Length: 4.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Cub Lake (40.35620, -105.61597)
Why we love it: Enjoy a buffet of Rocky Mountain highlights, including views of the wide-open glacial moraine, frozen Beaver Ponds, and dark-colored granite walls of the Continental Divide.
Pre-hike fuel: Swing by the Egg of Estes for a deluxe breakfast sandwich (better arrive early—there’s often a line out the door on weekends at this beloved Estes Park haunt).
Post-hike buzz: Thaw out with a steaming cup of hot chocolate from Kind Coffee on your way out of Estes.
Restrooms: None
Dogs: Not allowed

If you’ve only ever visited Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer or fall—when hiking in the Bear Lake corridor more closely resembles the sluggish shuffle through airport security than a waltz through life-list scenery—exploring it in winter will be a wholly different experience. For starters, reservations aren’t required and there’s parking aplenty. Throw in the fact that the trails are covered in snow instead of people, and we bet you’ll be converted to a winter wanderer by the time you set a snowshoed foot in the Cub Lake basin.

To reach this small subalpine lake, head south from the Cub Lake trailhead on Fern Lake Road, just a 10-minute drive from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Pad through Moraine Park, a sprawling meadow that was carved by ancient glaciers eons ago, keeping an eye out for elk nosing through the snow for roughage on the edges and listening for the steady peeping of Northern flickers. Enjoy the peak-littered panorama to the west.

Near mile 0.5, hang a right to continue west toward Cub Lake. This section starts off relatively flat, giving you ample energy to enjoy the evergreen trees laden with snow and frozen beaver ponds (beavers don’t hibernate so look for them hanging around their dens). Soon, begin ascending switchbacks, ultimately gaining some 600 feet in a mile to Cub Lake, a shallow pool with no inlet.

The surrounding slopes show the ravaging effects of the pine beetle kill and the Fern Lake fire of 2012, but look closely and you’ll notice aspen trees are already beginning to fill in portions of the burn scar. Beside the frozen lake, scan the snow for tracks from the local ungulates (deer, elk, and moose, usually) before retracing your steps on the return.

Getting there: From Denver, head northwest to Lyons via U.S. 36 or I-25 north to CO 66 west. From Lyons, follow U.S. 36 west for 24 miles to the park entrance. Take Bear Lake Road from U.S. 36 for one mile to the Moraine Park Campground Road and follow the signs to the Cub Lake trailhead.