If you’re a hiker, winter might make you feel a little stir-crazy as all of your favorite trails become covered in snow. But there's an alternative to spending another weekend inside: Grab a pair of snowshoes, and go hit those trails anyway. You'll get a great workout, breathe in rejuvenating winter air, and enjoy the soul-boosting benefits of spending time outside: All in all, a worthy gift to yourself during the holiday season.
Fortunately, there are tons of places to snowshoe near Seattle through elegant winter-scapes. Here are some of our favorites, with recommendations based on your skill level.
About an hour's drive from the city, Snoqualmie Pass gives Seattleites easy access to a vast winter wonderland. There are many options for tromping through the area’s forests of trees blanketed in white (the area receives an average of 400 inches of snow each year), including routes perfect for families looking for a gentle adventure to winter lovers looking to get in a good workout, and everyone in between.
Easy: The Summit at Snoqualmie Nordic Center
The Summit at Snoqualmie is best known for downhill skiing and snowboarding, but its Nordic center also serves up miles of groomed trails for those seeking out flatter ground. While the center is mostly focused on cross-country skiing, snowshoers are also welcome on its paths, and they have snowshoe rentals on site. It's a great choice for beginner snowshoers who want a taste of winter.
Medium: Lower Gold Creek Basin
If you want to get off the groomed trials, the four-mile hike to Lower Gold Creek basin is another easy-going excursion. The trail takes snowshoers through a forested valley, alongside alpine lakes, and up to open meadows with majestic views of the peaks above.
Hard: Kendall Peak Lakes
Starting from the same trailhead as Lower Gold Creek Basin, the nine-mile round-trip trek to the Kendall Peak Lakes is a longer alternative through the beautiful alpine scenery. The endpoint is two small alpine lakes at the base of Kendall Peak, with many other Cascade summits adding to the spectacular view.
It's the iconic mountain that defines the Seattle skyline; we Seattleites get to see Rainier all the time. But the peak is all the more striking when you get out to see it up close and personal, especially while it's dressed in the snowy cloak of winter.
Easy: Crystal Mountain
The gondola at the Crystal Mountain resort, which is just outside Mount Rainier National Park, takes passengers up nearly 2,500 feet to extraordinary views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades. In the winter, most who ride it ski or snowboard down, but the Mount Rainier Gondola also welcomes foot passengers. And if you bring a pair of snowshoes with you (available for rent at the resort), you can explore even further along the one-mile Ridgetop Trail.
Medium: Mazama Ridge
Mazama Ridge is a six-mile round-trip from the Paradise Visitor Center that ascends 900 feet to stunning views of alpine meadows, the Tatoosh Range, and, of course, Mount Rainier. If you want to stay out longer, you can continue south along the ridge to views of Reflection and Louise Lakes.
Hard: Camp Muir
Situated on Mount Rainier’s south side at 10,080 feet (roughly two miles from the mountain’s crown), Camp Muir is a must-do hike you will never forget. Bear in mind, however, that the journey is long and steep and the weather can get stormy, so take the appropriate precautions and plan ahead.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park doesn’t get nearly as many visitors in the winter as it does in the summer—which means if you grab a pair of snowshoes and going during the “off-season,” you’ll enjoy relative solitude as you explore the stunning meadows, forests, and peaks within.
Easy: Hurricane Hill
With epic views of the snowy Olympic Mountains, Hurricane Ridge is one of Olympic’s most popular winter destinations. The relatively flat route from the visitor center makes for easy terrain for novice snowshoers, and those who seek a little more of a challenge can do the whole six-mile round-trip hike to Hurricane Hill.
Medium: Eagle Point
Eagle Point is one of the highest points along Hurricane Ridge at an elevation of 5,500 feet. The snowshoe there is nine miles round-trip starting from Hurricane Ridge Road and gains 2,500 feet to the summit, from which you will be treated to scenes of Klahhane Ridge to the northwest and Grand Ridge to the southeast.
Hard: Mount Townsend
Summiting Mount Townsend in winter is a full-on snowshoeing experience, complete with old-growth forests, some steep hill climbs, and jaw-dropping views of the Olympics, Mount Rainier, and the Hood Canal. It is 13.5 miles round-trip with 2,500 feet of elevation gain, and is a great excursion for serious hikers who are looking for a memorable wintertime adventure.