Guide to Snowshoeing in Durango
Whether you’re a newcomer or a local just looking to get outside, this guide will be sure to offer some fresh tips. Durango is known for some of the best snowshoeing around. With an abundance of trails and millions of acres of open land and national forests, Durango is the perfect spot to get out for a hike this Winter.
In the winter months, many of the trails around Durango transform into perfect snowshoeing routes, allowing you to explore everything from leisurely, groomed walks to more challenging adventures to get your blood flowing. Snowshoeing is the perfect activity for those of all ages and skill levels regardless of experience.
Gear Rentals and Shops
Durango has a handful of friendly, local gear shops known for legendary service and a strong passion for the outdoors and the Durango community. Whether you just need an extra warm layer, or a full rental setup, any one of these options will be eager to help you prepare for your adventure.
What gear do you need?
- Warm Winter clothing of your choice. Dress in layers that you can add or remove when you heat up or cool down
- Winter boots, or footwear that will keep you warm and not allow snow inside.
- Depending on the length of your hike, a backpack with snacks, water, and any other amenities you might like
- Pair of snowshoes
- Trekking poles – these are optional but greatly help with balance and efficiency
Where to Shop for or Rent Snowshoeing Gear in Durango
Pine Needle Mountaineering
Located on Main Street in downtown Durango, Pine Needle offers gear and rentals for all types of sports, as well as snowshoes and poles for a whole day outside! The staff at Pine Needle offers decades of expertise and advice about gear and awesome zones and trails to explore.
With around 40 years of experience and a notable reputation in the Durango skiing community, the Ski Barn will make sure you have the proper gear you need to have a successful and memorable experience on your Winter adventure. They have two locations and currently, 3533 Main Avenue is the only location that carries snowshoe rentals.
The Durango area is home to a few outstanding groomed areas and maintained nordic centers that welcome snowshoers and fat bikers. Most are run by volunteers and offer free entry and some offer day passes for a small fee.
Groomed trails and nordic centers are a great spot for when you don’t have all day to explore areas that might be a little further out there, or you might not want to get lost. They give you the ability to lap certain trails while having your car and some amenities nearby.
Purgatory Nordic Center
Located just across the road from Purgatory Resort and nestled at the base of Engineer Mountain and the Twilight Peaks, this Nordic Center boasts huge views of the San Juan Mountains along with 6 kilometers of groomed snowshoe trails. Enjoy a picnic along the trails, or on the deck of our beautiful new Community Center building.
They regularly hold clinics and events, and also offer rentals and gear on site. Day passes must be purchased to use the trails here for $15.
As a volunteer maintained trail system, the Vallecito Nordic Club is open to the public throughout the winter and is free to use, donations are accepted at the trailhead though. You will find around 15 kilometers of nordic trails groomed for skiing and snowshoeing along the beautiful shores of the lake. Parking for this perfectly groomed corduroy among the water and pines can be found at Forest Rd 603 & Ellington Ln.
Unmaintained trails are an amazing way to see some of Durango’s best views and locations that can’t be accessed normally. Durango has over 300 miles of trails in and around town that can be accessed by snowshoe, not to mention the millions of acres of wild and untouched high country in the San Jauns and La Plata Mountains.
San Juan National Forest
Covering almost 2 million acres of land, the San Juan National Forest is one of the most beautiful and scenic places to snowshoe. If high alpine meadows and towering 14ers are what you want to explore, you’re in the right place. For high alpine trails and maps click here.
Molas Pass - Colorado Trail
Possibly the most scenic of all the routes on this list, the Colorado Trail starts in Denver and runs all the way down to Durango. This segment is located off the summit of Molas Pass passes by beautiful high alpine lakes like Little Molas Lake and meadows of snow in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. Parking can be found at the scenic overlook at the summit, the trail starts just across the road.
Just south of Molas Pass, lies a beautiful lake surrounded on all sides by mountains. Andrews Lake usually has cut trails by both snowshoers and cross country skiers during the Winter. We recommend a giant loop around the lake to take in the 360-degree views of the peaks.
Old Lime Creek Road
This road is perfect for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Located above Cascade Canyon, just after Purgatory Resort, this mellow out-and-back road offers views of the San Juans and the canyon below.
Engineer Mountain Trail
Located just a few miles past Lime Creek Road, the Engineer Mountain Trail starts at the summit of Coal Bank Pass. In the Summer this trail is very popular with mountain bikers and peak baggers looking to summit Engineer. In the Winter, the meadows and wooded areas below the mountain can be explored via this trail system. The trail winds through the forests below the mountain and eventually opens to breathtaking views of Engineer and the rest of the surrounding San Juans.
La Plata Canyon
La Plata Canyon is a popular multi-use Winter recreation area, from alpine skiers, snowmobiles, XC skiers, and snowshoers, there’s something for everyone here. The top of this road reaches the Colorado Trail (at high country) on the top of Kennebec Pass and runs about 10 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It is often groomed for a few miles before becoming unmaintained. This road is also much closer to Durango than many options, only 5 miles on CR 124 towards Hesperus. Take it as far as you like and enjoy the river below the road and the towering canyon above.
Colorado Trail - Junction Creek
This iconic trail is just a few miles up Junction Creek Road and not too far from town. This is the very end of the legendary Colorado Trail where thru-hikers often travel all the way from Denver. This out and back trail can be taken as far as one’s heart desires and also connects with the aforementioned Molas Pass section.
Durango and its surrounding areas are a paradise for snowshoers and Winter enthusiasts, but the number of trails and places to go for snowshoeing can be a little overwhelming. We hope our guide will help narrow down your plan on what to see and where to go during your Winter visit
Author Jake Marasco
Jake Marasco is a recent Fort Lewis College graduate and marketing student. He is very passionate about skiing, mountain biking, and most importantly coffee!
A great way to get outside in the winter months, snowshoeing is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Snowshoeing is the perfect way to get outdoors in the winter, allowing you to take in the gorgeous Colorado winter scenery.
In the winter months, many of the trails around Durango, Colorado, transform into perfect snowshoeing routes, allowing you to explore everything from leisurely, groomed walks to more challenging adventures designed to get your blood flowing. Snowshoeing is perfect for most skill levels, regardless of your experience level.
We recommend researching the trail you plan to go snowshoeing on ahead of time to ensure it matches your skill level, and always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center before heading out.
Many local Durango outdoor stores offer snowshoe rentals during the winter and Purgatory Resort offers guided snowshoe tours. Visit their website or call 970-385-2147 to set up your guided tour.
Our Favorite Snowshoeing Trails
Also known as the Hidden Valley, these trails offer beautiful views of sandstone cliffs to the West.
Follow CR 205 (Junction Creek) out of Durango to CR 206, turn right and park at large rock by the Forest Service Sign.
There are several trailheads to start from with round-trip loops starting at 4 miles.
Located north of Durango, this scenic out and back trek follows Hermosa Creek 20 miles into the San Juan Mountains before ending at a campground.
This trail offers endless views of the Animas Valley, and is especially beautiful in the winter months!
A truly mystical experience, explore the famous ruins of nearby Mesa Verde National Park peacefully blanketed in snow without the summer crowds.
Mesa Verde has several designated snowshoe trails open during the winter ranging from 1 to 12 miles.