Winter Trips

What to Bring

When snow blankets the San Juans, the mountains become completely open to exploration by winter travelers. The landscape is far from barren, and the sounds are totally different from what one might hear in the summer.

The Sportsman operates guided winter trips that allow you the exclusive opportunity to enjoy some of Lake City's attractions from a truly different perspective. You can choose to use snowshoes (most popular) or backcountry skiis. We provide the lunches, gear, and interpretation that enable you to have fun with the entire family while ensuring your safety. The winter trips we offer are listed below.

Capital City Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Easy to moderate
Elevation: 9,715 ft
Length: Varies
Timeframe: Half-day

Capital City is a ghost town now with a few restored cabins, but at one time there were mansions and even a goal to make the beautiful little mining town the capital of Colorado (thus the name). The town itself never had more than 800 people over its 200 acres, and it was pretty much a ghost town by the late 1890s. However, it's a great place to have a sunny winter day's trek. To reach Capital City, you drive Engineer Pass road to the point where winter maintenance stops. Just up the road is the trail access to Capital City. The trail itself is fairly easy with a few steep areas, but it's mostly just a steady trip up to the town itself.

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.

Cinnamon Pass Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Moderate
Elevation: 12,620 ft to the summit
Length: Varies 
Timeframe: Normally a half-day, but full-day to the summit

Cinnamon Pass road is one half of the Alpine Loop, once a mining road and now the highest 4-wheel drive road in the lower 48. Your guide takes you to the point on the road where snow removal is not performed in the winter. From that point, you enter a narrow shelf road and start shoeing to the pass. As you make your way up, the road becomes progressively steeper. A nice stop is at Animas Forks, a former mining town now full of ghosts and fairly well preserved buildings. It's another 12 miles to the summit, so only the bold may want to forge there, but well worth the mountain and valley vistas once you get there! Keep in mind that avalanche dangers may inhibit the ability to summit the pass.

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm for the half day. For a full day, you’ll want to start much earlier say around 7am. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.

Cottonwood Creek Road Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Easy to moderate
Elevation: 9,630 ft to 11,000 ft at switchback; 12,600 ft to end
Length: 4.1 miles to switchback; 6.1 miles to the end 
Timeframe: Half-day

Cottonwood Creek trail is a mostly gentle trail with great scenery. Bighorn sheep are often seen hanging out on cliffs that are along the trail. The trip takes you to a switchback, where the trail ends, or you can continue to a tundra area at the top of upper Snare Creek Basin. After passing through an aspen/spruce stand, you see the cliffs and even some iced-out waterfalls. Then you come upon large willow flats and move up to the Cuba Gulch trailhead. As you continue, the road will get steeper and you have to go up some very tight switchbacks, where the trail ends. If you like, you can continue up a couple of miles to a rarely-visited alpine basin and possibly walk over the snowed-over small lakes there.

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.

Deer Lakes Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Easy to moderate
Elevation:
Length
Timeframe: Half-day to full-day

Deer Lakes are four man-made lakes that summer visitors often go to for that "sure-thing" fishing experience. In the winter, it's all but empty of humans, but animals abound. It's a great winter snowshoe trip because the road, althgough not maintained in the winter, is wide and easy to see. Large groups fit nicely there. To reach Deer Lake, your guide takes you about ten miles south of town on Highway 149. From there you turn left and park. You snowshoe for about 2 miles before reaching a fork in the road, turning left for Deer Lakes. After another four miles, you reach the lakes and can sit and enjoy the beautiful views of Mesa Seco and the Cannibal Plateau area. The entire trail has gentle ups and down and elevation gains are minor, making for a relatively easy trip . 

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.

Engineer Pass Road Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation: 12,800 ft to the summit
Length: Varies
Timeframe: Normally a half-day, but full-day to the summit

Engineer Pass road forms one half of the Alpine Loop, the highest 4-wheel drive road in the lower 48. For snowshoers, your guide takes you to the point on the road where snow removal stops. You and your guide can then take off and go as far as your body wants ... from a mile or two or to the summit at 12,800 ft. You pass the road to the town site of Capital City, a former mining town and a different snowshoe trip that we offer. Once you pass the Capital City area, the road becomes narrower and as you continue up, the steeper the road and the trickier the conditions.

If you are one of the brave few who want to summit Engineer in the winter, be prepared for extremely steep conditions near the top, however once there, you will have a horizon-to-horizon view of nothing but mountains in all directions. Keep in mind that avalanche dangers may inhibit the ability to summit the pass.

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. For a full day, you’ll want to start much earlier say around 7am. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.

Rambouillet & Sawmill Park Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Easy to Moderate
Elevation: 9,940 ft to 11,640 ft
Length: 4 miles from trailhead to park
Timeframe: Half-Day

Rambouillet (locally pronounced "ram-boo-lay") Park sits just below the Continental Divide. The trail begins off of Highway 149 just past the Lake San Cristobal overlook. Initially, the trail can be seen as a right fork off of other snowmobile trails. After a mostly gentle 1.3 miles, you'll come across Sawmill Park, a popular area for snowmobiles. At the far end of the park, the trail takes up again into the woods and gets steeper and continues to climb (about 1,000 ft), until you reach Rambouillet Park, which is another popular snowmobiling park. It's a vast and beautiful open area with great views and also enables access to various yurts (a winter camp system) in the area.

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.




Spring Creek Pass Winter Ski/Shoe Trip

Rating: Easy to moderate
Elevation: 10,898 ft to 13,240 ft
Length: Highly variable based on trip length: 17.1 miles entire route
Timeframe: Half-day to full-day

Spring Creek Pass Trail is part of the Colorado and Continental Divide Trails and is accessed off of Highway 149 south of Lake City. You depart on an old jeep trail that's really quite an easy coast for about 2.5 miles. The trail then becomes a bit narrower and you climb up and over Jarosa Mesa, and then go a couple of more miles through tundra. Back into the woods again brings you to Coney Summit and through a meadow, which contains one of the tributaries of Big Buck Creek. This is the last, reasonably-flat area until reaching Carson Saddle. How far you go on this trail is really up to you and your guide. You can easily turn this trip into a full-day given good weather conditions and physical fitness. 

Winter trips are very laid back, with suggested late starts, although we’re happy to start and end whenever you want. We suggest starting around 10am with a half day conclusion around 2pm. For a full day, you’ll want to start much earlier say around 7am. Beverages are included, and if you want lunch, it’s $9 per person.