This month’s trail is the “Winter River Trail”, a Winter-time only connector to the Fraser River trail system. It is conveniently accessed at the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center right downtown. As spring rapidly approaches it’s great to catch this one while there is still a good snow base because without the snow, this trail doesn’t exist. If you park behind the Visitor Center you will see a white sign indicating the start of the trail at the back of the lot. The trailhead is literally groomed right to the lot so it’s very convenient for putting on your gear right from the car. This meticulously groomed trail is great for a variety of activities including Nordic skiing, snowshoeing or just hiking with a good pair of boots. Snowmobiles are not allowed so feel free to leave the pooches off-leash but, as always, keep an eye out for moose.
The trail is well marked with temporary signs but really there are only 2 options: Winter Park or Fraser.
If you choose the Winter Park option, the trail winds through tall evergreen in the direction of the ski area. This is a great option on a windy day as the forest provides a nice windbreak. Within 15 minutes or so you will find yourself right behind Beavers Lodge with a seamless connection to the more permanent Fraser River Trail which is also groomed by the town of Winter Park.
If you choose the Fraser option, the trail stays closer to the river and provides unobstructed views of Berthoud Pass, especially dramatic at sunset. You will follow the river for a bit and then head through the base of the old Idlewild ski area. Just across Rendezvous Road, the back entrance to Rendezvous, you will again pick up the permanent Fraser River Trail.
I like this trail in either direction because it is never crowded and so easy to access during winter months when many of our trailheads become more remote and snowbound. Plus, it has the tranquility of a remote forest while still having the convenience of an urban trail.