Snowshoeing Around Bear Lake – Estes Park, CO

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Bear Lake trailhead is located approximately 20 minutes from downtown Estes Park, Colorado. The primary activity in the winter is snowshoeing. The trailhead is at 9,475 feet in elevation and has restrooms but water is not available in the winter. In addition, the shuttle bus was not operating so we to parked at the Bear Lake trailhead. A park entrance fee or annual pass was required to enter. Cell phone service was weak. Finally, before heading out, I recommend calling the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to find out the weather conditions and snow levels.

In mid-March 2013, we snowshoed a 0.7 mile counter-clockwise loop around Bear Lake with a change in elevation less than 100 feet.


We rented snowshoes from the YMCA of the Rockies, where we stayed, but I recommend getting them from a local outdoor store in Estes Park because some of the ones we received were difficult to keep strapped on our feet. The conditions for us were cold with blowing snow, which was a stark contrast to the sunny and dry conditions back at our cabin.


Our two and six year olds only made it two hundred feet because it was too cold and windy for them.

The rest of our group consisted of first timers that were determined to continue. The snowshoe trail was a little different than what we’ve hiked in the summer. It meandered in and out of the trees and followed the edge of the lake a little more.


For us, most of the trail was wide and well packed. However, there were a few sections that were narrower and/or on a slope such that some of the members of our group were glad to have trekking poles that provided extra support.


The middle half of the loop was less windy because we were shielded by the side of the mountain. The only wildlife we saw were a few gray jays.

Snowshoeing around Bear Lake

Although our views were limited, it was great to be outside in such a serene environment.


The loop ended a little ways away from the lake.


In sum, snowshoeing around Bear Lake was a blast for the first timers in our group and equally fun for our other experienced members. On the same day, we did an additional mile of snowshoeing to Nymph Lake, which was more rigorous, but we were glad we did it because it takes a fair amount of time to rent snowshoes and drive to the end of Bear Lake Road. Contact the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to learn about ranger-led snowshoeing trips. Also, check out our other favorite RMNP hiking trails.


2 thoughts on “Snowshoeing Around Bear Lake – Estes Park, CO”

  1. As they say, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe!”I’m an avid snowshoer and friends are often hesitant to join because they think they need to have some sort of special skills. Snowshoeing is easy, fun as heck, and relatively inexpensive. I love that it’s becomeing a mainstream activity!

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