Hike of the Week: Snowshoeing offers options to explore off the trail | VailDaily.com

Hike of the Week: Snowshoeing offers options to explore off the trail

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Hike of the Week
Next time you head out snowshoeing, maybe try following those animal tracks that wander aimlessly into the woods.
Rick Spitzer | Special to the Daily

One of the beautiful aspects of snowshoeing is that it lets us leave our own tracks and exploration isn’t limited by trails. Just like the jackrabbit tracks that seem to aimlessly meander around spruce trees, under fallen logs and off the beaten path, when on snowshoes, nothing is stopping you from leaving the trail.

One of my favorite places to snowshoe in the valley is up West Grouse Creek, just outside of Minturn. I’ve snowshoed up this beautiful creek valley dozens of times, and it has become one of Walking Mountains’ most popular snowshoe trips as well. Recently, we found ourselves back on the familiar path with a group of new snowshoers. As we were making our way up the trail, a fork in the road appeared where I had never seen one before.

One set of tracks continued up the creek valley following the summer trail and our planned route. Another set of tracks headed off in a new direction. We followed that one.

The packed path contoured across the hillside, slowly gaining the southern ridge flanking the West Grouse Creek drainage. Although there is nothing spectacular about hiking half a mile in a different direction, it always amazes me how even a slight change in perspective makes familiar places new.

When we got to the end of our mysterious new path, the group was greeted by an absolutely stunning view of Mount Powell and the Gore Range rising above Minturn’s limestone cliffs in the foreground.

On the way back, I pondered how in the summer time, I probably would never have left the trail to find this spot, but in the winter, all it took was an enticing set of tracks.

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