There are a handful of places in the mountains that make me feel like I’m home. I can sit next to a babbling creek surrounded by beautiful wildflowers with the sun shining on my face, towering mountains behind me, and dream about spending the rest of my life in that very spot.
State Forest State Park has always been one of these places for me. I remember the first time I made it up the rough road to the parking lot by the Lake Agnes cabin, feeling completely overcome with awe, peace, and a sense of belonging. It’s one of my favorite corners in State Forest State Park and Cameron Pass, and I enjoy the high country adventures around there all year long.
I’m in State Forest State Park frequently doing different outdoor sports and I plan on writing an entire adventure guide for the area by the end of the year. It’s an undertaking as it is a huge state park to explore! But for now, we’ll just cover snowshoeing at Lake Agnes…
First, Chloe wrote about cross country skiing this trail back in February of 2014. As expected, snowshoeing is a completely different, and from the sounds of it, better experience for this area.
State Forest State Park is at the top of Cameron Pass – a 2 hour, and 75 mile drive up highway 14 through Poudre Canyon. As a State Park there is a $7 day fee that you’ll need to pay at the pay self-pay station. Honestly, just head on down over the pass to the Moose Visitor Center and buy an annual pass for $70. It’s good for all Colorado State Parks and if you hike 10 times it pays for itself. And it helps fund CPW. It’s worth it.
Near the end of November when the snow hits the pass, the road to the parking lot closes and you’ll have to park off the side of the highway. You can’t miss it because there’s a line of cars from people snowshoeing and backcountry skiing/snowboarding/splitboarding. Because of this road closure the trip milage extends to 2.5 miles one way – although, I think it’s longer, because my milage tracker logged 6.77 miles total.
This area is prime for avalanches. There’s a chute that goes right over the trail as you get closer to Agnes Cabin. The snow slopes are spotted with avalanche awareness signs, urging extreme caution. It’s a little unnerving at times. Just make sure you have some kind of avalanche awareness skills and go with a partner. I ended up going solo on this trip and decided to not go to treeline as the risk was a tad too much for me. There were clear avalanche breaks at the peaks and I was up there was the sun was melting layers. NOPE. I’d like to live to see another hike, thanks.
The 1000 ft. elevation gain makes this a moderately difficult trail, mostly because of the 1.5 miles that feels like you’re going straight up. There’s also a little bit of steep slope navigation coming down from the highway “parking lot” where you’ll have to side-step your way down. Or sit on your butt and glissade the short way down.
Overall, this trail is absolutely stunning, even in winter. Nokhu Crags dusted with snow is a sight to be seen, and you can’t beat the scent of conifers as you huff and puff your way up to the lake. Keep your eyes peeled for moose, too. While this part of the pass is the moose capital of Colorado, I’ve only seen a few crossing the road at night during winter months. That doesn’t mean they aren’t around, though!
Total Length: 2.5 miles one way from highway 14, 6.77 total miles logged round trip
Beginning Elevation: 10,320 ft.
Peak Elevation: 11,320 ft.