This winter feels like the real deal. The skies unleashed and the snow piled on. We have snow banks where last year was bare. We are living in a winter wonderland. From Avalanche Ranch there are a number of excursions that take full advantage of the beautiful landscape covered in white. Here are my favorites (always a dilemma whether to spill the local secrets).
Avalanche Creek Road: 1/4 mile from our driveway, the Avalanche Creek road is closed in the winter to vehicle traffic and dogs due to the Bighorn Sheep population that winters in the area. The road winds 3 miles up to the campground. It is a great gradient for snowshoeing, X-country skiing or backcountry ski touring.
Coal Basin Road: 4 miles from Avalanche Ranch take the first right South of the Coke Ovens by the Redstone turn-off. Drive about 1 mile up the road to where they stop plowing and park (careful where you park when the ground starts thawing, my car was almost obliterated last spring by a landslide). Coal Basin is a great ski or snowshoe route. The road climbs gradually and is a great classic ski tour for all abilities. Dogs are allowed and my dogs vote it #1 winter outing! It is a tight creek valley and is dramatic in the winter with ice formations dripping from the rocks.
Huntsman’s Ridge: Nearly to the top of McClure Pass, 15 minutes South of Avalanche Ranch, there is a pullout on the right-hand side of the road, 1/4 mile shy of the summit. Sometimes it is barely accessible by vehicle and is better that you park at the summit…. We have dug a few cars out in the winter. From this pullout follow the ski tracks to the N/W and begin the climb. It is a steep ascent from the start and requires snow-shoes or skins. It is about a 45-minute hike to the top of the ridge. Adventurous, equipped, back-country ski enthusiasts can make turns off the back side (avalanche terrain) or down the front side on low angle slopes. Touring up the ridge is beautiful too and the views are spectacular! Extreme sledding is my favorite past-time. The descent on a sled is technical and FAST.
McClure Pass Road: From early season in the fall through to late spring, the summit of McClure Pass provides winter access and great views. There is a big parking lot at the summit of the Pass. There is a dirt road that meanders S/E from the parking lot. In the winter the road is not maintained and is a great ski tour or snowshoe. The gradient is mellow, perfect for lightweight equipment and for all ages and abilities.
Spring Gulch: My favorite groomed trail system in Colorado (no bias of course)! About 10 minutes outside Carbondale (so about 30 minutes from Avalanche Ranch) on County Road 106, Spring Gulch is a nordic paradise. The 20+ kilometers of trails wind through Sage, Juniper, Pinon and Aspen. Even when the parking lot is full you hardly see a soul. Keep your head up for deer crossings. Spring Gulch is a ski only trail system, so no snow shoes and no dogs. Spring Gulch is a membership funded trail system so there is no cost but feel free to leave a donation!