Winter Trailhead Usage and Trip Planning

Welcome to Summit County; “Colorado’s Playground”.  We appreciate our locals and visitors and hope the following guidelines help you have a safe and enjoyable recreational experience.   Please be aware of local public health orders, anticipate increasing usage at trails and trailheads, and #RecreateResponsibly.

Please be courteous when recreating: Clean up waste, yield the trail, use headphones, and don’t walk in the ski track.

For more information about recreating on the White River National Forest in Summit County visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/whiteriver/recreation/?cid=fseprd848257&width=full

Parking for Winter Recreation

  • Trailheads have less capacity in winter due to accumulation of snow and snow storage following plowing.
  • Plowing of Trailheads is limited and may not occur during, or directly following a storm cycle. Plan accordingly and keep traction devices, a shovel, and other emergency supplies in your vehicle. High clearance, 4WD/AWD vehicles are recommended for winter trailhead usage.  Park wisely, so you don’t get stuck.
  • DO NOT BLOCK GATES. YOU WILL BE TOWED. Emergency response vehicles must access trailheads and trails to perform rescues and medical response in a timely and efficient manner.
  • There is NO PARKING along county roads,, shoulders, and right of way in Summit County, as well as the Towns of Blue River, Silverthorne, and Montezuma. The Summit County Sheriff enforces violations by ticketing or towing vehicles parked on County Roads.
  • Check with other local jurisdictions for parking policies and  always park legally
  • Parking is allowed only in designated areas on Interstate 70 and is prohibited on the on and off ramps.
  • Parking along State Highways must not impede traffic or cause any other safety hazard.
  • Forest Service Roads are closed to wheeled vehicles November 23-May 20. 
  • Please use the Colorado Department of Transportation interactive map at https://www.cotrip.org/map.htm to assess road conditions at areas such as Loveland Pass and Hoosier Pass.
  • For more information of statewide parking rules and regulations please see: https://www.codot.gov/news/2020/december-2020/assets/backcountry-guide

Planning for Winter Recreation 

  • Have a travel plan for your winter outdoor pursuits, especially if you plan to travel in potential avalanche terrain. Learn more about avalanche terrain and staying safe in the backcountry at https://www.summitcountyco.gov/1396/Avalanche-Awareness-and-Backcountry-Safe. Be familiar with the terrain you are travelling on.  Download and carry maps, as cell signal may not be available. 
  • Get the avalanche forecast every day before heading out. (https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/forecasts/backcountry-avalanche/vail-summit-county/
  • Summit County can be a busy place with limited trailhead capacity. To avoid crowds, consider options further from the Front Range population centers when planning an activity. 
  • Have a Plan B (and Plan C): Having a backup plan will ensure that your day isn’t ruined by a full trailhead. You can switch course if you have researched an alternative plan ahead of time.
  • Try to avoid busy days and times of day. Weekends are the busiest days at Summit County trailheads, along with days after fresh snow. Mid-morning is among the hardest times to find parking at Summit County Trailheads. Let fresh snow settle to reduce gatherings as well as avalanche danger. 
  • Have the right equipment and supplies. Bring plenty of snacks and water, even for short excursions. The dry mountain air and powerful sun can cause dehydration quickly. Temperature and weather can change rapidly in the Colorado high country. Bring plenty of warm clothing layers, along with emergency and First aid supplies. Make sure you have enough daylight to complete your objective and turn back early if necessary.

View Into Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain

Silver Couloir

Public Safety 

  • Parking along highways can be dangerous. Be aware of traffic and do not impede the roadways wherever you park. Be conscious of vehicles using the roadway, as well as your own safety by staying off designated shoulders and minimizing time spent close to the roadway.
  • Don’t gather at trailheads. Tailgating at the trailhead may increase your potential exposure to COVID-19, and also reduce the capacity of the area for other users. 
  • Make safety your first priority when travelling in the winter backcountry by planning and preparing.  Your choices can reduce the exposure of Summit Search and Rescue Volunteers to both COVID-19 and the elements. 
  • Your decisions can impact others. 
    1. Make sure you do not block access by first responders and Search and Rescue Crews. Your life or some else’s may depend on a timely response by these emergency crews.
    2. Make conservative decisions about the terrain that you travel on. Triggering an avalanche can impact groups other than your own. 
    3. Be aware that other groups may be travelling below you, and be aware that others travelling above you could put you at risk. 
    4. Be aware that in places like Loveland Pass you may be recreating above a roadway. Human-caused avalanches, unleashed dogs, runaway skis/boards, and other items have the potential to affect traffic and put drivers at risk. 
  • Cell phones may not be reliable. Mountain terrain often blocks cell signals, and cold reduces the capacity of batteries, making it impossible to call for help. 

Skin Track on Mount Quandary - one of Summit County's "14ers"

Skinning on Quandary