Under a blanket of trees, snow glistened on the hillsides of Golden Gate Canyon State Park as the chickadees fluttered through the branches. Squirrels chattered above and the wind swept gracefully through the forest. Planted safely on the ground, eager families delighted at the wide variety of animal tracks meandering through the snow. With big smiles and rosy cheeks, they left their own tracks as well— ones just slightly larger than a typical human footprint.
For the first time, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Schools and Outdoor Learning Environments (SOLE) program hosted a free Family Snowshoeing event. Families ventured from all over the Denver area, from the plains of Aurora to as far north as Milliken, to experience the breathtaking views at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Funded by Great Outdoors Colorado, SOLE rented snowshoes for all 27 participants, provided a shuttle to and from Union Station in Denver, loaned proper clothing for guests who needed it, and offered friendly faces with a few introductory tips. Of course, a day in the snow wouldn’t be complete without snacks, hot cocoa, and s’mores by a crackling fire.
CPW staff guided the families through the forest. With wide eyes, everyone searched for signs of wildlife. Squirrels scurried across the ground and disappeared as quickly as they came, leaving tracks that revealed the brief journey between trees. Gnawed tree bark told stories of elk overwintering in the area. Families cheered during a snowshoe family relay race and whispered as they peered at birds through their binoculars. They laughed as they played a Scavenger Hunt Bingo game that encouraged them to imitate a bird call, pick up litter, build a snowman, smell a pine tree, and see something that makes them happy. When asked what they saw that warranted checking off that last box, a mother responded, “Being out here, together with my family.”
Though our tracks in the snow were temporary, the experience lives on. Families pursued inspiration to visit a new park, tried something new, captured everlasting memories, and through this experience, they forged a deeper connection to the outdoors with their loved ones. With this introductory adventure on snowshoes, we hope their outdoor family journeys have only just begun.
Thank you to Mountain Side Gear Rental for participating in the event and for the generous gear rental discount, to Golden Gate Canyon State Park for offering this wonderful event space, and to Eldorado Artesian Springs, Inc. for providing water and a dispenser.