In the colder months, the Winter Park Resort in the town of the same name is Colorado’s oldest continuously-operating ski resort. More recently, the area has also been opening up to mountain cyclists in the summer as Trestle Bike Park. The park operates miles of biking trails of various difficulties, as well as family-friendly activities like an alpine sled, mini golf, and outdoor climbing walls. If you’re not a biker and don’t feel like taking a lesson while you’re here, the park also has a single hiking trail that switchbacks up a steep ski slope. The Ute Trail may not get you a good wilderness feel, but it does provide a good workout, excellent views, and some great food at the top of the mountain.
Most day use activities at Trestle require a day pass but hiking the Ute Trail is free.
Head toward the Zephyr Express Chairlift and look for the signs for the Ute Trail – it’s just next to the Zephyr Mountain Lodge. You’ll have to walk under the chairlift to get to the trailhead. If you continue on the fire road behind the Lodge, you’ve gone too far.
The trail wastes no time in starting its climb through a beautiful alpine meadow. In the mid-summer, you may still be able to catch some wildflower blooms in this area, which serve as a nice distraction from the fact that you’re switchbacking underneath the ski lift for a significant portion of this trek. Wave hello to the cyclists and tourists taking the Zephyr lift to the top of the mountain – most of them will likely be confused as to why you’re not joining them on the chairs.
The trail climbs the mountain in a southwestern direction. Because of the steep slope and constant switchbacks, whenever you look around you’re likely to see other hikers above or below you. As you climb up the slope, views of the surrounding Fraser Valley open up as well.
The mildly monotonous climb does occasionally get broken up – the trail dips in and out of the forested areas between the ski runs and here the route becomes a more robust hiking experience. You’ll navigate over rocks and tree roots through dense patches of forest where the ground is often covered in huge groves of wild strawberries. You’ll also be out of eye and ear-shot of the ski lift, which helps with the wilderness feel of the area.
When you reach the top, be sure to check out the Lodge at Sunspot for some excellent lunch (and brews) with near 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
Either return back the way you came or take the chairlift down for an additional fee.