Snow Shoeing in the San Juans – Engineer Mountain Road

Colorado weather is a splendor to behold. The sky will darken with angry clouds, covering everything in mountains of snow with no regard to travel plans. Magically, the following morning is bright and full of expectations. The sun glinting on the freshly fallen snow beckons, calling to the adventurer in all of us to explore this new serene world.

After a heavy snowfall last week, the sun again showed its face, temperatures in Ouray unseasonable warm – sweater weather! When the day is so inviting, it is impossible to stay indoors, so why not try something different? 

I had not gone snow shoeing yet this winter, and when invited for a walk, I was inclined to accept. What a work out, but how incredibly worth it!

Cross country skis allow you to glide over the snow, while snow shoeing is more deliberate. The shoes suspend you on the top layer of snow, providing balance that allows you to go where skis will not . We decided to walk up Engineer Road, famous as a four wheel drive pass in the summer and incredibly popular for winter hikers. Every twist in the road opens to a panorama that takes what is left of your breath in the climb.

We followed the road for a ways, eventually reaching a spot where the snow had covered the path in a recent slide, and the decision was made to turn back.

Of course, the forest beckoned. Untouched snow, begging to be explored, and so, following a deer trail, we decided to break trail – ascending the mountain with the surety of those wearing snow shoes. 

Our winding path took us to a snowy peak, with views of the trail we had left behind, and in the other direction, the million Dollar Highway snakes around a bend. Frozen waterfalls line the walls of the canyon, creating prisms of light impossible to describe…Magnificent.

For a time, we settled under the winter sun, heated from the exertion, we allowed the gentle breeze to cool us and slowly wandered about our snowy peak, taking picture after picture, and joking that if we took enough, at least a few might capture the moment clearly.

Content with our journey thus far, we began the descent from the mountain top. Walking the same road, it felt new as we looked at our world from a different perspective. Not quite eager to return from this serene wonderland. We watched in fascination as a large piece of ice surrendered to the sun, plummeting down the mountain, and shattering on the rocks below. Grateful for the safety of the road, we continued, while scanning the cliffs above in hopes of another display form Mother Nature.

Upon returning to Ouray, a nice cold beer and hearty lunch were our next stop. Enjoying a sense of camaraderie only achieved with a shared adventure, we scanned our photos, finished our lunch, then headed back to the Box Canyon Lodge for a much deserved soak in the warm hot springs.

Let the staff at the Box Canyon help you to plan your next winter escape. The days are beautiful and the hot springs are calling!

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