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Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing

Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado



Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing

Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado



Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing

Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado



Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing

In Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

For cross-country skiers and snowshoers looking to try out a backcountry trail, the Sawatch Range offers a variety of choices, from all-day adventures to short, kid-friendly options. The Waterdog Lakes Trail on Monarch Pass is a steep, high-altitude climb of less than two miles to small lakes close to 11,300 feet in elevation. Browns Creek near Nathrop has several trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to try.

The Upper Arkansas Valley starts in the north near Leadville, and follows the liquid spine of the Arkansas River south to Salida. Tall angular mountains surround the valley on every side – the Mosquito Range, the Sawatch Range and the Sangre de Cristo peaks. It’s a playground of big peaks and deep snow with nearly unlimited terrain for winter adventures.

With the exception of Leadville, which sits in a snowy crown of mountains, the high peaks shade the valley floor from significant snowfall most years. The dry valley floor starkly contrasts the deep snow in the smaller mountain valleys to the north and west of the Arkansas River. Travel up any of these small mountain valleys to find a wealth of high quality ski and snowshoe routes.

Many of the best routes are accessible by passenger car by a series of paved mountain passes – Poncha, Monarch, Cottonwood and Tennessee. Not all these passes remain open in winter, but they’re plowed far enough to get high in the mountains quickly and easily.

In this guide, we highlight some of the best and most-accessible routes in the region. However, this is just a drop in the bucket, because there are hundreds of other trails waiting to be explored.

Trail Systems

Monarch Pass

Monarch Pass connects the Arkansas River Valley with the Gunnison Valley. Close to Salida, this is where to find good winter trails in the south end of the valley. There are routes for all ability levels on Monarch Pass.

Marshall Pass

Marshall Pass is located just off Poncha Pass, south of Salida on the way to the San Luis Valley. The Silver Creek Road offers excellent terrain near the bottom of Marshall Pass.

Cottonwood Pass

Cottonwood Pass connects the Arkansas River Valley with Taylor Park. Although it sees heavy snowmobile traffic, the pass is bordered to the north by the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area. This means you can skate ski the pass on the groomed snowmobile track or escape into the wilderness on one of the valley’s best routes – the wilderness trail to Hartenstein Lake.


Saint Elmo & Mount Princeton

Saint Elmo & Mount Princeton includes abandoned railroad grades, high mountain passes and the historic ghost town of Saint Elmo. It’s one of the most scenic areas in the valley, but often sees heavy snowmobile use.

Browns Creek

Midway between Salida and Buena Vista, Browns Creek is a wonderful crosscountry and snowshoeing area. The terrain is flat and easy to navigate. The Evans-Rush trail is a great introductory route for beginners.


Safety Tips

Before heading out, get information on snow conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Ten Essential Systems

1.Navigation (map & compass)

2.Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)

3.Insulation (extra clothing)

4.Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)

5.First-aid supplies

6.Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)

7.Repair kit and tools

8.Nutrition (extra food)

9.Hydration (extra water)

10.Emergency shelter (tent/emergency bivy)

Visitor Snowshoeing & Cross Country Photos