This time of year snow can be iffy; I hate pulling into a trail head geared up for snowshoeing and seeing only dusty patches of frozen mud. So often I’m apprehensive about snow dependent outdoor activities (or long drives to more snow rich elevations) before the heavy spring storms because patchy snow is a major snow bummer. Ergo I was a bit sad in the heart to see brown in the parking lot at the Moffat Tunnel last weekend; made sadder still by the ever present winds. However, what I love about the trails leading away from the East Portal Trail head at the western edge of the lot is that though geographically close they are worlds apart. Sheltered by pines dripping with moss dripping with snow, South Boulder Creek Trail No. 900 is a fairly flat romp through a frosty forest land (the James Peak Wilderness in Roosevelt National Forest land to be specific). Two valleys in, as the incline takes its first big hike the snowdrifts grow from ankle biters to knee nabbers, and had we had the gumption to keep going I’m sure thigh high drifts were not that far away. The trail definitely gets packed in the afternoons, but I’m yet to meet a jerk in the crowd. Mostly it’s dog-friendly snowshoers, cross country skiers and an inexplicably cold parking lot.
The East Portal for Moffat Tunnel is 50 miles west of Denver just outside Rollinsville on the Peak to Peak Highway (CO119). The eight mile stretch of Rollins Pass Road from Rollinsville to the parking lot at Moffat tunnel is unpaved and bumpy but doable in most cars. There are public restrooms open year round and the trail is dog-friendly with leash laws.