Skiing the Sno-Parks at Snoqualmie Pass

Located 50 miles east of Seattle on Interstate 90, Snoqualmie Pass is a popular jumping-off point for cross-country skiers.  The three Washington State Parks-administered Sno-Parks found along Interstate 90 just east of the pass offer up access to some of the best nordic ski trails in the Northwest.

Whether you’re seeking groomed skate tracks or backcountry bliss, Snoqualmie Pass delivers all winter long.

Here’s a guide to get you gliding:

Hyak Sno-Park

Pulling off the highway at exit 54 into the Hyak Sno-Park, you’ll find—in addition to plush heated bathrooms—an impressively groomed sledding hill. But let’s face it, you didn’t come here for the sledding.

Instead, you came here to glide along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (JWPT) reached via a five-minute walk from the parking lot. Cruising down either the groomed skate track or classic lines, you’ll cover only over a small segment of the lengthy JWPT, one of the largest rail-to-trail conversions in the country, spanning over 250 miles to the Idaho border on what was once the Milwaukee Road Rail Line.

While the fast, flat track and even grade of this old railroad line is reason enough to give thanks, it is the wide views that will make it worth revisiting. Paralleling Keechelus Lake and I-90, the Interstate is soon out of earshot and the brimming peaks of the winter-clad Cascade Mountains sing quite a different song.

Hyak Lake. Photo by Brad Lane

Crystal Springs Sno-Park

You can ski the 7.6 miles of the JWPT from Hyak to reach Crystal Springs Sno-Park, or you can take Exit 62 off the Interstate. Unlike Hyak, which is a Non-Motorized Sno-Park, Crystal Springs caters to all winter enthusiasts. Every groomed snowmobile trail is available to skiers or snowshoers, and there are a lot to choose from at Crystal Springs, but if you want to experience some winter solitude, look no further than the non-motorized Erling Stordahl Trail System.

Located near the parking area, the network of trails was created by a local chapter of the Sons of Norway, which is the same organization that operates the nearby, members-only Trollhaugen Lodge. The trail system is open to the public, and offers nearly five miles of groomed track plus additional signed routes, all navigating through dense Pacific Northwest forest. If you’re up for the challenge, the Roller Coaster Loop of the Erling Stordahl trail lives up to the name.

Cabin Creek Sno-Park

Cabin Creek Sno-Park can be found just one exit east of Crystal Springs (exit 63), and the two are connected by a marked snow trail. With 9.7 miles of rewarding terrain, including the formidable Mt. Ozbaldy Loop, it’s the kind of high-quality skiing that beckons skinny-ski aficionados.

The Kongsberger Ski Club maintains every mile of this curvy course, and also hosts monthly races as well as a weekly “Totally Dark Cross Country Ski Racing Series” every Wednesday night starting in January. More information can be found at

Along the Interstate 90 corridor, Gold Creek and Lake Easton Sno-Parks also offer quality winter opportunities, and Kachess and Salmon La Sac are located just a short distance north of the area. The Sno-Parks at Snoqualmie Pass can keep you exploring all winter long, and there are hundreds more to choose from. For more information on Sno-Park locations, parking permit requirements and the latest grooming schedule, visit the Washington State Parks Winter Recreation page at Washington State Park’s Winter Recreation Page.

Brad Lane is a freelance writer originally from the state of Iowa with a long-standing love affair with the Pacific Northwest. While he thinks that downhill is great, and snowshoeing is fun, you’ll find Brad in some cross-country skis this winter. Read about Brad’s adventures at

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