Snowshoeing & Nordic Skiing in Buena Vista & Salida

As the early morning light peeks out from behind snow-dusted blue spruces, you’ll hear the soft crunch of snow under your shoes or skis as you make your way across jaw-dropping scenery. In Salida and Buena Vista, you can’t go wrong with a Nordic skiing or snowshoeing excursion.

Snowshoeing near Salida
Snowshoeing near Salida
Make your way through snowy glades near Buena Vista
Make your way through snowy glades near Buena Vista
Swish through bright-white snow atop cross-country skis
Swish through bright-white snow atop cross-country skis
Explore views for miles
Explore views for miles
Be sure to practice backcountry safety while adventuring
Be sure to practice backcountry safety while adventuring

With its soaring peaks, the Sawatch Range is an ideal spot for frolicking in the powder. There is something for everyone when the chilly weather sweeps through Chaffee County. Accessible via car by paved mountain passes, you can traverse through nature’s beauty at your own pace — no need to be an Olympic super-skier here.

Monarch Pass

Twenty-two miles above Salida, Monarch Pass connects the Arkansas River Valley to the Gunnison Valley and features trail options for all skill levels. Sitting at 11,312 feet, the views stretch for miles featuring towering giants and massive evergreens. Cross the Continental Divide on the Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Creek Pass, a 6.4-mile out-and-back trail meant for advanced skiers and intermediate snowshoers. If you’re more of a newbie, Fooses Creek is for you.

Cottonwood Pass

Connecting the Arkansas River Valley with Taylor Park Reservoir, these groomed trails are popular with snowmobilers, Nordic skiers and snowshoers. For the novices, Cottonwood Lake to Poplar Gulch — a 6.6-mile out-and-back trail — takes you by log cabins to a wide path through a frozen valley. Advanced skiers and intermediate snowshoers will enjoy the 6-mile out-and-back Denny Creek to Hartenstein Lake route — be forewarned it heads straight up but showcases quintessential Colorado valley views.

Saint Elmo & Mount Princeton

The highly preserved ghost town of Saint Elmo (20 miles from Buena Vista) should be on your must-visit list. In the late 1800s, around 2,000 people lived in the mining town, but by the 1950s, it sat abandoned. Hancock Pass will get you there, using old railroad grades for a 5.9-mile out-and-back excursion meant for novices. Or follow the Chalk Cliffs to Cascade Falls railroad grade for incredible views of the hulking Chalk Cliffs. It’s 1.5 miles out and back and is also ideal for novices.

Browns Creek

Just outside Nathrop, Browns Creek is flat and easy to navigate — you’ll get your workout in, but your muscles won’t be screaming at the end of the day. Evans-Rush trail is a 3.4-mile loop where you can glide at your own pace through glades and over undisturbed snow. After your jaunt, warm up with a cup of soup at one of Buena Vista’s cafes.

Marshall Pass

12 miles from downtown Salida and just off Poncha Pass, this area provides flawless terrain for skinny skis. Silver Creek is 4.2 miles out-and-back, and everyone in the family — including Fido — can enjoy its winding road. The picture-perfect valley will have you wanting to pitch a snowball fight as you make your way to views of Antora Peak.

Backcountry Safety

Winter weather is tricky! Roads covered in snow can hide icy conditions, and avalanches are a factor in any winter trip to Buena Vista and Salida. You must bring the right gear — think flashlights, blankets, extra food and more water than you believe you need. There are plenty of resources to help you be backcountry safe on your next adventure.

Want more?

Plan your next trip to Chaffee County
Book your stay in Buena Vista and Salida
Read about dog sledding in Salida

Learn more about Salida & Buena Vista