Early last June I got a group of friends together for a short hike to Zimmerman Lake. Since it was summer and it seemed like most of the higher elevation trails were still covered in snow, I figured we’d be good for a snow-free hike over here.
Nope. I was wrong. We ended up postholing our way up and down the trail (because we were too determined to call it quits). It was still a fun hike, the lake was beautiful, the air was with thick with the scent of earth and evergreens, and we were left with postholing stories to share for years to come.
But I resolved that the next time I’d enjoy this snow-covered trail it would be on snowshoes.
Zimmerman Lake is 58 miles up Poudre Canyon into Cameron Pass, just before you get to the top of the canyon. The parking lot is to the left and shared with the Montgomery Pass trail just across the highway. It’s a large lot that can park about 55 cars and it tends to fill up as it’s a popular area.
And this is my irk with this trail in the winter. I enjoy the silent solitude that the mountains can provide. I tend to prefer isolated trails, and this is not one of them. It’s most definitely heavily used. Not only is it a beautiful area, but at only a mile in one-way distance, it’s an easy trail perfect for beginners, families, and dogs. We saw a whole bunch of dogs on Zimmerman trial, including a Corgi trotting along the snow. So, that goes to show how easy it is.
Just because a trail is easy doesn’t mean it’s a bad one, though. The 1957 logging road-converted-trail borders the Neota Wilderness, which is not only gorgeous, but full of wildlife. In the summer months we see a whole bunch of moose hanging around the forest at the trailhead, and bear tracks around the lake, not to mention the fly fishing for greenback cutthroat trout (definitely look for a post on that this summer). In the winter there’s the oddly comfortable deep feeling of isolation that only comes from the soft snow that surrounds you. It gets really windy at this elevation, but the trees buffer the trail making it more enjoyable. Just be prepared for it when you get to the openness of the lake and when you’re at the trailhead/parking lot.
Winter Preparedness Tip: You’re going to need your three winter layers to stop the wind from cutting through your clothes.
While it’s only a mile to the lake, and where most people stop, there’s a primitive 1.5 mile loop around the lake to enjoy as well. It’s clearly marked, so you won’t have trouble finding it. We weren’t able to go around the whole loop since the snowshoes I got from Jax were crap and kept breaking. I decided to listen to my gut and call it good instead of going deeper and risk losing a snowshoe. So in total, this mile hike can end up being a nice 3.5 mile winter snowshoe experience.
Zimmerman Lake, Upper Poudre Canyon
One Way Length: 1 mile, 3.5 around the lake loop and back.
Beginning Elevation: 10,026 ft
Peak Elevation: 10, 479 ft