Strap on the snowshoes and experience the sounds of silence outside of Denver
When snow falls on 14,264-foot Mt. Evans, everything around this summer hot spot hibernates for the winter. The scenic byway to the summit shuts down; the Forest Service campground is deserted; and Echo Lake Lodge boards up its doors.
It's the sort of quietude that attracts snowshoers, who are drawn by the proximity to Denver, easy-to-find roadside trailheads, and sheltered romps through the snow-laden pine forest. Traipse family-style around the 23-acre, iced-over Echo Lake, or head out with friends for a more heart-pumping trek. After snowshoeing, head to nearby Idaho Springs for cold pints and thick-crust pizza.
From Denver, take (the sometimes slowgoing) I-70 west to exit 240. If you need more info, drop by the Clear Creek Ranger District station (303/567-3000), then head south on Chicago Creek Rd. (State 103) for 14 miles. Park at the edge of the lake.
Echo Lake. Circumnavigate on a mellow, quarter-mile loop ― or lengthen it by continuing through the trees for half a mile to the shuttered yet still picturesque Echo Lake Lodge. Info: Clear Creek Ranger District, 303/567-3000.
Resthouse Meadow Trail. If you want to bore through the snowy forest and deep into the National Mount Evans Wilderness, Resthouse Meadow is your route. Its total distance of 5 miles makes it daunting for some, but the good thing about an out-and-back trail? You can pivot at any time. Info: Trailhead begins at the Echo Lake Campground.
If you don't own a pair of snowshoes, pick them up at Exit 240 Ski & Bike Rental ($15 per day; 1319 Miner St., Idaho Springs; 877/567-2220).
Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub. Big, brassy brewpub pours award-winning ales and cooks up hearty burgers and garlic fries. Info: $; 1401 Miner St., Idaho Springs; 303/567-2688.
Beau Jo's Colorado Style Pizza. The go-to stop for refueling. Thick- or thin-crust pizzas come with lots of toppings; frothy root beer arrives in mason jars; and the salad bar perches on an old claw-foot tub. Info: $; 1517 Miner St.; 303/567-4376.
Miner Decadence. Connie Planck's handmade chocolates ― and her mom's peanut brittle ― are well-deserved sweet treats for the drive home. Info: 1536 Miner St.; 303/567-1704.
No excuses not to give it a go on Winter Trails Day, when snowshoe manufacturers cart vanloads of equipment to the frozen shores of Echo Lake and lend it out for free. Strike out on your own, or join small groups led by volunteer guides (10-3 Jan 6; 303/756-3100).