A few winters ago, the lowlands of Puget Sound awoke to an uncommon sight–snow flurries cascading from the sky, and there was enough to stick. And it kept snowing, then snowing some more. With school cancelled for days, happy kids went sledding at Seattle’s Gas Works and snowshoeing through the woods at Tacoma’s Pt. Defiance. The seven or so inches of white stuff eventually melted, but the memories those kids made in the snow in February of 2019 will stick forever.
Snow that good in the city is rare. Which is why when you live in the Pacific Northwest lowlands you must have a game plan to get your snow fix come winter. Here’s where to go for snow.
This classic winter adventure has come a long way from the days when all you needed was a flattened cardboard box and a steep hill. For an old-school sledding day, head to Mt. Rainier National Park. This isn’t a tubing resort, and there are no tow rope lines or paid time limits. You pay a flat entrance fee per vehicle to enter the park (currently $30, or $55 for an annual pass). Then, you can sled to your heart’s content at the Paradise snow play area near the Jackson Visitor Center–a large, ungroomed sledding hill supervised by park rangers. Bring your own flexible sleds, inner tubes, saucers or cardboard boxes, but don’t bring wooden toboggans or sleds with metal runners. Depending on snow conditions, the play area is open for sledding weekends and daily during school breaks usually from late December to mid-March, snowpack depending.
Go Cross-Country Skiing
For easy and flat groomed trails around a beautiful mountain lake and a cozy lodge to retreat to afterwards, go to Lake Wenatchee. Experienced Nordic skiers will find their winter paradise in the Methow Valley. If it’s many days of skiing you’re after and plenty of trails to choose from, head to Bend.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Once you master a few awkward maneuvers (pro tip: you can’t walk backwards in snowshoes), you’re rewarded with the winter wonderland of Northwest mountain trails. Gear is affordable, too. A great pair of snowshoes to try if you’re on a budget are MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes at $139. (Check out our guide on what to wear snowshoeing to stay warm and dry). If you don’t have avalanche safety know-how (you can get that here) you should start with ranger-guided snowshoe hikes offered for free on low-risk trails throughout the Northwest (most provide snowshoes and poles, too!). Here’s a round-up of ranger-guided snowshoe offerings: Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, the Mountain Loop and Mt. Baker, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, Mt. Bachelor, Crater Lake National Park.