Colorado campers may be more familiar with wildflower-emblazoned hiking trails, brilliant fall leaves quaking on Aspen trees and long strolls along dusty trails to scenic campsites. While fair-weather camping is a popular activity, winter camping brings to light a whole other side of Colorado—a breathtaking look into the winter beauty for which our state is known.
Wolf Creek Pass
US Route 160
Rio Grande National Forest, CO 81147
With deep snowdrifts and prolific scenic vistas, Wolf Creek Pass is a chillingly worthy place for winter camping. Drifts form relatively close to the highway, so long treks are not necessary to start building a shelter that overlooks the surrounding valleys. High in elevation, the pass has snow earlier and remains later than most other locations. Looking to thaw after a camping experience? Nearby Pagosa Hot Springs will certainly warm the winter chill away.
10th Mountain Division Hut System
30 backcountry cabins throughout the Colorado Rocky Mountains
The popular huts along the over 350 miles of Colorado trails are an excellent way to spend some outdoor winter time without having to build your own shelter. Backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are popular ways to get to the various accommodations, located minutes from trailheads or miles into the wilderness. Ranging in names from the “Betty Bear Hut” to “Vance’s Cabin,” the occupancy can be quite high in the winters, so reservations are highly suggested.
Lost Burro Campground and Lodging
4023 Teller County Road 1
Cripple Creek, CO 80813
RV campgrounds are known across the country for homes on wheels with some stunning spots. Located near Cripple Creek, this year-round camping destination is perfect to park your RV and enjoy the winter weather. Home to six full hook-up sites, the 31 acres afford pine forests and hot, fresh-water shower facilities fed from the nearby spring. A pet-friendly campsite, even Fido can enjoy the winter wonderland.
C Lazy U Ranch
3640 Colorado Highway 125
Granby, CO 80446
If the idea of winter camping includes a spa and gourmet fine dining, C Lazy U Ranch in Granby is a luxurious option during the winter months. One of the few ranches to remain open year round, C Lazy U offers private snowcat tours, ice skating on the Zamboni-smoothed ice pond and horse-drawn sleigh rides across the frozen meadows. With 38 rustically elegant cabins, everything from the full spa menu to fine dining menus afford “Five-Spur Service” that even Jack Frost would appreciate.
Winter Camping School
The Colorado Mountain Club
710 10th St,, Suite 200
Golden, CO 80401
Brushing up on survivalist skills can be educating and fun all at once with the Winter Camping School presented by the Colorado Mountain Club. From building snow shelters to training for arduous hikes across arctic terrain, or simply staying warm while skiing or hiking during winter months, the skills taught can be life saving for unexpected overnight stays in the snow. Fundamentals in equipment, survivor technique and outdoor knowledge marry toasty lectures and frosty fieldwork and are something even experienced Coloradan snow bunnies can benefit from.
Wilderness Exchange Unlimited
2401 15th St., Suite 100
Denver, CO 80202
Wilderness Exchange Unlimited has a wide variety of winter gear, including all-weather tents, cold-weather sleeping bags and even avalanche beacons. The knowledgeable staff outfits customers with winter equipment needs, from cross-country skis to probe poles, at a convenient Denver location.
Always go with someone who knows what they are doing on your first winter camping trip. Avalanche safety and knowledge is a must if venturing out into the national forests for dispersed camping as many of the campsites are closed during the winters. Overnight snowfall can collapse tents and snow structures. Be weather aware when making plans to venture into the wilderness. A GPS tracking device is a welcomed ally to snow-swept landscapes that can appear overnight.
Related: Getaway Guide To The Grand Canyon
Chad Chisholm is an avid globetrotter and brings the best of travel secrets and expert insights to his readership. A Denver-based travel writer and photographer, Chad’s travels have taken him to five of the seven continents in a passionate love affair with the world of travel and the outdoors. His work can be found at Examiner.com.