratory meal and drink!

Remember to stay safe, stay warm and always use your Outside Voice!


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