Seeking Solitude On Your Winter Vacation? Try Snowshoeing
Many people escape the city during the colder months searching for solitude in the mountains, only to fight traffic, dodge skiers on the resort, and wait in lift lines. A Vail Valley winter ski vacation can be beautiful and adventurous, but with crowds you may not always get the seamless getaway you may have pictured. Luckily, there is more to the mountain lifestyle than just downhill skiing.
Snowshoeing is an accessible way to experience a peaceful Vail Valley winter wonderland. Deep in the forest, void of crowds, it’s the quiet getaway that recharges the soul and spirit. Snowshoes redistribute a hiker's weight over a larger surface area so he/she is able to traverse the snowy terrain. Minimal equipment and experience is necessary for a great workout that can be done almost anywhere there’s snow.
Whether you’re looking for a backcountry adventure or a casual stroll, there are trails that cater to your pace and activity level.
What To Wear Snowshoeing
Before heading to the trails, check the weather and dress in layers. This allows you to easily add or shed a layer to adjust to changing temperatures. A general rule is to be slightly chilled before you start walking because you will warm up quickly once you do. Always pack an extra fleece or other form of a jacket to accommodate for changing weather conditions, or if you happen to cool down a bit on your way back.
Start with a moisture-wicking top and bottom. Quick-dry material that draws perspiration away from the body will help regulate temperature. A mid-layer, such as a fleece or insulating down jacket, will keep your core toasty warm. For cooler days, add a vest or swap out heavy layers for lighter ones if it warms up. Top everything off with a waterproof jacket and pants.
Slide thick wool or synthetic socks onto your feet, paired with waterproof hiking or snow boots. Don’t forget the little items, such as gloves, a beanie, and a scarf or neck gaiter. Sunglasses are especially important to wear in the winter because the glare from the snow reflects more dangerous UV rays than it does in the summer months.
Consider carrying a small backpack to stash extra gear, a snack, and a bottle of water. On colder days, stuff hand warmers into your gloves or pack a thermos with a warm drink.
Once you are dressed, it’s time to grab your gear. Putting together snowshoeing equipment is a much simpler task than assembling every piece of gear required for skiing, making the activity especially user-friendly. Simply strap snowshoes onto your boots, grab trekking poles, and you’re ready to go! Many outdoor outfitters rent snowshoes, but guests at The Inn at Riverwalk can check out Atlas snowshoes and hiking poles from the on-site gear garage for no additional cost. Stay and play without the hassle of reservations or additional fees for gear and games during your stay.
Best Snowshoe Trails in the Vail Valley
Snowshoeing is an accessible activity that can be found almost anywhere there’s snow on the ground. Choose from a groomed course at one of the many Nordic centers or the more rugged National Forest by heading out on one of the many trails found throughout the Vail Valley.
Nordic centers provide well-maintained and marked trails. The Vail Nordic Center, located east of Vail Village, offers several miles of mostly flat, scenic trails with views of the majestic Gore Range. For truly spectacular mountain vistas, visit the lift-accessed McCoy Park on Beaver Creek Mountain. Ride the Strawberry Park chairlift to access miles of groomed and rustic gladed snowshoe trails. A lift ticket must be purchased to ride the lift and use the trail system. The Eagle-Vail Community also grooms their 18-hole golf course and offers free access for snowshoers in the winter, although no additional amenities are offered.
Most of the hiking trails in the Vail Valley are perfect for a snowshoeing adventure. These trails are not maintained, but offer a quieter and more authentic feel than you would find at a Nordic course. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds and out into the wilderness to explore the beautiful winter wonderland.
East Lake Creek Trail on the south side of I-70 in Edwards meanders through dense aspen groves. On the opposite side of the highway, Berry Creek Trail gently climbs a forest service road to offer wide-open views of the valley below. Miller Ranch Open Space is a good option for those seeking an easy, low-incline walk along the river in Edwards.
Grouse Creek Trail heads through thick forest along a quiet creek outside of Minturn. This can be made into a loop connecting to and from Meadow Mountain for a longer hike.
The North Trail system in Vail is a popular place for snowshoers. The trail climbs and zig zags the hillside, which runs parallel to the highway below. There are numerous trailheads along the North Frontage Road as starting points.
Some of the more popular trails in East Vail are absent of crowds in the winter. The Booth Falls Trail is steep as it climbs into a valley. It’s 2 miles long and an approximate 1,000 foot climb one way to reach the top of the falls, but the scenery is beautiful no matter how far you make it. For a slightly gentler climb with scenery that’s equally as beautiful, the Gore Creek Trail starts when the road ends in East Vail.
Not sure if you want to head out into the woods on your own? Or are you looking to delve a little deeper into the vast wilderness area that surrounds the Vail Valley? Guests at The Inn receive a 15% discount for tours with Paragon Guides, offering guided half and full day snowshoe tours.
Warm Up After Your Walk
After a brisk walk outside, there’s nothing better than warming up from the inside. The Inn at Riverwalk has all the amenities you need to recharge after a day out in the mountains. Sip on hot chocolate or coffee from the complimentary Lavazza coffee bar in the lobby, followed by a soak in the riverside hot tub. When you’re done adventuring for the day, relax in your room with featherbed topped mattresses and luxury bath products for a restful night’s sleep.
The perfect day exists, even without strapping on skis. Book your winter adventure at The Inn at Riverwalk today for all the adventure with none of the hassle.