For Christmas last year, we decided on a family gift of snowshoes! Now, none of us had ever been snowshoeing before, but it’s been on my list of “sounds like fun stuff to try” for a long time. I thought I’d share a little bit about our two snowshoeing excursions and what we’ve learned in case you’re considering giving it a go this winter. And if you’re an old pro and have been at this a lot longer, I’d LOVE for you to chime in with your tips and suggestions!
Snowshoeing at Steven’s Pass
For our first outing, we decided on Steven’s Pass. (We’d also considered Mt. Rainier and the Olympics, but weren’t sure what we’d encounter given the current partial government shutdown.) To get to the snowshoeing trails, you’ll need to head to the Nordic Center (this is roughly 5 miles east of the main alpine resort).
If you decide to snowshoe here, you will need a pass. It cost $24 for us adults and $15 for the kids. There is also a $50 season pass, which may be worth considering, particularly if you plan to go back!
From the Nordic Center you’ll find a system of marked and groomed trails for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Word to the wise: stay off the ski trails! These are noticeably smoother and your snowshoes will break it up and generally considered bad snowshoeing etiquette. We decided on the Clickity Clack trail (purple) pictured above. You can see an online version of the Stevens Pass trail maps for more.
I’d say the trickiest part of this whole process was just figuring out our gear! It felt like it took us the better part of an hour from when we parked until we were on the trail. If you’re new and/or if you have kids, make sure to give yourself plenty of time for this part. In hindsight, I think it may have been helpful to pull out our stuff the night before and figured out how it all worked. Which isn’t to say that it was super tricky, it just involved a series of adjustments to get the things on snug enough.
The awesome part is that the learning curve here is pretty darn minimal! Once the snowshoes were on, we figured out in just a few paces how they worked. So if you’re looking for a cool winter sport that isn’t going to require lessons, consider snowshoeing!
We did love the trails at Steven’s Pass. They were well marked and very scenic. The Clickity Clack one we took definitely had some ups and downs, so it maybe wouldn’t be so great if you have very small kids. It really just felt like snow hiking, which I adored.
We were here for about an hour and a half (and honestly, we all really could’ve stayed longer – but we were losing daylight!). I think we all decided we loved snowshoeing and I would absolutely come back to Steven’s Pass! If you are planning a trip (and I hope you are), make sure to always pay attention to current conditions, hours, and road closures. Call ahead if you have questions, particularly if you’re new to the Nordic Center.
Snowshoeing at Snoqualmie Pass
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to do a little snowshoeing at Snoqualmie. As with Steven’s Pass, you’ll want to head to the Nordic Center (not the main resort area) when snowshoeing at Snoqualmie. This is a couple miles east of the main resort and ski area. This is also the area you’d come to go cross country skiing.
We paid $15 each for our one-day passes, but according to the website, they are $20, with kids under 6 being free. It’s really important to pay attention to the hours here, because the Nordic Center is only open weekends (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) during the season.
After chatting briefly with the helpful lady at the Nordic Center, we decided to head out on the Gold Creek Pond Loop. She said it was largely flat, good for kids, and had nice views of the lake below. If you’re planning on visiting, you might want to check out other trails available for snowshoers at the Summit at Snoqualmie. At both Snoqualmie and Steven’s Pass, we were handed print versions of the trail maps, too.
As you can see from the image above, the trail here is considerably wider and flatter than Steven’s Pass! There were also quite a few more people out and about on the trails. I think it would be a good option for someone with small kids or beginners who just want to get the feel of snowshoes without having to navigate ups and downs.
After about 30 minutes of walking or so, we were rewarded with this beautiful view! So funny, because how many times have I driven past this going east on I-90? Funny to be on the other side!
All in all, the kids and I had a nice time, but we all agreed we preferred the trails at Steven’s Pass a bit more. However, we did not have time to finish the loop, so I would like to come back and complete it on another visit!
Renting or Buying Snowshoes
You can certainly rent snowshoes, but did you know that they are relatively inexpensive to buy? Consider this: renting a teen’s/adult’s pair at Snoqualmie will run you $28.
We bought ours at Costco for $79.99 per pair and these included poles and a carrying bag. I’m unsure if Costco is still selling them, but I found a fabulous selection of snowshoes on Amazon for very close to (and in some cases, less than) than price. At this point, we only need to venture out one more time and we’ve more than come out ahead over renting. If you buy, I do recommend you try to find a set that includes poles! I found there were moments I was more than a little happy to have them to keep me upright.
Final Thoughts about Trying Snowshoeing
I hope that if you’ve had this item on your “to try” list, I’ve encouraged you and armed you with some information to get you started! No matter where you go, I’d say the important things to remember are:
- Know before you go! Are trail passes required? How about parking passes? What are weather conditions like? How clear are the roads (will I need to chain up)? What are the snowshoeing days/hours of operation? Are the trails we’re headed to suitable for all members of our party?
- Gather your gear! It’s so easy to forget one small thing – and that one small thing might be critical to your enjoyment of the day! The night before, make sure you’ve got your snow clothes, gloves, hats, and boots. I also like to wear that 32° long underwear they sell at Costco, thick hiking socks, and sunglasses. My husband likes having those “hot hands.” I found carrying one backpack for our family sufficed. I packed it with some water, extra hats/gloves, snacks, the trail map, etc. If you’re planning on a longer excursion, everyone may want their own pack. Don’t forget: even though it’s snowy and cold, you can get really warm once you get going, so it’s nice to have a pack to stuff away layers!
- Give yourself plenty of time. It’s good to pick a day to go that you don’t have other pressing commitments. It’s likely going to take a bit of time to drive out where you need to be, buy your pass, get your gear on and organized, etc. Both places we visited closed by about 3:30 – 4:00, so if you get too late a start in the day, you’re likely not going to get as big of a bang for your buck.
I’d love to know if you have any questions about our trips out! Also: if you’ve gone snowshoeing before, I’d love to hear about your favorite locations to go snowshoeing in Washington State so I can add them to our list. I’m particularly interested in learning about options for free snowshoeing trails to save on costs. Please consider leaving a comment below!