January 29, 2018
Winter is a great time to get out and enjoy snow adventures! Luckily for us here in the Pacific Northwest, snow play is a short drive away. The opportunities for fun include sledding, snowshoe adventures, tubing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and more. Kids of all ages can enjoy almost all snow activities with a few modifications. Make sure to have everyone wear appropriate weather clothing and shoes along with packing hearty snacks and lots of warm liquids.
Here is a list of all the best places to find snow adventure within a few hours of Seattle.
The Summit Tubing Center is just about an hour from downtown Seattle and is simply snow tubing at its best. The gently sloped hills are the length of a football field and the 12 groomed individual lanes allow for hours of fun. Tubing tickets allow for two-hour sessions and include commercial-grade tubes and tows back to the starting line. Tubing usually starts at 9 a.m. on most days but are dependent on natural snowfall so check the website for days and times as they change often. Save time by downloading, printing and signing the Tubing Liability Release before you arrive. You can pre-buy tickets online and digitally sign the release. The Summit at Snoqualmie also offers downhill skiing, nordic skiing and snowshoe opportunities. This multi-faceted mountain has fantastic downhill runs but also offers serene nordic skiing paths which are accessable to snowshoers as long as they stay to the right of the two parallel tracks set by the groomers. Gear can be rented at Summit West which has a large inventory of both downhill and nordic skis along with snowshoe equipment.
Looking to get off the beaten path? Check out the Sno-Parks as a base, such as Hyak, Gold Creek or Cabin Creek. Sno-Parks are plowed parking lots, often near groomed cross-country skiing trails. Trail maps are provided with the required parking pass, which can be purchased online or from outdoor retailers.
The Olympic National Park provides lots in the way of snow fun. Just head 17 miles from Port Angeles to the Olympic National Park for lots of snow play. Hurricane Ridge reliably has snow and offers snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and more. The ski area is small and might with two rope tows, a puma lift and tubing area. Tubes are provided at no extra charge.The visitor’s center provides place to warm up along with heated restrooms and a snack bar. Check weather and road conditions before heading up either online or via phone at 360-565-3131.
Mt. Rainier provides hours of snow fun along with gorgeous views. Head south to the Snowplay Area at the Paradise Visitor’s Center on Mt. Rainier. This BYO tubes and sleds area requires at least five feet of snow to open so check online before heading out. For even more fun, tag along on a ranger-led snowshoeing adventure from the visitor’s center at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. through March. You’ll need a park pass and all cars are required to carry chains while in the park during the winter.
Head past Steven’s Pass to Leavenworth for a 100-foot tubing hill, 90-minute sessions and a tow rope at Lt. Michael Adams Tubing Park. The try it before you buy it trail run means you can experience the hill before purchasing a $20 per person ticket. Tubes are provided with your ticket but you can also bring your own tube.
Snow adventure abounds at Suncadia Resort’s Winterfest with adventures available from ice skating to tubing, snowshoeing and cross country skiing along with horse-drawn carriage rides and ice skating. Located just 80 miles east of Seattle, Suncadia has everything for snow play. The tubing hill is available for kids 3 and up at $20 a session per rider for two hours of slip sliding fun. Inner tubes are included with lift ticket purchase. Cross-country skiing and snowshowing are ideal on the several miles of groomed trails at Suncadia. Bring your own gear or rent them from The Inn every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ski rental starts at $25 with snowshoe rental starting at $18. Ice Skating takes place Friday though Saturday at the Village Pavilion with three sessions a day. Skate rentals are provided and sessions start at $15.
The nearest Washington State Sno-Park to Seattle is Hyak Sno-Park with a groomed sledding hill, marked snowshoe route, groomed ski trail and skate platform. Users can access the trails and sledding for free but must pay for parking the lot. A Seasonal Sno-Park permit with the special grooming sticker, or a day pass in conjunction with a Discover Pass (seasonal or day pass) starting at $20 a day is all you need. Gear is not provided at this location so make sure to bring your own snowshoes, sleds and skis. There are, however, heated bathrooms at the Sno-Park which will be greatly appreciated. Do check conditions before heading to the park as it is sometimes closed for ice.
Steven’s Pass offers many amenities similar to Snoqualmie Summit. The downhill ski options are fantastic along with nordic ski trails, snowshoeing and sledding. The sled & tubing area is offered free of charge and are just northwest of the Cascade Depot Lodge. The Nordic Center has maintained snowshoe trails for all abilities and require a trail pass which can be purchased in the Cascade Depot at the center.
Mount Baker near Picture Lake: There is no sledding at the Mt. Baker ski area, but there is free sledding nearby! Drive towards the ski area and be on the look out for the Chalet at Mount Baker. When 542 splits near Picture Lake, look for a parking spot. The tubing area is free and there are no tube rentals, rope tows or restrooms.
Looking for a back country adventure? Consider snowshoeing at Artist Point. Accessible from the Heather Meadows parking lot at the ski area, Artist Point is famous for breathtaking views. Warning though: when entering the back country, be sure to stop in to ask about current safety conditions and recommendations at the Glacier Public Service Center and always be sure to have the proper equipment- be prepared! The routes to Artist Point go through avalanche terrain, so this trip is not without risk. Avoid the area when avalanche risk is considerable. Check the the NWAC avalanche forecast before venturing out (updated every night at 6pm). The most rugged terrain and the more dangerous avalanche slopes can be avoided, but this requires experience with route finding and snow conditions. For a lower-elevation easy trek near Mount Baker, try White Salmon Creek, which is accessible from Salmon Ridge Sno-Park.
By Rebecca Mongrain