Cross country (XC) skiing is a great way to exercise the body, and a simple way to clear the mind. However, cross country trails aren’t as easy to come by in the winter as bike trails are in the summer.

While sufficient snow on the ground is all you really need for XC skiing, exploring an amazing new trail can make your workout that much more enjoyable and get your heart really pumping. Plus, who doesn’t love a beautiful landscape that can make you glisten with perspiration?

Happy Jack Trailhead checks all of these boxes, and is conveniently located an hour and a half from the Fort Collins area, 20 minutes from Laramie. Located in Wyoming’s Lincoln National Forest, Happy Jack has a great diversity of landscapes and trails, which means that you can tailor your experience to your mood of the day. Happy Jack has a couple trails for XC skiing – the Fir Trail and the Little Apache Trail. The Fir Trail stretches 1.9 miles, located just off the Silver-Saddle-Apache Campgrounds north of the town of Cloudcroft. The Lincoln National Forest website lists the Fir Trail as a hiking and XC skiing trail only.  The Little Apache trail stretches 2.8 miles and begins at Silver Campground ending at Silver Overflow Campground. Being a longer and slightly larger trail, the Little Apache is used for biking, hiking, motorcycle riding, horseback riding, and camping in addition to XC skiing.

Happy Jack is also nonprofit, with the option of purchasing an annual membership. These passes give you access to over 2,000 recreation areas managed by five Federal agencies and cost only $80, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services. For more information on the annual pass, visit https://store.usgs.gov/recreational-passes. If you’re not hitting the trail too frequently, a $5 day pass might be a better option.

Being in a national forest, the Happy Jack Recreation area tries to maintain the integrity of the trails by employing high quality staff. The membership requirements ensure that those who may not be using the trails for XC skiing are directed elsewhere in the park, thereby maintaining a less-crowded and more comfortable environment for the avid XC skier.

If you’re looking to stay in Colorado for your XC skiing needs, check out other locations such as Eldora, Poudre Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park. And there’s always City Park in Fort Collins. Wink. Wink.

Before you head out, don’t forget to stop by Outpost Sunsport to get any gear you may be missing to keep you safe and warm on the trails.

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