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Cross Country Skiing in North Park, Colorado

February is also the perfect time of year for cross country skiing in North Park!  If you are a beginning skier, intermediate, or expert, North Park has so many places that you will want to explore on your next nordic ski trip.  North Park has hundreds of thousands of acres of public land, varying from high plains desert to alpine trails.

Where other places in Colorado are facing the ups and downs of winter and false spring, North Park is still very pristine, with fresh snowfall, less risk of animal encounters due to hibernation season being in full-swing, and a decrease in tourism due to winter driving conditions.  

For those who are adventurous in spirit and know where the good places are to visit in North Park, February can be one of your favorite times of year to visit.  Especially for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing!

Destinations for Cross Country Skiing

If you are looking for the best destinations for cross-country skiing in Colorado, North Park is hard to beat.  Whether it is consistent snow pack, cold temperatures, or incredible scenery to view on your adventure, here are some of the best places to cross-country ski in Colorado. Here are just a few of the best places to cross country ski in North Park, Colorado.

Places to Ski and Snowshoe in North Park

A small mountain village on HWY 14, Gould is within sight of peaks bordering Rocky Mountain National Park. If you have driven from Ft. Collins to Walden along the Cache le Poudre-North Park Scenic byway, you have probably passed through Gould.

Skiing and Snowshoeing in Gould, CO

Gould provides access to some of the largest trail systems in the state, which connect with trail systems in Grand County to the south. The area is known for it’s breathtaking views of the Nokhu Crags, Mt. Richtofen, the Medicine Bow Mountains, and Neversummer Mountains. This southestern corner of North Park offers year round opportunities to explore the mountain terrain as well as a gateway to other stops in the area.

The altitude and annual snowfall provide a consisency of snow quality you want to find for cross-country skiing. February is a great time of year since the snow is still relatively dry. In February, Gould has hosted the Gould Ski Scramble, which starts at the Gould Community Center.  The original building at the Gould Community Center was a former WWII POW camp, and is now used for community meetings, events, and recreation. 

Competitive 5k and 10k races for skiers who come from all around looking for world-class cross-country skiing trails. A potluck style banquet and awards ceremony follows the event to warm up the spectators and skiier alike. The event will be returning in 2025, so be sure to check back to our Calendar of Events for updates!

State Forest State Park

State Forest State Park is just a few miles from Gould and is Colorado’s only State Forest.  From Ranger Lakes to Michigan Reservoir, and all the way to Cameron Pass, the State Forest State Park offers some of North Park’s most beautiful alpine forests and mountain trails.  Though seasonal closures affect motorized vehicle traffic into the State Park, many areas are still open to intrepid cross-country skiers.

The Moose Visitor Center on HWY 14 just a few miles from Gould is the trailhead to a network of groomed trails. Skiers might get to see wildlife such as foxes, snowshoe hares, raptors, and of course moose.  The Moose Visitor Center has a gift shop as well as interactive interpretive displays about the ecology and geological formation of North Park.

Moonlight Skiing and Snowshoeing

This year, the Colorado State Forest State Park has hosted moonlight skiing events on weekends of the full moon in January and February. Nothing compares to a calm, quiet night under the light of the full moon on skis or snowshoes on this self-guided trek.  Park rangers host a campfire 3/4 of a mile in on the trail from the Moose Visitor Center where hot beverages are provided.

Michigan Ditch

Cameron Pass rises up to an elevation of 10, 276 ft. Above sea level, making it one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado.  The Michigan Ditch trail begins not far from the pass and loops around covering a distance of around 4 miles.  Advanced skiiers can work their way towards American Lakes or Lake Agnes, which can be relatively crowded in the summertime, but in winter the solitude can be intoxicating.

Owl Mountain

Between the towns of Gould and Rand, CO you will find an area known to locals as Owl Mountain.  Most commonly known as a prime elk hunting location, Owl Mountain is a great place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.  Located in Routt National Forest, this heavily forested trail takes you through lodgepole pine forests, along creeks, and some incredible vistas.

Places to Eat and Drink in Gould, CO

The Howling Coyote Mexican Restaurant is open all year and features an extensive menu of Chihuahan inspired entrees, apetizers, and desserts.  After your day on the trails, stop by for an apres meal or drinks to warm yourself up before heading out again.

Rabbit Ears Pass

A thirty minute drive to Walden and another thirty minutes to Rabbit Ears Pass takes you to one of the best-loved locations for nordic skiing in Colorado.  Rabbit Ears Pass is home to a whole network of cross-country skiing trails, without the hassle of having to go all the way to Steamboat Springs, CO.

A stop in Walden for lunch, fuel and snacks, or even an overnight stay gives you time to stretch your legs and enjoy your travels.  Continue to Rabbit Ears Pass on HWY 14 until it meets US 40 and then head west towards Steamboat.  Just a few miles up the road, you will find plenty of parking, groomed trails, and a large network of trails.  The area gets its name from the geological formation known as Rabbit Ears Peak, which is the remnants of a dormant volcano which sits at the intersection of the Park Range and the Rabbit Ears Range.

The area is regarded as one of the best places to snowmobile in Colorado, but you can find plenty of trails for snowshoeing and backcountry cross-country skiing.

Big Creek Lakes

Big Creek Lakes sits at the northwest corner of North Park at the north end of the Park Range.  A popular destination for RV camping, fishing, and ATVs in the summertime, Big Creek Lakes is tucked away in a remote location. Beautiful views make for a spectacular visit for outdoor recreation all year long.

Big Creek Lakes is not recommended for a casual in-and-out day trip, however. This location is better suited for a ski-backpacking trip if you are an advanced skier or outdoor winter recreation enthsiast. A trip like this just might be the thrill-seeking expedition you are looking for an incredible winter camping experience.

Road conditions may vary, with the Pearl area being the end of the line when it comes to motor vehicle access (other than snowmobiles).  When roads are plowed up to the town of Pearl, the trek to Big Creek Lake is around 6 miles one way.  It can be as far as 13 miles depending on how far the snow plows continue to keep roads open.

Other Places to Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in North Park

With such a large amount of public land and plenty of snowfall during the winter months, there are many more places to explore when it comes to outdoor winter recreation in North Park.  Access may be fairly limited due to road closures, however, so be sure to check road conditions for Jackson County to avoid road closures and getting stuck.

Risk of Avalanche in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

When skiing the high country, always be mindful of the risks of avalanche and carry the right equipment such as emergency becons, avalanche kits, and always let someone know where you have gone and when they can expect you back.  Cellular phone reception is spotty at best in these remote areas, so a mobile phone is not a reliable method of contacting help in the event of an emergency.

Avalanches are more common as layers of fresh snow and ice stack up, creating a sheeting effect which can suddenly become unstable.  Though avalanches have been known to happen in February, they are less common in North Park during this time of the year due to consistent cold temperatures.  Always be aware of warnings and travel only where you feel comfortable can ski safely. Check out the website for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to learn more about avalanche conditions and safety.

Stop for Fuel and Snacks in Walden, CO

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best ways to burn calories when it comes to outdoor winter recreation.  To put fuel back into our bodies, it’s always good to make a pit stop before heading to the next beautiful location in North Park.

Gas Stations and Convenience Stores

Check out our best gas stations in Walden, CO. Both gas and convenience stores are located across from each other on the corner of 6th and Main Street in Walden.

  • Corkle’s Mini Mart: Food, drinks, licenses, and snacks.  Also check out the North Park merch in the gift shop!
  • Sinclair Gas Station and Convenience Store: Just look for the green dinosaur! They’ve got you covered for road trip food, drinks, and supplies.

Outdoor Supplies and Groceries in Walden, CO

  • North Park Super’s: One mile north of Walden on HWY 125, you’ll find ice, beverages, groceries, and other supplies at North Park Super’s.
  • Family Dollar: on the corner of 4th and Main Street, the Family Dollar is stocked with a wide selection of quick and easy groceries, housewares, and electronics.
  • Timberline Builder’s Supply: A great place to find hardware to replace things that have broken on your travels. From plumbing fittings, fasteners, and even camping and outdoor equipment, you’ll find it here. Call (970) 723-4422 for hours of operation.

North Park Restuarants Near Me

  • Rita’s Cafe: Breakfast and Lunch served 5 days per week.  Check out the review here! It’s also one of the best places to get coffee in Walden, CO.
  • River Rock in Walden, CO : A sit down restaurant with hot drinks, food, and adult beverages for after a long day on the trails.
  • Howling Coyote Mexican Restaurant in Gould, CO: If you are visiting trails in Gould, Cameron Pass, State Forest State Park, or Owl Mountain, the Howling Coyote Mexican Restaurant is close to you.  Serving up a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the winter, it’s a must-see place to stop to fill your stomach.
  • Rand Yacht Club in Rand, CO: On HWY 125 in Rand, CO, you’ll find the historic Rand Yacht Club on the road towards Granby, CO from Walden.  Call (303) 909-2719 for hours of operation and to see what specials are on the menu.
  • The 10th Frame in Walden, CO: Open Tuesday-Saturday, take a break from riding and enjoy a burger, hot sandwiches, or any number of daily specials. It’s also got bowling and a full bar. A local favorite!
  • The Stockman Bar and Grill in Walden, CO: A local bar and grill featuring an original antique bar from the frontier days, local character, and plenty of good times.
  • Four Winds Pizza in Walden, CO: Pizza, ice cream, and antiques.  Call (970) 723-8668 for current seasonal hours.

Best Places to Stay in North Park and Walden, CO

If you want to enjoy trails over several days in the warmth and comfort of a hotel or vacation rental, book your lodging in a hotel, VRBO or AirBnB property in Walden, CO.

Here are the best hotels in Walden, CO and places to stay in North Park:

Pack Your Trash and Leave No Trace

Following a leave no trace method of traveling and tourism are a great way to ensure a place remains beautiful, not just for the other visitors, but also to make sure somewhere is just as beautiful the next time you get to visit. Whether its next year or ten years from now.  Take only pictures and leave only photographs and we all get to enjoy North Park year round, year after year!

Thoughtlessly throwing your trash out while camping impacts wildlife and the overall environmental health of any area.  Carelessness can also lead to closures and decimation of this beautiful landscape. Always travel with the intention of leaving a place better than you found it.  From cleaning up after your pets to making sure trash and food waste are disposed of properly ensures everyone gets to fall in love with North Park.

Make North Park Your Destination for Winter Outdoor Recreation

Not only will you find nordic skiing, North Park has lots to offer when it comes to ice fishing, snowmobile trails, races, and community activities.  Check out our calendar of events and get ready to have some fun in the mountains this year with us!

Unlike those busy ski resort towns where you fight traffic and long lines everywhere you go, North Park offers the quiet solitude and vistas that are becoming more and more rare in Colorado.  Come check out what North Park has to offer this winter.  

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