Where to Cross Country Ski: Top Trails

A man with skis on a snowy slope.

Ask any cross-country skier what they like most about their sport, and they'll tell you one of two things: that it's an exhilarating workout unlike any other exercise, or that it's the ultimate experience in serenity.

But press the issue a little further and you'll find out that every skier pursues the sport for both reasons. Get into a rhythm, and you're likely to find a zone where it's just you, your breath, your beating heart and the majesty of nature all around.

Across Grand County, Colorado, we're blessed to have several backcountry trails and Nordic center networks to stretch our mind and body, and lift our spirit. Here are just some of the top trails that are worth the trip:

1. Second Creek, Berthoud Pass

Type: Backcountry

Difficulty: Strenuous

The appeal: Ascends into a beautiful alpine cirque and ends at Broome Hut, a backcountry hut where you can spend the night under the stars (reservations required). Learn more about our backcountry huts and yurts.

Suitable for snowshoeing: Yes

More information on Second Creek.

2. Jim Creek, from Winter Park Resort

Type: Backcountry

Difficulty: Moderate

The appeal: Starts across the highway from Winter Park Resort and gradually climbs up a forested creek drainage, all while affording views of James Peak. One of the more popular backcountry ski trails in the county.

Suitable for snowshoeing: Yes

More information on Jim Creek.

3. Deadhorse Loop Trail, Byers Peak Wilderness

Type: Backcountry

Difficulty: Moderate with some strenuous climbs

The appeal: Tucked away in a forested valley beneath the Continental Divide, the Byers Peak Wilderness offers a great deal of solitude, and this loop trail (best done in a counterclockwise direction) is a favorite of locals and Front Range skiers alike.

Suitable for snowshoeing: Yes

More information on Deadhorse Loop Trail.

4. Milner Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park

Type: Backcountry

Difficulty: Strenuous and long

The appeal: Here's one of the more unique cross-country ski tours: Trail Ridge Road in winter time. Enter the park's west entrance, park at the end of the road and start climbing. It's possible to ski as far as Milner Pass and take in those famous, but usually only-seen-in-summer views of the Never Summer Mountains. Bring plenty of water for this 13-mile round-trip excursion.

Suitable for snowshoeing: Yes

Call 970-586-1206 to confirm that snow conditions are suitable.

5. Randall's Romp, Grand Lake Nordic Center

Type: Nordic Center

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The appeal: At the Grand Lake Nordic Center, you can count on several properly groomed and intersecting trails to create endless circuits to fill your day. Establish your bearings and get your heart rate pumping on the lengthy loop called Randall's Romp, which cuts through the center of the forested complex.

Suitable for snowshoeing: No

More information on the Grand Lake Nordic Center.

6. Bamse & Travis Dog Loops, YMCA of the Rockies Nordic Center

Type: Nordic Center

Difficulty: Easy

The appeal: Over at the YMCA of the Rockies - Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center, you are welcome to bring along your canine companions for a dash across designated trails at the center. Bamse and Travis connect to create an easy, but scenic, loop through the northern part of the Nordic Center. Stop by the nearby Skinny Ski Café afterward for refreshments.

Suitable for snowshoeing: No

More information on the YMCA of the Rockies Nordic Center.