Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Golden Gate Canyon State Park - a winter workout

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is 1 of 42 Colorado State parks, and only lies 16 miles north-west of Golden, and within an hour of Denver. The park has more than 12,000 acres of land to enjoy, and a variety of mountain scenery ranging from sweeping views to green meadows, to groves of aspen. Since the park is so close to Denver, it does get a lot of foot traffic, and the campsites get booked in advance at peak season.

The park can be enjoyed in all seasons whether you are on foot, bicycle, horseback or snowshoes. The first place I recommend stopping at is the Visitors Center, the center houses a small exhibit about the park and the wildlife, has free maps and brochures, and they can issue the $7 daily park fee.

Our first visit to the park was during winter with the intention to snowshoe, but traction devices were all that was needed on the compacted snow and ice, and we virtually had the trails to ourselves. The park volunteer recommended heading for the Horseshoe Trailhead to get a first taste of the park, this Trailhead is the beginning of the Horseshoe trail, a moderate 1.8 mile steady climb up to Frazer Meadow.

Start of Horseshoe Trail

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rocky Mountain NP - a Park for All Seasons

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, was established as the USA's tenth park in 1915, the National Park is approximately 80 miles north of Denver and sits between the town of Estes Park to the East and Grand Lake to the west. The park encompasses 415 sq. miles of protected wilderness and natural beauty, and boasts the highest continuously paved road in North America "Trail Ridge Road". The park elevation sits between 7,860 feet and 14,259 feet, and for those coming from sea level the altitude can make you feel light-headed and long for more oxygen.

The park is open year round (fee required), and each different season has something new to offer the visitor, late May through to late September sees the most amount of visitors.

The snow starts falling in the park in late Fall (or sometimes earlier). Trail Ridge Road closes typically mid-October, the crowds thin out, and wildlife and solitude return to this wilderness. I love visiting the park in the winter, you really get a feel for the harshness that winter brings, but at the same time, you get to feel a peacefulness without the crowds.
Depending on how harsh the winter is, you can easily explore the park still on foot or in the car, hiking may require snowshoes or traction devices, and backcountry experience if venturing off the beaten path.

Moraine Park is a large open meadow area close to the Beaver Meadows entrance and is a great place to spot wildlife year round. Cub Lake and Fern Lake trails start from Moraine Park and are both accessible during winter.

Windswept Moraine Park