10 Ways To Enjoy the Colorado Outdoors This Winter

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With COVID-19 restrictions growing tighter — indoor activities are becoming less of an option. Yet as Colorado’s winter starts to slowly roll in — you may think the list of outdoor activities is limited to skiing and snowboarding. If you are not much of a skier or snowboarder, take a look at this list of ways to enjoy the Colorado outdoors and consider trying something you’ve never done before.

Ice Skating

Photo courtesy of Boulder Creek Events’ Facebook

Whether you prefer a rink in the city or a frozen lake in the mountains — ice skating is always a fun way to spend a cold day. Ice skating during a pandemic can be tricky — most rinks have decided open skating is not safe and have resorted to reservations, while others have decided to not open for the winter season at all. However, there are a few ice rinks in the Denver area that have decided to take on the challenge of adhering to COVID-19 regulations. Head down to Colorado Springs to skate in Acacia Park — or head to downtown Louisville for old fashioned outdoor skating. Whichever rink you choose — make sure to reserve spots online and stick with your closest loved ones in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Ice Fishing

Photo courtesy of Alpine Fishing Adventure’s Facebook

Ice fishing is exciting, relaxing and a great socially distanced activity. However, it can also be technically demanding if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re new to ice fishing — go with an experienced friend or through a guided experience. If you don’t know where to start, look into Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures or Alpine Fishing Adventures. Also, don’t forget a fishing license. You can get one online or even at Walmart.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoe walker running in powder snow with beautiful sunrise light via Thinkstock.

If you’ve never been snowshoeing before — now is definitely the time to start. Not only is it an experience you can safely do by yourself or with your household — but it is also a great beginner winter activity. It’s also fairly affordable — renting a pair of snowshoes for the day starts at around $20. Before you head out — make sure you packed plenty of water, snacks and warm layers. Also, don’t forget to confirm that the trail you chose allows snowshoeing. If you’re looking for a spot to rent or buy a pair of snowshoes, try Mountainside Gear and Rental in Golden or Maison de Ski in Idaho Springs.

READ: A Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoe Hikes Near Denver

Visit a Hot Spring

Photo courtesy of Strawberry Hot Springs

Not into the idea of physically demanding exercise? A relaxing trip to a Colorado hot spring may be just what you’re looking for. With many Colorado counties moving to alert level red — most hot springs are still open, yet with reduced capacity and online reservations. One of the state’s most well-known hot springs has to be Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. But if you’re looking for a more quiet choice, Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs is a great option. Whether you make it a day trip or an overnight getaway — forget about life’s chaos for a moment with your loved ones.

READ: 12 Hidden Hot Springs in Colorado You Should Probably Know About

Visit the Dillon Ice Castles

Ice Castles. Photo by Valor McNeely.

If you’ve lived in Colorado for a while and have not yet experienced the Dillon Ice Castles — it is a must-see. The ice castles are an award-winning winter installation that has popped up in four states, with Colorado being one of them. Each castle weighs over 20 million pounds — and new icicles grow on them daily. Tickets are around $20 per adult and tickets sell out fast — so make sure to snag some before the castles officially open in December.

Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

Christmas tree cutting via Pixabay

If you’re a lover of real Christmas trees instead of artificial ones — Colorado has plenty of tree farms and tree cutting opportunities around the state. One tree farm you have to check out is Creekside Tree Nursery in Longmont. The farm offers fresh-cut trees, living trees you can plant after Christmas and a cut-your-own experience. While this farm and others in the area are taking extra pandemic precautions — you also have the option of cutting your own tree in one of Colorado’s forests, where social distancing is easy. According to Recreation.gov — cutting down your own tree is often environmentally friendly and can help control wildfires. You will need a permit, however — which is $20 per tree. Visit the Recreation.gov website for more info and regulations on forest tree hunting.

READ: Where to Legally Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree in Colorado

Go Snowmobiling

Photo courtesy of Grand Adventures Snowmobile on Facebook

Are you looking for something more adrenaline-inducing? Snowmobiling in Colorado is a popular winter sport that is set to go into full swing within the next few weeks. While anyone with a driver’s license can rent a snowmobile — if you’re a beginner or with your family, booking a guided tour may be a better option. Grand Adventures Snowmobile runs guided tours out of Winter Park, while High Country Tours has operations around various locations in Summit County. If you feel adept enough, these locations and more in the mountains offer snowmobile rentals as well.

Gaze at Christmas Lights

Photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens on Facebook

Finding Christmas lights around the state is a safe way to enjoy this holiday season. If you’re looking to get out of your car and walk around, try Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens or Zoo Lights. If you prefer to stay in your car, however, check out Christmas in Color — a drive-through light installation that has come to Colorado. You can find the drive-through experience at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison or at Water World in Federal Heights. Tickets for this installation are $30 for a vehicle — so pack up your household, grab some hot chocolate and go get in the holiday spirit.

Try a Winter Hike

Photo by Josh Headley

Colorado’s countless hiking trails are proof that hiking is not just a summer activity. While winter hiking certainly requires more research — anyone can take to the snowy trails. For a great beginner winter hike — try Matthews / Winters Park in Morrison — which offers breathtaking views of Red Rocks. Another hike worth checking out is Saint Mary’s Glacier near Idaho Springs — which could be considered slightly more moderate in the winter snow. Keep in mind that investing in a pair of crampons or microspikes can make a huge difference on icy trails. If you are interested in find more winter hiking trails, check out this list for some new ideas.

Book a Backcountry Hut

Photo courtesy of 10th Mountain Division Hut Association on Facebook

If you’ve been in Colorado for a while and feel up to a more technically demanding experience — consider trekking to a backcountry hut. These trips usually involve skiing or snowshoeing along a high altitude trail to a hut or cabin in the Colorado wilderness. A hut excursion is definitely not for a beginner outdoorsman — they involve technical hiking, making your own food, no cell service and keep in mind that emergencies will be your own responsibility. However, if you feel up to the challenge — Colorado offers plenty of hut associations. Look into 10th Mountain Division Hut Association or Summit Huts Association for some exciting options. Be sure to book your trip as soon as possible — huts often get booked up months in advance.

READ: 7 Colorado Backcountry Huts Worth Escaping To