The Poudre Canyon has long been recognized as having some of the best snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Colorado. "It's one of those unique mountain environments where you get such spectacular scenery and it's easily accessible," said Apt, a Fort Collins resident and author of the book "Snowshoe Routes: Colorado's Front Range. The growing number of enthusiastic shoers, borders, and skiers make it more difficult to capture the peace and serenity of the area, but the drawing card to this area remains the same. Snow conditions tend to be reliable but back-country users need to be aware of avalanche potential.
It's essentially a wilderness that you step right into when you step out of your vehicle." If you're willing to poke around a bit, adventures can be had whether a first-timer or seasoned cirque chaser. One way to beat the crowds is going on weekdays, which makes self-employment, joblessness and the graveyard shift all seem pretty OK. If you're a 9-to-5er, then how about staying at Archer’s Poudre River Resort? We are open all year long with 1 and 2 bedroom cabins available at Off-season winter rates. What we offer is the ability to beat the crowds to the beautiful but busy trails. And because you're not facing the two-hour drive back to Fort Collins after a day of hammering the trails, you will have the motivation to ski and snowshoe to the farthest bowls and meadows. Archer’s Poudre River Resortalso a hub for the Nordic Patrol, a group of volunteers to monitor the conditions and safety of the trails. So you can be assured of only the best of conditions.
Another way of avoiding the Canyon crazies is to find trails where you don't feel like a participant at the start of the 30K freestyle cross-country ski race at the Olympics. According to Kristy Wumkes, volunteer coordinator for the Roosevelt National Forest, Zimmerman Lake takes the gold for busiest trail, Montgomery Pass earns the silver and Michigan Ditch the bronze.
Some favorite trails for Winter Sport enthusiasts:
Joe Wright Loop : It's not for everyone, but it is the least traveled trail, according to Wumkes. That alone should make it a destination. The hardest part of this winter-only trail is finding the trailhead. Park at the Joe Wright Dam, cross Colorado Highway 14 and find the trailhead at the big bulletin board in the valley. This 1.3-mile loop is smooth and mellow, making it a good place for novice skiers and shoers or those wanting to practice their skating or classic technique. The trail works its way through forests and meadows.
Cameron Connection : This is another
unpopular trail with the masses, which is good news for you. On a map, the trail
appears unappealing because it parallels Colorado 14. However, you quickly ditch
the road noise behind a ridge, then usually have the quiet of the forest and the
meadows all to yourself. Another big bonus here is the wind that plagues much of
the area is reduced to a whisper. You can access this 2-mile, one-way trail
either by parking at the crowded Zimmerman Lake parking lot and crossing
Colorado 14 to the trailhead it shares with Montgomery Pass or at the equally
crowded Cameron Pass parking lot. This is a good advanced-beginner trail.
"If you like a big forest feel, this is the hike," Wumkes said.
Meadows Trail : The necessity of a vehicle shuttle is probably why most people overlook this trail despite one of its two trailheads sharing the busy Zimmerman trailhead. If you take it from Zimmerman, you instantly drop into dense old growth forest, then further down the trail you break into intermittent meadows. From Zimmerman the 4.5-mile, one-way trail is all slightly downhill and a good workout for moderate shoers and skiers.
Why not start at the Cameron Connection Trail and take it to the Zimmerman Lake access to the Meadows Trail then down to Long Draw Road? This is a favorite trail for just going out for a day and having fun.
Silver Creek/Ranger Lakes Trail : No one's quite sure why this trail is so unpopular. Maybe it's because you have to shell out $5 to access this trail in the Colorado State Forest State Park, or maybe it's because you have to drive 15 minutes past Cameron to get to it. The reward for your time and money is priceless solitude.
It offers the same beauty that makes the Zimmerman Lake and Michigan Ditch trails so popular but without the people. True, you may encounter a snowmobile or two, but don't let that stop you. You can bite off as much of this 8-mile trail as you wish. It's great for a family with some experience, or an intermediate skier or shoer looking for some fun off-trail turns and romps.
Ruby Jewel Lake Trail : You do have to pay the state parks $5 for a daily pass here. The $5 for the hump up this 8-mile, one-way trail to the land of tele turns is worth it when there is good snow. The tele adventure comes with a potential price as some of the best tele carving is found on prime avalanche terrain. If you don't carry a beacon, probe and shovel or the knowledge of how to use them, forget about coming back here.