Our favorite snowshoe hikes in the Washington State

December 13, 2019

Wish you could adventure in the mountains all year, but are deterred by winter and snow? Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, you can still hit the trails by snowshoeing! Any hiker can easily snowshoe. These floatation devices, used for centuries, spread your weight over a larger area and let you walk over the snow without sinking. Strap on a pair and don’t let the cold keep you indoors this winter!

Snowshoer on Skyline Ridge
Photo credit: Andrew Monko

How to pick a trail for a snowshoe hike

  • Choose an area based on the weather and check avalanche forecasts.

  • Look for sno-park trailheads, trails that start near ski areas, or other trailheads that are accessible in winter time.

  • Find a trail that suits your fitness level and technical skills.

  • Read about the trail and latest conditions using resources such as Washington Trails Association (WTA) website and Facebook groups such as Washington Hikers and Climbers (WHC) and Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women (PNWOW). WTA not only has trail descriptions but also recent trail reports. In the winter there may not be as many trail reports on WTA and hence searching Facebook groups like WHC and PNWOW for your hike can provide an idea of recent trail conditions with pictures. It is critical to understand the latest trail conditions in the winter as they change frequently.

Views of mountains with snow
Photo credit: Kim Chiang

What you should know

  • Avalanche forecast: Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) is the best source for updates on avalanche conditions throughout the state.

  • Weather conditions: Two trusted sources for checking weather conditions in the mountains are the weather.gov website of the National Weather Service and the mountain-forecast.com website.

  • Road conditions: The best source to check road conditions is the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) website for updates from their cameras posted at various locations.

  • If you are new to snowshoeing expect it to be more exhausting than a normal hike on the same trail. Imagine requiring double the effort or slightly less.

View of Mount Shuksan from the Artist Point Snowshoe
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

What to bring

  • Snowshoes and poles

  • Waterproof gloves and/or mittens with liner gloves as needed

  • Gaiters

  • Waterproof hiking boots with woolen socks and liners as needed

  • Layers for cold and potentially wet conditions

  • Headlamps as days are shorter in winter

  • Hand and toe warmers in your bag

  • Map and compass (and know how to use them), plus consider adding a navigation app on your phone such as Gaia

  • Backup power bank and charging cable as the phone batteries drain much faster in the cold (this is critical if a navigation app is your primary source of navigation)

  • Rest of the 10 essentials

  • If you are a first-timer or relatively new, find someone to go with you

Some of our favorite snowshoe hikes

Mount Rainier view from the snow bowl hut
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

1. Snow Bowl Hut

  • Location: Mount Rainier area

  • Round trip mileage: 8.5 

  • Elevation gain: 2000 feet

This trail is part of the Mount Tahoma Trail System. It climbs consistently for about 4+ miles but you will snowshoe through a beautiful forest and will be rewarded with great views, including the spectacular and mighty Mount Rainier. The trail is essentially forest roads so they are pretty wide and shared by skiers and snowshoers during the winter. If the roads are clear you can drive all the way up to the middle or upper parking areas for a shorter hike.

Snowshoers enjoying the view from Huntton Point
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

2. Artist Point and Huntoon Point

Artist Point

  • Location: North Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 4.0 miles

  • Elevation gain: 1000 feet

Huntoon Point

  • Location: North Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 6.0

  • Elevation gain: 1200 feet

Known for some of the best views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, which can be reached with relatively low effort, this is one of the most popular snowshoeing destinations in the state. It gets plenty of snow but with the trailhead being close to a ski area it's accessible throughout the winter. Bonus: Since the trailhead is not a sno-park, just the last parking lot on the Mount Baker Highway, there are no permits or payment required!

Snowshoers on Mazama Ridge trail copy
Photo credit: Kim Chiang

3. Mazama Ridge

  • Location: Mount Rainier Area

  • Round trip mileage: 6.0

  • Elevation gain: 900 feet

Yet another very scenic snowshoe, the Mazama Ridge trail starts at Paradise and passes through scenic alpine meadows. This beginner to intermediate snowshoe trail rewards the hikers with stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range from the ridge. Bonus: You can extend your trail by following the ridge line to the south for more lovely views of Reflection and Louise Lakes.

Mount Rainier peeking out of clouds. Views of Mount Rainier from High Hut.
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

4. High Hut

  • Location: Mount Rainier Area

  • Round trip mileage: 7.8

  • Elevation gain: 2400 feet 

Just like the Snow Bowl Hut, this hut is also a part of the Mount Tahoma Trail System. It follows the same forest road as Snow Bowl Hut until the junction where you take a right for High Hut and left for the Snow Bowl Hut. High Hut is the most popular hut in the Mount Tahoma Trail System and our favorite for picture-perfect views of Mount Rainier.

Snowshoers making snow angels on Skyline trail.
Photo credit: Kim Chiang

5. Skyline Lake

  • Location: Central Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 3.0

  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet

Like Artist Point, this is another snowshoe trail with close proximity to a ski area and hence accessible throughout the winter. It is a relatively short trail but has some elevation gain. The hike is along the Skyline Ridge that has great views of the Alpine Lake and Glacier Peak Wilderness areas. This trail has very little avalanche risk and can be a good option even when the risk is high on other snowshoe trails. 

Snowshoer at Kendal Peak Lakes
Photo credit: Lee Jacobson

6. Kendall Peak Lakes

  • Location: Snoqualmie Region

  • Round trip mileage: 9.0

  • Elevation gain: 1700 feet 

Kendall Peak Lakes trail offers stunning views and follows a forest road, so it's easy to navigate. This series of three lakes is popular due to the several vistas along the trail with views of Rampart Ridge, Kendall Peak, Granite Mountain, Silver Peak, and even Mount Rainier on a clear day.

Snowshoer in bright coloured gear, at Wenatchee Crest, taking in the views
Photo credit: Kim Chiang

7. Wenatchee Crest

  •  Location: Central Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 6.0

  • Elevation gain: 400 feet 

First time snowshoeing? Then Wenatchee Crest with its gentle slopes and scenic views is for you! At the top you’ll behold the Teanaway Mountains and Stuart Range. Bonus: Despite the views, few people come here so you can also find some solitude.

Lake Valhalla
Photo credit: Andrew Monko

8. Lake Valhalla

  • Location: Central Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 13.0

  • Elevation gain: 1700 feet

This is an advanced but rewarding snowshoe hike where you will experience beautiful forest, meadows, as well as switch-backing up a ridge, all on one trail. After reaching the ridge, you can enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Valhalla when the trail crosses the Pacific Crest Trail leading in to the Nason Creek Valley. 

Three snowshoers hiking through a narrow trail amongst the trees on Hex Mountain trail
Photo credit: Andrew Monko

9. Hex Mountain

  • Location: Snoqualmie Region

  • Round trip mileage: 7.0

  • Elevation gain: 2600 feet 

This slightly steeper snowshoe makes you earn the reward of all 'round views including Mount Rainier, the Teanaways, and other peaks. The trail starts on a forest road, followed by a narrow trail on a ridge, ending atop a bare mountain knob with unobstructed scenery. It is a popular snowshoe destination due to the lower avalanche risk on this trail.

10. Panorama Point

  • Location: Mount Rainier Area

  • Round trip mileage: 7.0

  • Elevation gain: 1900 feet

Panorama Point trail starts from Paradise parking lot and initially follows the Skyline Trail. It then passes Myrtle Falls before reaching the Edith Creek basin. There can be multiple routes here and tracks formed by various snowshoers, so you may want to have a map handy. After Edit Creek, the trail goes uphill over the lower ridge, turning toward Mount Rainier. This snowshoe is a treat for diehard Mount Rainier fans due to its proximity to the mountain and its stunning views.

11. June Lake

  • Location: South Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 4.8

  • Elevation gain: 500 feet

Located at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park in the Mount St. Helens area, the trailhead to June Lake is one to choose if you want an easy snowshoeing experience. Along the way, you’ll see a creek and even a 40-foot frozen waterfall! The rest of Marble Mountain also gives you the opportunity to do cross-country skiing or hop on a snowmobile.

Snowman on frozen Gold Creek Pond. Gold creek pond snowshoe hike.
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

12. Gold Creek Pond

  • Location: Snoqualmie Region

  • Round trip mileage: 1.0

  • Elevation gain: 10 feet

Given the short distance and flat terrain of this snowshoe trail, it is another perfect beginner snowshoe hike and is also great for kids. This is a high reward snowshoe hike with the least amount of effort as you reach a beautiful lake at the end. Bonus: For further exploration, you can head into the forest on the north of the lake. 

Sun peeking through the clouds on the Hurricane Ridge trail
Photo credit: Andrew Monko

13. Hurricane Ridge

  • Location: Olympic Peninsula

  • Round trip mileage: 6.0

  • Elevation gain: 800 feet

Want to see Mount Olympus covered in snow? You can take the Hurricane Ridge trail, which is also one of the best trails to snowshoe for both experts and beginners. Beginners may want to stay in the lower-level ridges and turn around at the 1.5 mile mark from the visitor center. Experts can go to the Hurricane Hill to reach the summit, which has stunning views in all directions.

Snowshoer crossing bridge on Surprise Lake trail
Photo credit: Preeti Suri

14. Surprise Lake

  • Location: Central Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 8.0

  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet

If you’re up for a little off-the-beaten track snowshoeing adventure, then Surprise Lake is for you. There is no established trail, instead you'll roughly follow the Skykomish River Valley which leads to Surprise Lake. Take plenty of caution, however, and make sure you are aware of the avalanche warning signs!

15. Buck Mountain

  • Location: North Cascades

  • Round trip mileage: 11.6

  • Elevation gain: 2635 feet

Buck Mountain is a strenuous trail for serious snowshoers. At the top from the Buck Mountain Lookout, you can see a juxtaposition of a healthy forest vs the aftermath of the Okanogan and Tripod wildfires. The trail is part of the Washington Department of Natural Resources land and not clearly marked, so you would need detailed directions and a map.

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