Things to Do in North Park and Walden, CO During the Winter
Winter is gearing up in North Park, CO. If you are looking for things to do in the Walden area for a long weekend or holiday you might want to plan for more than one trip. Whether it is winter sports such as backcountry skiing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling, these activities can fill an itinerary that will get your blood pumping even when the temperature drops. If you have some time off this winter, visit North Park, CO and see what one of the most beautiful places in Colorado has in store for you!
Outdoor Winter Sports in North Park, CO
North Park is synonymous with Jackson County, CO and Walden sits in the middle of this high mountain valley or "park." Just over the pass from Steamboat Springs and what is soon to become the second largest ski resort in Colorado, North Park couldn't be more different. Compared to the traffic and congestion of resort destinations like Steamboat or Winter Park, North Park is a quiet spot for your Colorado vacation.
Walden, CO is a great jumping off point to reach prime outdoor recreation spots without all the congestion and hassle of resort towns and cities to deal with. North Park is that hidden gem of Colorado winter recreation that many don’t know about, just waiting for you to explore.
Rocky Mountain Winter Camping
For winter adventures, nothing quite compares to winter camping. Whether you are tent camping or building snow shelters, or glamping in a primitive cabin or yurt, North Park has what you need to heed that call from the mountains. When ski resorts like Winter Park or Steamboat don't cut it for winter adventures, you need to explore the raw experience only winter camping in the Rocky Mountains can deliver.
The State Forest State Park is open year round (reservations are required, so please check the website for details) with sites available even during the winter months. With thousands of acres of National Forest and BLM public lands, there's no shortage of places to camp for anyone equipped to get there.
Backcountry Skiing and Snowshoeing
Even without a nearby alpine ski resort, North Park still offers world class nordic skiing. All sorts of trail systems used for hiking and backpacking in the summer months are available for winter treks. The cold temperatures and relatively “dry” snow offer powder conditions as well as packed snow that cross-country skiers crave. Trail systems throughout North Park allow skiers to explore pine forests as well as flat public lands rich with wildlife and stunning vistas.
For those who enjoy snowshoeing, your feet will take you even more places. Snowpack and consistent freezing temperatures in the high-country make for ideal snowshoeing conditions with the danger of avalanche being a concern closer to the Spring. Check with State Forest and National Forest websites to find out where the trailheads are for trekking in the mountains during the winter months. Snowshoes and skis can also take you deep into the wilderness for ice fishing.
Ice Fishing in North Park
The ice is getting thick on North Park Lakes. Delaney Lakes, Lake John, and even Big Creek Lake are some of the most popular fishing spots in North Park during the winter months. Each year fishing contests at Delaney Lakes and Lake John offer competitors a chance at landing record-holding sport fish, such as brown trout, rainbow trout, and mackinaw trout.
The higher mountain lakes might take some extra work to get to the ice, with some anglers using snowmobiles to reach mountain lakes like Big Creek when the roads are closed for the season.
North Park hosts a series of ice fishing tournaments with the first starting at Lake John on January 13th and 14th. Hotel rooms and accommodations are running out, so get your room booked today!
Different Types of Fish You'll Find in North Park
North Park lakes are home to a wide range of game fish all year long. Brook trout, brown trout, mackinaw, cutthroat, rainbow, and the massive cutbow trout are stocked throughout North Park. Some anglers set their sights on Big Creek Lakes as a destination to catch tiger muskies!
The ice report for mid-December on all major lakes is a thickness of 6-8" on all lakes. This is enough to support body weight, but not yet recommended thickness for vehicle use including snowmobiles. As we get deeper into winter, the ice will get thicker.
- Lake John and Delaney Lakes: Fishing is hot with mid-sized fish, upwards of 18” being pulled out of Lake John. Larger fish have reached 24-30" lengths. Delaney Lakes are Gold Medal waters that draw anglers from all over the US and the world!
- Big Creek Lake is still accessible by 4WD due to logging that is expected to continue for a few more weeks in December. Likely to be snowed out with larger snowfalls and winter storms. Some avid ice fishers ride in on snowmobiles and camp once the roads are closed.
- Cowdrey Lake: Nine miles north of Walden, just outside the town of Cowdrey you will find Cowdrey Lake. It's a great place to take in the view of all the mountain ranges surrounding North Park.
- Other Lakes in the area include Seymour, Joe Wright reservoir, Michigan Reservoir, and Meadow Creek.
Snowmobiling in North Park, Colorado
The heavy snowfalls for North Park have still yet to come as of December, but that isn’t to say there's nowhere to take your sled. Out in the high country, Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears pass are ideal spots for snowmobiling, and are just about half an hour outside of Walden, CO.
Not all that far away to the north in Wyoming, you can visit Snowy Range. One of the best places in the country for snowmobiling, Snowy Range features over 200 miles of trails and an average of 300 inches of snowfall each year.
Wildlife Viewing and Stargazing
With so many miles of open land waiting to be explored in North Park, you'll find some of the best chances to view deer, elk, and moose in their natural habitat. Home to coyotes, snowshoe hares, ptarmigans, big horn sheep, mountain lions and so much more, wildlife watching in North Park is like nowhere else.
With the nearest major city over an hour away by car, clear nights will reveal the vastness of the night sky. See the Milky Way, meteor showers, and bring your telescope or binoculars to witness the cosmos on crystal clear nights without light pollution to stop you.
Places to Stay in North Park
When the winter season is in full swing you’ll want to get your lodging and accommodations reserved in advance. Here’s a list of the main hotels and lodging in North Park with links to help plan your stay. North Park also has a wide selection of AirBnB and VRBO vacation rentals you can check out.
Places to Eat in North Park and Walden
After you’ve carved turns, wrapped up the throttle on your snowmobile, or hauled in that 18” brown trout, drop by one of our restaurants to warm yourself from the inside out.
- Howling Coyote Mexican Inn: New restaurant in Gould, CO, on HWY 14, 23 miles SE of Walden. Serving up a wide selection of authentic Mexican food from ceviche to parrilladas. Open Wed-Fri, 3-9pm and Sat & Sun from 9am-9pm.
- Rand Yacht Club: Steaks, Whiskey, Beer and hearty mountain food, live music, and a mineral/rock shop. About 25 miles southwest of Walden in Rand, CO. Open Fri-Sat 2-9pm Sun 2-8pm
- Rita’s Cafe: Serving breakfast and lunch five days a week (closed Wednesdays and Thursdays) open 6am-3pm and 6am-2pm on Sundays.
- The 10th Frame: A wide selection of burgers, sandwiches, weekly specials and bowling! Open Tues-Sat 11-9pm.
- River Rock: Classic American cuisine in a historical Walden, CO location. Open seven days a week and serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks.
- Stockman Bar and Grill: The local watering hole with pub food, libations, and sometimes live music. Home of the New Years Eve bash and serving Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to weary travelers. This hot spot for Walden night life is open seven days a week.
- Four Winds Pizza: Pizza, ice cream, and antiques. Call (970) 723-8668 for current seasonal hours.
*Winter Hours are Subject to Change, especially depending on weather.
Pack Your Trash and Leave No Trace
As travelers and visitors, we should always be aware of the impact we make on the places we visit. One of the charms of North Park is how untouched it is by pollution and overdevelopment.
Lack of responsibility and accountability tend to ruin it for the rest of us, turning this pristine rural landscape into exactly what people in cities are trying to get away from.
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!
Pack Your Trash
Thoughtlessly throwing your trash out while camping impacts wildlife and the overall environmental health of an 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.
Local Events Happening in North Park!
Winter festivities and anticipation of the Christmas season kick off early in December in North Park. Visitors to Walden, CO can get into the holiday spirit with any number of festivities going on in town. Check this link to learn details about what’s happening in North Park and Walden this holiday season.
What You Need to Know about Winter Travel in North Park
Winters in North Park can be a display of extremes, with mild sunny days quickly becoming frigid with conditions well into the sub-zero double digits. Wind can drift over highways and plowing is limited. Locals rely heavily on four wheel drive vehicles and checking on updated weather forecasts is important when traveling through the mountains. Check out this guide for how to prepare yourself for emergency road conditions in North Park on your visit to Walden, CO.
Build an Itinerary for a Visit to North Park
A lack of high-rise hotels, expensive apres ski bars, and trendy tourist traps can be a breath of fresh air when it comes to your winter adventures. Check with hotels and restaurants ahead of time to avoid any inconveniences with seasonal closures and holiday hours. From November through April, North Park is a winter wonderland with so many possibilities for recreation and activities. Plan your next trip for a mountain experience unlike any other!