Published with permission from the guide book:
Skinny Skis and Snowshoes – Guide to Winter Trails in Colorado’s Upper Arkansas Valley by Nate Porter and Nathan Ward.
This guidebook gives detailed information on 25 of the best backcountry ski and snowshoe routes in the Upper Arkansas Valley, with trails for every ability level. If you count all the options presented for each trail, the actual number of routes is closer to 60 without even counting the individual trails at the Nordic centers – that is a lot of skiing. If you’re insatiable and need more, look at the sections titled: Other Areas to Explore. Be insatiable.
SNOWSHOE & NORDIC SKI TRAILS
BUENA VISTA TRAILS
Twin Lakes & Independence Pass
- Denny Creek to Hartenstein Lake
- Cottonwood Pass to the Ptarmigan Lake Road
- Cottonwood Lake to the Poplar Gulch Trail
Saint Elmo & Mount Princeton
- Fooses Creek
- Middle Fork Creek to the Lost Wonder Hut
- Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Creek Pass
- Waterdog Lakes
- Monarch Park to the Top of Monarch Pass
- Old Monarch Pass
- Monarch Crest Trail to South Fooses Creek
Raspberry Gulch drops from the heights of Mt. Antero (14,269 ft.) and this tour follows the road up the lower section of the gulch. The route crosses the Colorado Trail and winds through open meadows and huge aspen groves, climbing steadily but very gradually. Enjoy good views of Mt. Antero, Mt. White (13,667 ft.). Across the valley to the east, look at the Arkansas Hills and Aspen Ridge. This is a nice quick route that can be done before or after work from either Salida or Buena Vista.
Trailhead Access: From downtown Salida, drive northwest on US 291 ten miles to the junction with US 285. Turn right (north) and drive 2.7 miles to CR 270. Turn left (west) on CR 270 and continue 1.5 miles to the intersection with CR 271. Continue straight west on CR 272 for 2.2 miles. Park in the large area on the right side of the road, where CR 272 and CR 274 meet. Travel from here.
Location: North of Salida
Distance: 3.8 Miles – Out & Back
Travel Time: 1 – 2 Hours
Type of Trail: Road
Aerobic Level: Easy
Technical Difficulty: Ski – Novice; Shoe – Novice
Avalanche Danger: None
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,617; High Point 9,325; Climbs/Descents 708
Land Status: USFS
Maps: Trails Illustrated #130; USGS Mount Antero
Notes: For this route to be in good condition, we need snow low in the valley. If there is no low snow, watch out for bare spots or you’ll do a massive face plant when you hit the rocks hidden under the snow. Don’t ask how we know this.
Cottonwood Lake to the Poplar Gulch Trail
0.0 Start west on CR 274 toward the mountains on a track next to the road (38° 41.58N, 106° 09.29W).
0.3 Turn left (south) on FSR 2731 (38° 41.69N, 106° 09.53W).
0.7 Stay straight on the road (38° 41.60N, 106° 09.95W).
1.5 Stay straight on the road (38° 41.09N, 106° 10.45W).
1.9 The small clearing with an old log cabin to the left is the turnaround (38° 40.89N, 106° 10.80W). For a longer ski, continue straight ahead. Otherwise, turn around and follow your tracks back to the parking area.
Colorado Trail Option: To ski the Colorado Trail, turn around at Mile 1.9 (above) and ski 0.8 mile back down the route. Keep your eyes peeled for a tiny Colorado Trail sign and turn right (east) on the singletrack. Follow the trail markers (38° 41.35N, 106° 10.24W). The trail rolls across some meadows and then switchbacks up the ridge. Ski as far as you want, then follow your tracks back to the original route.
SKI & SNOWSHOE WITH CARE
Backcountry travel is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or manmade, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time, under any situation. As a backcountry traveler we assume you know your personal abilities, limitations and have a comprehensive background in avalanche safety.
This book represents nothing more than a guide to routes and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or your ability to travel in the backcountry safely.
The mileages, routes and waypoints listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and changes, you may get lost. We recommend that everyone use a global positioning system and topographical map to navigate.
Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the landowner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use.
Neither the authors, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All backcountry travelers and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Explore at your own risk, and always tell somewhere where you are going and when you’ll be back.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.