Snowshoeing in Washington: Trails and Tips for an Epic Snowy AdventureFebruary 18, 2019 Snowshoeing in Washington: Trails and Tips for an Epic Snowy Adventure
By Emily Butterfield
Snowshoeing has become one of North America’s fastest growing winter sports. Once you learn the basic skills of snowshoeing, it’s relatively easy and accessible to head out for a day on a snowy trail. Think of it as an extension to your hiking season – just with warmer gear and some additional safety tips to keep in mind. The Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges in Washington state have a plethora of snowshoe trails for all skill levels. Snowshoeing in Washington is a perfect winter outing to add to your Escape itinerary from their Seattle depot. Here are some trails and tips to check out before heading out on your winter outdoor escape.
Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lakes Loop
Views of Mt. Rainier and the Tatoosh Range make this a gorgeous hike on a clear day. The 6-mile roundtrip trail leads to Reflection Lakes (and on to several other lakes for strong snowshoers). It’s a relatively flat trail, making it popular with locals and tourists wanting to snowshoe in the shadow of The Mountain.
Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge
From the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center, you can set out on an easy or more challenging snowshoe trail. Either route you take, you’ll be rewarded with views of Mt. Olympus and the rugged Olympic Mountains. The “beginner” trail ends about 1.5 miles down the road; more advanced snowshoers can hoof it all the way up Hurricane Hill for a 6-mile out-and-back trip.
Mt. Baker / North Cascades: Artist Point
Starting from the upper parking lot of Mt. Baker Ski Area, you’ll snowshoe 4-miles roundtrip in one of the most scenic areas of the state. Mt. Shuksan hovers nearby, with Mt. Baker visible in the distance on a clear day. There are steep sections on the trail, but the views will make you forget your aching legs!
Snoqualmie Pass: Gold Creek Pond
Popular with locals and beginners, this is a great trail to try if you are new to the sport. Located at Snoqualmie Pass, you’ll get views of the surrounding Cascade peaks along the 1-mile trail.
Mt. Rainier/ Greenwater: Skookum Flats
This family-friendly trail is flat and meanders along the White River, near the northeast entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park (closed in the winter). The trail is 7.8 miles roundtrip, but you can go as far as you like before turning around.
Where to rent equipment
You can rent snowshoes at many REI stores, just call ahead to make sure they are available. Glacier Ski Shop (near Mt. Baker), Stevens Pass Snowboard Shop and Ascent Outdoors in Seattle are a few local retailers that rent snowshoeing equipment.
Check the conditions
Before heading out on your snowshoe adventure, be sure to check the mountain forecast and the avalanche conditions for the area you are planning to hike. Don’t venture out past your comfort level and be mindful of poor visibility on snowy days.
Pack your 10 essentials
Just like when you head out to hike, you’ll want to pack your 10 essentials for the snowy trails too. Also, consider adding air-activated heat packs to your supplies.
Bring a hot beverage
Add a thermos of hot cocoa, coffee or hot water for tea to your pack to stay warm at the end of the trail and during breaks. It’s a tasty treat to warm your hands and your core body temp.
Be bold, start cold
This mantra might sound counterintuitive, but you’ll work up a sweat in no time if you start with too many layers. It’s essential to stay dry to retain your body heat, and you don’t want that cold air hitting your wet body. Don’t worry, you’ll warm up in no time.