Colorado, Travels

Colorado Day Hikes: Kenosha Pass

Welcome to the first post of our 2020 adventures!

For us, the decade began with a winter hike along the Colorado Trail at Kenosha Pass. And while both Kenosha Pass and a hike on the Colorado Trail were things I’d been wanting to check off the list for a while, the biggest excitement of this hike was breaking in our brand new snowshoes!

Quality snowshoes are not cheap. But knowing that they’ll last for many years and we’ll get a lot of use out of them, it seemed worth it to purchase top-of-the-line ones that are highly recommended thanks to their specific features, ease of use, and durability. So when the very ones we wanted came on sale, we jumped on the chance to purchase ourselves a Christmas present.

Unfortunately, the weather decided it didn’t care about our new snowshoes (how rude!) and by the first weekend of January it hadn’t snowed in Denver for over a week. Even the mountains had received very little new snow. It took quite a bit of research, but eventually I found some recent photos of Kenosha Pass showing that there was enough snow for snowshoes. So off we went.

The 10,000 foot (3050 m) Kenosha Pass is about 90 minutes southwest of Denver, traversed by US Highway 285. There are multiple parking areas at the summit, as well as two campgrounds, areas for dispersed camping, and an access point for the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail stretches about 500 miles (800 km) from Denver to Durango and many people make it their goal to thru-hike it or hike it in sections. We currently have no plans to accomplish either one of those things, but now we can at least say we’ve hiked part of the trail.

Kenosha Pass serves as the dividing line between segments 5 and 6 of the trail, with 5 approaching the pass from the southeast and 6 departing to the northwest. We strapped on our snowshoes and headed up segment 6, which skirts around Kenosha Campground and then meanders into the woods.

After about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) we intersected an old road that was headed up to a high point, so we veered off the trail and began the steady climb. Over the next 0.5 miles (0.8km) this led us to two expansive views of the Mosquito Range and the South Park Valley, which is home to both the headwaters of the South Platte River and the fictional town of South Park (from the TV show).

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After a thorough exploration (and a little too much fun leaving giant footprints in the snow) we made our way back to the Colorado Trail and back to the trailhead.

Not quite ready to be done snowshoeing yet, we crossed the road and headed the opposite direction, bypassing the Colorado Trail this time and following the old road beyond Kenosha East Campground to one of the dispersed camping areas. This area was mostly wide open meadows interspersed with stands of aspens, the perfect place for breaking trail and playing around in the snow. If I was going to recommend a place for a first-time snowshoer, this is probably it. You can follow the relatively flat trail to get there and then forge your own path around the meadows.

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Kenosha Pass, you were a wonderful first place for us to snowshoe, and we’ll be back for you again sometime soon!


The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Kenosha Pass is on US Highway 285 southwest of Denver; there are multiple pullouts on both sides of the road at the summit
  • Fees and passes: none for parking or hiking
  • Hiking: the Colorado Trail heads both directions from the pass… this trail can be thru-hiked, section-hiked, or you can just hike as far in as you want and turn around and come back
  • Where to stay: Kenosha and Kenosha East are established national forest campgrounds with camping fees assessed (closed in winter); for free dispersed camping, head down the road past Kenosha East (also closed to cars in winter), or any of the other national forest backroads in the area
  • Other: Kenosha Pass is extremely popular in autumn as the changing aspens turn the whole area yellow… if visiting that time of year, plan to arrive early and be prepared for crowds

6 thoughts on “Colorado Day Hikes: Kenosha Pass”

  1. The snow was a long time coming last season here too. I’m glad you got to break in your new snowshoes. I enjoy using mine too but often find that I resort to YakTracks/microspikes as I unfortunately so rarely get to hike on the fresh, fluffy stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Looks like a lovely area to test out your new fancy snowshoes! I bought a nice pair of snowshoes a few years ago and have had no regrets about paying a bit more for a pair that’s of higher quality. They just give you more flexibility around where you can snowshoe and you aren’t constrained to stick to designated snowshoe paths. Happy hiking through the snow!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a pair of the MSR lightning ascent snowshoes (which I managed to snag when they were something like 50% off). I’ve had no issues being able to forge my own path through the snow or ice. No regrets.

        Like

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