SOUTH FORK- As the holidays quickly approach many residents and visitors to the west end of the Valley are eagerly anticipating snow in order to begin winter activities that have been the source of winter fun in places like South Fork and neighboring communities.
So far this year, the San Juan Mountains have received a decent amount of snow and businesses as, well as, local organizations are ready to hit the mountains with snowmobiles, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and more.
South Fork is at the center of over 300 miles of trails that can be accessed through several Forest Service roads leading into the backcountry. Many of the trails that have immediate access from town or just beyond are groomed and cared for all year long.
Snowmobiling is one of the more popular activities in the area due mainly to the access to trails throughout the region. Places like Beaver Creek and Cross Creek offer about 23 miles of passable trials for more experienced riders and offers views of the San Juan Mountains along Forest Service Road 359.
Fox Mountain and Park Creek trails are a great way to get out in the backcountry on Park Creek Road 380. This trail leads to large open meadows that are a snowmobiler’s dream of a winter playland with plenty of room to reach high speeds and glide over the powder that usually resides there in the dead of winter.
Beside snowmobiling, some look for more quiet activities. Winter can be a very peaceful time of year when the world takes a deep breath and silently holds it until spring. The area is rich in cross-country skiing trials that offer spectacular views and a chance to see plentiful wildlife. Local organizations like the Powder Busters and Silver Thread Outdoor Club host weekly outings to these trails which they also help keep groomed throughout the winter. A free map is located at the South Fork Visitor Center for those who wish to learn where these hidden gems are located.
Other activities also include ice fishing at the many reservoirs in the area like Beaver Creek which is easily accessible during winter months. Other ice fishing locations include Tucker Ponds and Big Meadows Reservoir which require either snowshoes, cross-country skiing or snowmobiles to gain access, but the trip is worth the effort with lakes packed full of late season fish.
Winter in the San Luis valley is a wonderful time to see what the Colorado lifestyle is all about, though caution is needed when venturing out into the back country, especially if it is for the first time. Many local groups, like the two listed above, are a great way to get an introduction to what people need to know about the mountains during the winter months.
Some of the simpler things to remember hold true no matter what season it is and that is to inform people of where you plan to adventure, prepare for the worst-case-scenario, when you plan to return and to always be familiar with the surroundings before venturing out into any area. For more information, the South Fork Visitor Center is an excellent source of information or visit www.southfork.org.