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Beginner to Backcountry: Where to Go Snowshoeing This Winter

Find a great snowshoe (or cross-country ski) destination to fit your experience level. Whether you've snowshoed for years, or are just experimenting with the sport, we've got 14 great snowshoe trail ideas to jumpstart your winter adventures.

Don't let winter stop you from getting outdoors. You can get outside every single weekend on snow-free lowland hikes, but sometimes you just want to breathe some alpine air and play in the snow.

Whether you've snowshoed for years, or are just beginning to experiment with the sport, you'll find some ideas of where to head out below. 

Be Prepared 

Before any winter outing be sure to check conditions and stay within your skill level. Snow conditions on all of these routes change month-to-month and year-to-year over the winter, so check trip reports, weather, and snow and avalanche conditions before you head out. Also, remember to stay off of frozen lakes.

Beat the crowds

Sno-Parks are popular and parking lots fill up fast on weekends (especially along I-90). Pack your patience, a backup plan and consider planning a weekday visit if you can.

Wanna look like a pro? It's good form to snowshoe next to but never on top of cross-country ski tracks when you see them.

North Cascades

White Salmon Creek

Location: Mount Baker Area
Mileage: 5.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 485 feet
Good For: Everyone

Snowshoers at White Salmon Creek. Photo by geezerhiker.

While nearby Artist Point gets all the glory, this snowshoe destination just down the road can make for a wonderful outing as well. Starting at the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park (which requires a permit), you can tromp through the Nooksack River valley for miles with the whole family. If skies are clear, you'll get fantastic views up at the peaks ringing the basin.

Tips: Be sure to stay off of the groomed ski tracks in the area. This area sits at a relatively low elevation, so stay flexible and consider just hiking the trail if rain has ruined the snow.

> Plan your visit to White Salmon Creek using WTA's Hiking Guide

Artist Point

Location: Mount Baker Area
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
Good For: Experienced snowshoers

Taking a break on an Artist Point Snowshoe. Photo by marmot.

Never failing to live up to its name, Artist Point's winter vistas easily match -- and some would argue beat -- those enjoyed by summer hikers. Though more challenging than some routes on this list, Artist Point offers experienced snowshoers a delightful outing among the North Cascade's most beautiful terrain. Ready to take your snow skills to the next level? This area makes quite an impression as a winter backcountry overnight destination.

> Plan your visit to Artist Point using WTA's Hiking Guide

Central Cascades

Wenatchee Crest

Location: Blewett Pass
Mileage: 6.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Good For: Everyone

Views from the beginning of the Wenatchee Crest snowshoe. Photo by schmoe.

Start high and stay high, with views nearly always within view on this snowshoe road walk from the top of Blewett Pass. Starting at the Blewett Pass Sno-Park, this is a great choice for beginners, kids and those who don't want to worry about avalanche risks. Whether you're gazing at Tronsen Ridge spread out before you or at Diamond Head on the other side of the pass, this is a rewarding day trip.

> Plan your visit to Wenatchee Crest using WTA's Hiking Guide

Gold Creek Pond

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Mileage: 2.8 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Good For: Everyone

Approaching Gold Creek Pond. Photo by bearded_fellow.

Just outside the Sno-Park at exit 54 east of Snoqualmie Pass, you'll find lots of great, easy snowshoeing. This is an area popular with cross-country skiers and sledders alike. From Mardee Lake to looming Kendall Peak before you, this is premiere terrain for winter enthusiasts. Also checkout nearby Keechelus Lake.

> Plan your visit to Gold Creek Pond using WTA's Hiking Guide

Skyline Lake

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
Good For: Experienced snowshoers

Skyline Lake Snowshoe by @whereisyuriy.jpegOne track to Skyline Lake through plenty of snow. Photo by trip reporter @whereisyuriy.

Dramatic mounds of snow, a frozen lake and sweeping views into the Alpine Lakes and Glacier Peak Wildernesses await snowshoers at Skyline Lake. Easily accessed from the Stevens Pass ski area, this steep and rewarding ridge walk is a classic on a sunny day. What's more, no parking passes are required at the trailhead.

> Plan your visit to Skyline Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Hex Mountain

Location: Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
Mileage: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
Good for: Experienced Snowshoers

A person snowshoes along a ridge. Photo by hydrastation.
Break trail along the ridge. Photo by hydrastation. 

This uphill climb with sweeping views at the summit provides a rewarding workout. Warmup along a forest road, then head up the ridge to the top. This snowshoe is popular and can get crowded, so head out early or during a weekday if you're looking for solitude. 

> Plan your visit to Hex Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide

Surprise Lake Snowshoe

Location: Stevens Pass - West
Mileage: 8.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
Good for: Experienced snowshoers with winter backcountry skills

The views at Surprise Lake. Photo (c) johnwporter.

This backcountry route does not follow any road or trail, but winds up the narrow Skykomish River Valley just over 4 miles to the banks of Surprise Lake. You'll get some views on the way to the lake, but the large lake opens up the best views of the trek.

Tip: While you may encounter other tracks, don't rely on them as your route-finding source.

> Plan your visit to Surprise Lake Snowshoe using WTA's Hiking Guide

Olympic Peninsula

Hurricane Hill

Location: Northern Coast
Mileage: 6.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Good for: Beginner to experienced

A view of the long route up Hurricane Hill. Photo by gclenaghan.

One of the park's most popular destinations in summer is much quieter in winter. But the views are even more inspiring shrouded in a blanket of snow. Atop Hurricane Hill, snowshoers will be able to take in the majesty of the Olympic Mountains as well as the serenity of the San Juan Islands.

Tips: The road to Hurricane Ridge is closed Monday-Thursday. Check conditions on the National Park Service website and get daily chain requirements and snow condition updates on their @HRWinterAccess Twitter feed.

> Plan your visit to Hurricane Hill using WTA's Hiking Guide

Mount Rainier

Mazama Ridge

Location: Longmire/Paradise
Mileage: 6.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Good for: Everyone (except dogs)

A snow covered Mount Rainier in the distance on a Mazama Ridge Snowshoe. Photo by Janet Putz

This trip is incredibly popular with snowshoers, and for good reason. It starts at the Paradise Visitor's Center, following the Stevens Canyon Road -- and if you're lucky enough to have a clear day, views of the mountain are stupendous. Other areas in the park worth a try are Glacier Vista Showshoe and Reflection & Louise Lakes,

> Plan your visit to Mazama Ridge using WTA's Hiking Guide

Mowich Lake

Location: Carbon River/Mowich
Mileage: 10 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet 
Good For:
Everyone (except dogs)

You can rent your snowshoes on most guided walks, but you should dress to stay warm and dry. Photo by Alexapolis Photography.

It's an easy snowshoe or cross-country ski, with little to no avalanche danger, up the Mowich Lake Road. You pass beneath towering cedars, Douglas firs and hemlocks, with enough peek-a-boo views on the way up to keep you entertained.

The real treat is Mowich Lake, transformed into a winter paradise by snow and its reprieve from the hordes that drive there during the summer. You'll enjoy views of Tolmie Peak, Paul Peak and Mt. Rainier from the lake.

Tips: Depending on conditions and your vehicle, you may want to park along the road or at the park boundary. Conditions on the first stretch of the trail are often poor (you may end up carrying your snowshoes or skis for a bit), but improve as you climb. If you are contemplating a winter camping trip, consider Mowich Lake.

> Plan your visit to Mowich Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

South Cascades

Tieton River Meadows

Location: Goat Rocks
Mileage: 10.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Good For: Everyone

Enjoy peace, solitude and the occasional glimpse of furry woodland creatures in Tieton River's pine forests. Photo by mytho-man.

Follow an unplowed forest road as it meanders up the Tieton River Valley and keep an eye out for elk, fox, martens and other wildlife that thrive in this wilderness area. Along the way you can enjoy views of Old Snow Mountain or explore the wide meadows that line the trail. Like this area and want to try something else? Try out Sand Lake.

> Plan your visit to Tieton River Meadows using WTA's Hiking Guide

June Lake

Location: Mount St. Helens
Mileage: 4.8 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Good For: Everyone

A frozen waterfall along the June Lake trail. Photo by Hiking Real Blue.

Lying just south of Mount St. Helens, the June Lake trail climbs through a serene landscape of meadows, forests, lakes and streams, all left untouched by the devastating 1980 eruption. Once at the lake, take in the spectacular views and continue along the shore to reach the waterfall on the opposite side.

> Plan your visit to June Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastern Washington 

Mount Spokane

Location: Spokane Area
Mileage: varies from 1.5 to 13.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: varies from 240 to 1350 feet gain

Photo by missroselouise.

Though better known as a destination for skiers, Mount Spokane is great place for Eastern Washington snowshoers to get out and play. There are many trails to choose from, and two of the best climb to a CCC Cabin (4 miles roundtrip) where you can warm up inside, and to the top of Mt. Spokane (3 1/4 miles roundtrip), which is also the top of the ski hill and boasts a cafeteria. Not exactly a wilderness experience, but lots of fun.

> Plan your visit to Mount Spokane using WTA's Hiking Guide