Hike of the Week: Popular summer trails Stag Gulch and Squaw Creek offer different adventures in the winter | VailDaily.com

Hike of the Week: Popular summer trails Stag Gulch and Squaw Creek offer different adventures in the winter

Instead of parking at the summer trailhead, you have to snowshoe up the access raod -- but it's a nice flat warmup.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

In the winter, the wilderness seems to get deeper somehow. Many of the hiking trails that are a quick drive down a Forest Service road in the summer become accessible only by snowmobilers or very ambitious skiers in the winter.

What may be a quick pre-work summer hike grows into a larger undertaking when the snowpack deepens, and many of the popular trails we might overlook when the trails are dry provide an unexpected element of solitude and adventure.

Just 5 miles south of Edwards, the popular summer trails of Squaw Creek and Stag Gulch serve up excellent winter scenery, solitude and are two of Walking Mountains Science Center’s favorite trails to snowshoe.

Getting There

Drive west on U.S. Highway 6 from Edwards, and turn on Squaw Creek Road toward Cordillera. Where the paved road bends right around a tight hairpin, continue straight onto a snow-packed road. Park where the road dead-ends at a gate.

If you’ve hiked these trails in the summer, you’ll notice that this is not the summer trailhead. Snowshoeing at Squaw Creek requires an extra half-mile hike along the Forest Service road to get to the summer trailhead. This is a nice flat warm up for the steeper climbs ahead.

What to Expect

Squaw Creek and Stag Gulch are popular snowshoeing trails, and you can expect a well packed trail that is easy to follow. Once you reach the summer trailhead, the trail climbs steadily, switching back across an open hillside covered in shrubby vegetation with an occasional juniper tree.

Shortly after the trail enters an aspen forest, you will come to an intersection. The left fork will take you through hilly terrain and down to Squaw Creek. Take the right fork to climb a little higher to an open meadow with beautiful views of the Gore Range. This meadow is often the end of the packed trail. The Forest Service trail continues to Big Park in Cordillera; however, you may need to break trail and have good map-reading skills to complete the route.

Hike with Walking Mountains Science Center

If you are new to snowshoeing, want to discover the valley’s other backcountry snowshoe routes or simply enhance your experience on the trail with a naturalist guide, join Walking Mountains Science Center each Tuesday and Thursday for a half-day backcountry snowshoe tour.

Thursday’s excursions feature either snow science or tracking focused programs, while snowshoe outings on Tuesday venture a little deeper into the wilderness.

Visit http://www.walkingmountains.org/snowshoe or email hike@ walkingmountains.org for more information.

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information, you can reach him at 970-827-9725, ext. 144, or nathanbr@walkingmountains.org.

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