Saturday, February 07, 2009

Snowshoeing: State Forest State Park - Gould Trail

Today I was heading with a group to the State Forest State Park located on highway 14 just west of Cameron Pass in Colorado. The State Forest State Park is a fee area, a Colorado State parks pass is required or $6 per vehicle. Tonight the park was hosting their full moon open house featuring snowshoeing or cross-country skiing under the full moon with hot cocoa provided on the trail. Having never snowshoed at night, I was pretty excited about it.

The Moose Visitor Center at the State Forest State Park

The moose inside the Moose Visitor Center

We arrived at the Moose Visitor center around 5:30PM. The Colorado State Forest is located in the North Park and is considered the moose viewing capital of Colorado. But the only moose we would see tonight, were the ones inside and outside of the visitor center.

All bundled up ready to snowshoe 6.5 miles under the full moon

We were presently surprised to find complimentary food at the visitor center. Outside there were brats on the grill, inside backed beans, brownies and other goodies.

Gould Trail sign (left) glow sticks along the trail (right)

After getting our glow-in-the-dark bracelets, provided by the park, we went outside to get our snowshoes on. The Gould Loop, a 6.5 mile groomed trail was decorated with glow sticks but the sky was clear tonight and the almost full moon illuminated the snow covered ground so well, the trail was very visible.

Snowshoeing in the dark

The full moon

We took a longer break at the Chocolate Cabin, providing hot chocolate and cookies. I had brought my warmest layers today thinking it was going to be cold at night in the mountains. The trail started at 9,400 feet in elevation and would climb another 240 feet. But I was actually warm and the layers were coming off fast just a few minutes after starting to snowshoe. I ended up wearing only a wicking fleece lined turtle neck and my Columbia jacket which comes with a built in quilted liner. The temperatures were holding in the low 30’s for the most of our trek around Gould Loop.

A line in front of the Chocolate Cabin

We had a large group today of about 12 and we took many breaks along the way. By the time we arrived back at the visitor center it was 11PM already. The visitor center was supposed to close at 10PM so they were not happy about our group getting there so late. The temperature had dropped to 24 degrees as we pilled pack in the cars and headed back to Fort Collins, arriving home at about 1:30AM.

Our own hot beverage stop along the trail

Glow-in-the-dark bracelets

A blurry picture of the scenery and some mountains in the distance

The Gould Loop Trail sits in the very corner of my Cameron Pass trails map

Miles: 6.5 miles round-trip
Elevation: 9,400 feet
Elevation Gain: 240 feet
Difficulty: Easy

This was a lot of fun but snowshoeing at the end of the day was a lot harder for me, I had less energy

This was definitely a good time and the group has already decided to do it again next month although we will start out earlier next time to be able to get home earlier.

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