When the snow falls, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the mountains for some scenic snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in Washington state. But you don’t have to scale the highest heights to enjoy some of the best Nordic trails the state has to offer. And it has plenty to offer — including the largest Nordic trail system in the country.
A few of these trails are best done with an overnight stay in Washington’s beautiful wilderness areas or one of its picturesque towns while others can be done as day trips from Seattle. We’ve listed drive times from Seattle and lodging options for each one of these stunning snowshoe and cross-country ski trails.
1. Snowshoe on Hurricane Ridge — Olympic National Park
Difficulty: Easy to challenging
Driving distance from Seattle: 2.5 hours, 83 miles
Just 17 miles south of Port Angeles, Washington, Hurricane Ridge is a popular destination in Olympic National Park year-round. Once the snow sets in, crowds thin out a bit, and the area opens up to all sorts of winter fun on the weekends, including cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing.
Beginning snowshoers can head west from the national park visitor center for a mile and a half to an open meadow at the end of the road. More advanced snowshoers can continue up Hurricane Hill. On a clear day at 5,764 feet, you’ll be able to see everything from Olympic Range to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and over Puget Sound to the Cascades. Just beware of the gusts that have earned the ridge its windy name.
Get your National Park Pass before heading out, or pay the entry fee. Hurricane Ridge Road will take you right into Port Angeles with numerous lodging options. For a truly sea-to-summit experience, check out the Red Lion Hotel in the Port Angeles Harbor.
2. Snowshoe in Paradise at Mazama Ridge — Mt. Rainier National Park
Driving distance from Seattle: 2.5 hours, 107 miles
Cupping the east side of Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Area, Mazama Ridge offers breathtaking views of the national park’s Tatoosh mountain range, snow-covered meadows, and Mt. Rainier itself — without the arduous climb offered by the Skyline Ridge up above. To reach the ridge, take SR 706 from the Nisqually Entrance on the southwest side of the park to the Paradise Inn. Head north from the parking area toward Myrtle Falls on Skyline Trail, cross the Edith Creek footbridge, and follow the trail east to Mazama Ridge.
If avalanche warnings are high, then skip Myrtle Falls and take the 4th Crossing Trail, which follows Paradise River and joins back up with Skyline Trail away from the avalanche zones. Once you crest the ridge, the Skyline Trail will continue climbing to the north, an excellent adventure if you’re up for the challenge. Go south to follow Mazama Ridge through snowy meadows to views overlooking Reflection and Louise Lakes, along with numerous mountain peaks all around.
You’ll need a park pass here, too, or you can pay the entry fee. The National Park Inn is located along SR 706 inside the park boundary. If you’d prefer to stay outside the park, then consider taking the 706 west to Whittaker’s Bunk in Ashford, WA.
3. Wenatchee Crest Snowshoe Trail — Blewett Pass
Driving distance from Seattle: Two hours, 109 miles
This ridge-top hike follows Forest Road 800 along the north side of Wenatchee Ridge in central Washington. With its minimal elevation gain and wide views of the surrounding mountains, the Wenatchee Crest Snowshoe Trail is a great option for beginning snowshoe hikers. To get here from Interstate 90, take Highway 97 north at Cle Elum or Ellensburg until you reach Blewett Pass.
The trail extends from the parking area on the north side of the highway, climbing through the forest to a junction about a half-mile up. Stay to the left to continue along the Wenatchee Ridge. From November to April, Sno-Park permits can be purchased on the Washington State Parks website. Your best bet for lodging will be in Cle Elum or Ellensburg south of Blewett Pass on Interstate 90, but if you’re headed north, then you might want to check out Wedge Mountain Inn on Highway 2 in Peshastin, WA.
4. Cross-country ski to June Lake — Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Driving distance from Seattle: 3.5 hours, 184 miles
In the southern foothills of Mount St. Helens, an active volcano that famously erupted in 1980 and most recently in 2008, June Lake is a popular destination for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. To reach June Lake, take SR 503 east out of Cougar, Washington, for about seven miles, then turn north onto Forest Road 83 and follow it until you reach the Marble Mountain Sno-Park parking lot.
At the parking lot, put on your snowshoes and take Pine Marten Trail #245E northwest into the woods. You’ll rejoin the road to cross Lake Creek, then cut back into the trees as you turn off Pine Marten Trail onto the June Lake Trailhead Road. From there, follow the creek north for a little over a mile until you reach June Lake. Once there, you’ll want to take pictures of the icy waterfall on the far side of the lake. This is a good place to have a snack and admire the view.
The Sno-Park permit is also required here. And if you want to explore more of the Marble Mountain Sno-Park in southwestern Washington, consider booking a room at the Lone Fir Resort nearby in Cougar, Washington.
5. Cross-country ski the 20-mile Methow Community Trail
Difficulty: Easy to challenging
Driving distance from Seattle: Four hours, 240 miles
Methow Trails is the result of efforts by private landowners and numerous agencies to create the largest Nordic trail system in North America. Those efforts succeeded in creating a network of over 120 miles of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking trails, supported by the non-profit Methow Trails organization.
Stretching from Winthrop to Mazama through the Methow Valley in north-central Washington, the 20-mile Methow Community Trail is the central feature of that network. The different sections of the Methow Community Trail range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. The proximity to picturesque towns like outdoorsy Mazama; Winthrop, which looks like the Old West, and even charming Twisp to the south, makes Methow Trails a fantastic winter getaway option.
Kids under 17 ski free, equipment rentals are available, and daily snowshoeing passes are only $5 per person. The Methow Community Winthrop Trailhead starts at the Methow River Lodge and Cabins, which is also a comfortable place to stay.
6. Snowshoe to the Snow Peak Cabin — Colville National Forest
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Driving distance from Seattle: 5.5 hours, 315 miles
The Kettle Crest Trailhead is at the top of Sherman Pass on Highway 20 in northeastern Washington. Parking is on the north side of the highway, so you’ll have to cross the highway to access Kettle Crest South Trail #13. The trail climbs through old-growth forests and takes you around Sherman Peak, which impresses with its over 10,000-foot glacier-capped height, traces the west side of Snow Peak, and reaches the Snow Peak Cabin about five miles in.
Sitting on a ridge between Snow Peak and Bald Peak, Snow Peak Cabin lies 6,400 feet and offers sweeping views of the Kettle River Mountains to the south and west. You and up to three friends can rent this rustic cabin for $30 a night, giving you plenty of time to explore the surrounding peaks and soak in the views. (Reservations must be made at least two days in advance and cannot exceed five consecutive days.)
The Sno-Park permit is also required here. It’s critical to check avalanche conditions before making this hike. Also, treat the cabin with respect and take it easy on the wood. If running water is more your style, you may want to check out the Northern Inn in Republic, Washington, about 17 miles west of Sherman Pass.