Snowshoe trail of the week: Stagg Gulch is moderate 2-mile hike
Walking Mountains Science Center
Hike with Walking Mountains
In Avon at the Buck Creek Campus behind the hospital
On Vail Mountain at the Nature Discovery Center
At the Vail Nature Center near the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
In Vail Village at the Vail Nature Concierge
Trail name: Stagg Gulch, out of Edwards.
Mileage: Roughly 2 miles to the open meadow, longer into Cordillera or up to Big Park.
Subjective rating: Moderate. Steeper incline at the beginning but then mellows out with gorgeous views and an open meadow.
What to expect
The snowshoe trail starts along Squaw Creek Road roughly 0.5 miles before the summer trailhead. The road is only plowed up until most of the private property so plan on parking where the plowing stops and snowshoe up the road to the official trailhead. The short road section follows Squaw Creek and is usually littered with rose hips and animal tracks as they come down off the mountain for water.
Once you hit the trailhead, the climb begins through scrubby oaks and sage brush. Make sure you take time to rub your fingers through the sage and enjoy the pleasant smell that is synonymous with these south-facing hillsides. As you climb up to the intersection of Squaw Creek Trail and Stagg Gulch Trail, you’ll pass over a private irrigation pipe that is still in use today. Bear left at the trail junction to continue to the first, and most accessible meadow along the Stagg Gulch Trail. Along this meandering section, keep your eyes up high for downy and hairy woodpeckers and down to the snow for tracks of some of Colorado’s fur bearers.
In past years the Squaw Creek drainage has provided great cover for young mountain lion families and often times we see their large, round and clawless tracks. Once you reach the meadow, there are options for continuing your snowshoe. Keep right, along the fence line and road grade and trek roughly a mile further until you reach private property or bear left, up and through the meadow on the official Stagg Gulch Trail to the meadows at Big Park.
Winter, for Colorado’s wildlife, is a time for survival, and little else. Food is as scarce as the cover and travel, just like snowshoeing is more difficult for wildlife and is why often times we see their tracks along our snowshoe trails. Please be extra alert when hiking with dogs and do your best to prevent them from harassing or chasing wildlife, and view all wildlife from a cautious distance. Remember, we have the leisure of deciding when and where to snowshoe, our winter wildlife does not.