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Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing -- A growing number of people have discovered the joys of exploring the park on cross-country skis and snowshoes, which are conveniently available for rent at area stores outside the park.

If you're headed into the backcountry for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, stop by park headquarters for maps, information on where the snow is best, and a free backcountry permit if you plan to stay out overnight. Keep in mind that trails are not groomed. On winter weekends starting in February, rangers often lead guided snowshoe walks on the east side of the park and guided cross-country ski trips on the west side. Participants must supply their own equipment.

Popular winter recreation areas include Bear Lake, south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance. A lesser-known part of the park is Wild Basin, which is south of the park's east entrances, off Colo. 7 about a mile north of the community of Allenspark. A 2-mile road, closed to motor vehicles for the last mile in winter, winds through a subalpine forest to the Wild Basin trail head, which follows a creek to a waterfall, a rustic bridge, and eventually another waterfall. Total distance to the second falls is 2.7 miles. Along the trail, visitors have a good chance of spotting birds such as Clark's nutcrackers, Steller's jays, and the American dipper. On winter weekends, the Colorado Mountain Club often opens a warming hut at the Wild Basin Ranger Station.

Among shops that rent winter gear is Estes Park Mountain Shop, 2050 Big Thompson Ave. (tel. 866/303-6548 or 970/586-6548; www.estesparkmountainshop.com), which charges $12 per day for a cross-country ski package and $5 per day for snowshoes.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.