Here in the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have some of the nation’s most beautiful National Parks. They are all popular – and busy – in summer but the winter season offers its own unique pleasures.
If you are looking for a great outdoor experience in the Pacific Northwest, consider snowshoeing through the silent, pristine landscapes of one of our national parks and taking in views like you’ve never seen before.
Of course, it’s been an exceedingly lean snow year so far in the mountains, but there’s still plenty of winter left. Keep your fingers crossed!
Mount Rainier National Park
Washington’s iconic Mount Rainier National Park is one of the state’s very popular destinations during the warm-weather months with both residents and travelers alike. To see Mount Rainier up close – but from an entirely different perspective – try a snowshoe hike through the winter scenery. Some trails to try at Mount Rainier include the short but beautiful Trail of the Shadows and the 7-mile Eagle Peak trail. While at Mount Rainer, visit the National Historic Landmark District at Longmire (open all year) before giving sledding, skiing, or winter camping a try.
Olympic National Park
Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park offers lots of winter activities, centered on Hurricane Ridge, which receives between 30 to 35 feet of snow annually. On winter weekends, visitors come to Hurricane Ridge to cross-country ski, downhill ski, snowboard, sled, tube, and snowshoe. The Hurricane Hill trail is popular with snowshoe hikers because of the amazing views (just like in summer) and beautiful snow-covered forests. For those not interested in climbing up to Hurricane Ridge, the large, snow-covered meadows surrounding the visitor center provide plenty of “snowing” opportunities. If your group wants to enjoy more than one winter activity, don’t pass up skiing at Hurricane Ridge; it’s the westernmost ski area in the 48 continental states!
Crater Lake National Park
Receiving on average 44 feet of snow each year, Crater Lake National Park has earned the designation of being one of the snowiest inhabited places in the United States. Despite the large amounts of winter precipitation and the fact that it is situated high in the
Cascade Mountains of Oregon, Crater Lake National Park remains open year round. Of course, all that snow makes Crater Lake a popular place to snowshoe, cross-country ski, snow-camp, and snowmobile! However, it’s the well-marked winter trails that really take visiting the area at this time of year to the next level – remember to look for markers on trees and orange poles where no trees are present. The West Rim Drive and Hemlock Loop are two of many snowshoe paths that will give you views of Crater Lake and the Cascades. Not ready to go it alone? Take one of the ranger-led snowshoe hikes.
Yellowstone National Park
Farther afield, our first national park, Yellowstone is even more dramatic and beautiful in the quiet of winter. While it’s true that the crowds are very small in winter, the park remains open with the help of passenger vehicles that feature treads instead of tires. The bison, Old Faithful, and the other natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park don’t get lonely as winter visitors go by on skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, and snow coaches. Closed to traffic in winter, Upper Terrace Drive gives amazing views of a number of thermal features and historic Fort Yellowstone. You might also try the “hike” to the ice-encrusted Fairy Falls.
To learn more about winter activities in our national parks or fun things to do at a park near your home, check out www.NationalParks.org.