Grab your coats and pile in. Eleven Mile State Park, a 2.5-hour drive from Denver, has ice fishing, cross country skiing, electric-only camping, and some of the most incredible winter animal sightings. Last year they added an ice rink, an instant classic that is returning this year along with a rink just for hockey.
“The winter scenery and epic ice fishing are our winter staples. Adding ice skating has brought a new user to the park,” says Park Manager Darcy Mount.
Each December when Lake George freezes over, the Parks service stocks it with 20,000 trout for ice fishing. There are also excellent opportunities to catch pike and Kokanee salmon (Lake George is one of very few lakes in Colorado to have Kokanee). Conditions are not always safe, so visitors must know what they are doing when walking, drilling, and fishing on the lake. (Wait for ice caps to form on the lake to know the ice is sufficiently thick.) Ice fishing draws daily visitors, solos and families alike, to the park who enjoy the scenery, take in the quiet, and bring home a haul.
Cross County Skiing
Beginners can enjoy cross-country skiing over the lake when the ice is covered with snow. More experienced skiers can take to the trees and explore to their heart’s content if there is sufficient snow coverage.
No fresh snowfall? No worries. Eleven Mile has two ice skating rinks outside of the marina store. One rink is just for skaters while the other rink boasts ice hockey goals and probably a bunch of Coloradans playing in shorts. Ask me how I know where they are from. (In all seriousness, temperatures can be extreme here, so check the weather prior and remember you are at altitude and can experience strong winds.)
Electric camping and RVs are welcome at Eleven Mile for those die-heart nature lovers who want more than just an afternoon at altitude. Tent camping is not recommended by the Park Service, by myself, or anyone who likes the use of their fingers and toes. But, the desire to stay later in the park, perhaps around sunset when many animals come out, I do recommend.
Lately, Eleven Mile has been having more frequent bald eagle sightings along with other birds of prey, like golden eagles, and several types of waterfowl that congregate around the reservoir. Pronghorns, elks, deer, bears, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, and many varieties of small mammals frequent the park and surrounding area as well. They also get a yearly moose or two.
“We have a variety of wildlife here. And once it snows, the snow sticks. Animal tracks are everywhere so it’s fun to look at them and see who’s around.”
Be the next person to leave tracks in the snow, catch the most fish, or see the moose, just don’t be the one in shorts. Put on some pants and head to this Colorado State Park that just gets better in the winter.