The West End, a rural and historic region along Colorado’s Western Slope, is known for its pastoral landscape and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. In summer, visitors can expect to find dramatic red rock canyons, desert mesas, and a community of small towns that embody the true Western spirit. In winter, that hardy Western spirit truly shines as the landscape transforms with soft blankets of snow perfect for getting out there for your favorite winter activities.
For those in search of exploring the road less traveled, this unforgettable destination is calling your name this season. From snowmobiling to winter fishing, from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy in the West End this winter. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite winter activities and destinations in the West End to help you make the most of your trip, see you out there!
1. Snowmobiling in the West End
Snowmobiling in the West End is one of the best ways to explore this incredible landscape in winter. Some of the area’s best trail systems are located near the town of Norwood. These partially groomed trails wind their way through the meadows and forests of the areas around Norwood, beginning at the base of Lone Cone Peak about 13 miles south of Norwood. The main parking area is located at the intersection of County Road 44ZS (Lone Cone Road) and County Road M44 (Beef Trail Road). From the parking area, head east on Beef Trail Road on your snowmobile until it intersects with Forest Service Road 611. Turn right onto FS611 and proceed until you cross into the National Forest. You can expect to find stunning views, rolling hills, and miles of trails. and at the Thunder Road trailhead four miles southwest of Norwood.
If you’re looking for even more of a backcountry experience, the town of Nucla has great access to miles of snowmobile trails as well. Head to the trailhead on 25 Mesa Road about five miles north of Nucla. If you follow the trail northwest, you’ll be heading towards the Uncompahgre Butte and southeast will take you through the Uncompahgre National Forest towards the Dave Wood Bypass Trail in the town of Montrose.
2. Winter Fishing in the West End
Though there may be snow on the ground and a layer of ice on the water, there’s still plenty of opportunity for fishing in the West End for those anglers among us. If you’re into fly fishing, there is plentiful public access and year-round fishing along the San Miguel River between the towns of Telluride and Norwood. And with well over 200 days of sunshine annually, winter fly fishing is very doable in this neck of the woods. This continuous drop river begins high in the San Juan Mountains above Telluride and converges 72 miles downstream with the Dolores River near Uravan. The San Miguel drops over 7,000 feet from a high alpine to a desert ecosystem, and it’s mostly free-flowing with some diversion dams to alter its flow in the summer season. Along this continuous drop river, you can expect to catch Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, and Brook trout, and you can expect to find secluded shorelines lined with swaying cottonwood trees and beautiful red rock cliffs rising above the riverbeds.
For those more interested in ice fishing, the Miramonte Reservoir is a great spot to catch rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout. You can also expect to find stunning views and ample opportunities for wildlife viewing. Contact the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area before heading out to check the ice-fishing conditions.
3. West End Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing
Situated about 10 miles south of the town of Norwood is the East Naturita Winter Trailhead, a parking area with access to more than 30 miles of groomed snowmobile, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trails. The West End Sledders Snowmobile Club maintains these trails during the winter months for all to enjoy. Expect to find stunning views, a serene landscape, and the solitude one can expect from a winter adventure in rural Colorado.
Getting There: From the town of Norwood, head east on Colorado State Highway 145 for 1.4 miles until turning south onto County Road 44ZS or Lone Cone Road. Follow 44ZS for approximately 10.5 miles until reaching Forest Road #642. Head west on FR642 for about 100 yards until you reach the parking area. Note that cell service in this area is spotty, so bring a handheld map or GPS unit to help you navigate.
For more information about visiting Colorado’s West End, visit www.choosewestend.org/.