Snowshoeing Near Seattle: How To Train & Where To Go

Photo Courtesy of nathanieldietz.com

Photo Courtesy of nathanieldietz.com

Transitioning from hiking to snowshoeing is a natural progression for those looking to take outdoor adventures and sightseeing through the wintery months. And while there are definite similarities between the two outdoor activities, there are also some innate differences which call for attention.

The most impactful and obvious difference between hiking and snowshoeing is (surprise!) you wear snowshoes! But, this is actually a pretty big deal, as the platform is significantly larger in length, and more importantly width, which has big implications in terms of gait and walking mechanics.

The wider platform forces you to take wide, somewhat unbalanced steps, which forces your lateral stabilizers and core to work much harder to keep its center of gravity. Additionally, the nature of a snowshoe stride is much more of a push into hip extension with the hamstrings and glutes compared to the quadriceps-driven motion that tends to be more prevalent in hiking.

What does this mean? Well, you should consider preparing differently for snowshoeing than you might train for hiking. Don't worry though, we're here to help. Check out the videos below for preparation and recovery to make your snowshoeing endeavors more pleasurable.

Training Exercises For Snowshoeing

Monster Walks - 2 x 20ft x Medium Resistance Band

Why's It's Important: The wide snowshoe platform forces one to take wider steps than usually taken with normal footwear. Monster Walks simulate this wide-step pattern and strengthen the lateral hip stabilizer muscles that are needed to support the less natural gait pattern. 

 
 
 

 

Hip Thruster - 3 x 15

Many runners and hikers tend to rely on their quadriceps to dominate their stride, which means many under-utilize the strong muscles on the back of the leg (glutes and hamstrings) that can really drive a snowshoe step. The Hip Thruster is a great movement to ignite those powerful posterior chain muscles that will be dominating your snowshoe strides. Not only that, but they are great for learning how to push into full hip extension efficiently. 

 

 

Single Leg Deadlift - 2 x 10

The snowshoe step is a series of controlled single-leg pushing motions. To best simulate the stability needed to control such a motion, the single-leg deadlift will challenge the glutes, hamstrings, and lateral hip stabilizers to drive into hip extension so you can power up any trail on the map.

 

Bear Crawl - 5 x 10 Steps Forward & Back

The wide snowshoe platform forces requires the rotational stabilizers (think core) to work much harder to keep center of gravity on every step. Especially on a challenging snowshoe endeavor, efficiency is the name of the game and eliminating as much side-to-side swaying motion as possible is important. The Bear Crawl is a great way to challenge your rotational stabilizers and increase trunk/pelvis awareness, so you can power forward and not waste energy in the wrong direction.

 

best places to snowshoe near seattle

Living in Seattle provides many benefits for outdoor enthusiasts. A plethora of great snowshoeing trails is one of those benefits. We’ve compiled a list of places to go snowshoeing near Seattle. The majority of these snowshoeing trails are located along I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass, making for a quick weekend trip.

The small towns located along the I-90 corridor make great weekend getaways when combined with some exciting outdoor activities with family and friends. With the season extending from December through March snowshoeing is a great way to stay active during the winter.

Before undergoing a snowshoe hike always consult the NWAC avalanche forecast before your snowshoe hike. We also strongly advise visiting the Washington Trails Association (WTA) website and picking up a copy of the Snowshoe Routes Washington guidebook. You can find a link to the NWAC site, WTA's site, where to purchase the guidebook, and other snowshoeing resources at the bottom of the page.

Keechelus Lake / John Wayne Trail Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Easy
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 4 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Top Elevation: 2,700 feet
Duration: 3 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - late February
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3915, -121.3923
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

For a short and easy snowshoe hike the Keechelus Lake Trail is hard to beat. The trail follows the old Milwaukee Railroad and is therefore free of any steep climbing. At only 4 miles the trail can easily be completed in an afternoon with children including plenty of time to play in the snow along the way.

Two miles in the trail reaches an avalanche chute. This is the end of the trail as going any further is too dangerous. The trail is officially called the Iron Horse Trail although it is frequently referred to as the John Wayne Trail and Keechelus Lake Trail.

Twin Lakes Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Easy
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 4 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Top Elevation: 3,00 feet
Duration: 5 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - late February
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3632, -121.3583
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The Twin Lakes snowshoe hike is another easy trail for beginner snowshoers and children alike. Unlike most other Washington snowshoe hikes in this guide Twin Lakes doesn’t offer sweeping views of mountains and ridges. It does, however, offer beautiful forest scenery for those who want to enjoy the snow without the risk of avalanche dangers.

Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Easy to difficult
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 7 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Top Elevation: 3,000 feet
Duration: 5 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - February
Ranger District: Snoqualmie
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3895, -121.3803
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps 

Lower Gold Creek Basin provides incredible scenery for both novice and skilled snowshoers alike. The first half of the trail is easy with little risk. As the hike progresses there becomes more danger of avalanches as the basin narrows. This shouldn’t put off newbies from snowshoeing here though. Stick to your comfort level and enjoy the views of the surrounding peaks.

Alaska Lake Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Easy to difficult
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 12 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Top Elevation: 4,200 feet
Duration: 8 hours
Snowshoeing Season: January - March
Ranger District: Snoqualmie
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.4011, -121.3738
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The snowshoeing trail to Alaska Lake has something for snowshoers of all levels. Most of the snowshoe trail follows a relatively easy route along the Gold Creek valley floor. The trail meanders along an old mining track, through a forest of vine maples, and finally to Alaska Lake.

Less experienced snowshoers may want to turn around before the steep climb to Alaska Lake begins. Don’t be concerned about not being able to reach the lake. This trail offers many beautiful sights to keep the eyes busy. The trail crosses three creeks, Gold Creek, Silver Creek, and finally Alaska Creek. With the abundance of water animal sightings are quite likely.

The Alaska Lake snowshoe hike is well-known for its beaver lakes and numerous meadows. Shortly after crossing Alaska creek those with less experience will want to turn back. Experienced snowshoers will continue on to enjoy the pristine views of Alaska Lake and the surrounding area.

Keechelus Ridge Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: Easton
Length: 6.5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet
Top Elevation: 4,900 feet
Duration: 5 hours
Snowshoeing Season: Late January - late February
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3218, -121.3225
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

Snowshoeing all the way to Keechelus Ridge can be hard work. If you’re not ready for a tough climb consider a different snowshoe hike. With hard work comes great rewards though and this in no less true for the snowshoe hike along Keechelus Ridge.

Views of Mount Rainier and the South Cascades are ever-present for snowshoers willing to make this trek. There are also pleasant views for those who choose not to reach the ridge, however, the ridge offers some of the best snowshoe hike views in the Seattle area.

Image source: seattlebloggers.com

Image source: seattlebloggers.com

Hex Mountain Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
Nearest City: Roslyn
Length: 7 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet
Top Elevation: 5,034 feet
Duration: 6 hours
Snowshoeing Season: Late December - March
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.2850, -121.0914
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The Hex Mountain snowshoe hike is highly suggested for intermediate snowshoers looking for a serious snowshoe hike with little avalanche risk. Due to the well-forested slopes along this trail the avalanche risk is quite low.

The forest here offers some of the best scenery for winter hiking. Snowshoers will be able to easily navigate through the old forest catching views of birds and other wildlife along the way.

From the top of Hex Mountain look west for views numerous mountains and peaks. Cle Elum Lake can also be seen below. The gorgeous views from Hex Mountain make this one of our top Seattle snowshoeing trail picks.

Diamond Head Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Blewett Pass
Nearest City: Cle Elum
Length: 5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
Top Elevation: 5,915 feet
Duration: 7 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - late March
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3307, -120.6010
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

Another difficult snowshoe trail, Diamond Head, will give even experienced snowshoers a good workout. For the first mile the trail parallels Forest Road 9716. The hike winds around the side of Diamond Head to the ridgeline and eventually to the summit of Diamond Head. Only experienced mountaineers should attempt this snowshoe hike.

Haney Meadow Loop Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Blewett Pass
Nearest City: Cle Elum
Length: 7 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Top Elevation: 5,700 feet
Duration: 8 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - late March
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3349, -120.5808
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

Intermediate level snowshoers should try out Haney Meadow Loop. Elevation gain is generally mild making the hike perfect for older, experienced snowshoers. The hike also offers some of the best winter camping around Seattle.

The trail can be poorly marked making this route less than ideal of non-experienced snowshoers. The trail leads up to a small peak, after which your will descend into Haney Meadow. Choose to set up camp or hike around and enjoy the view before heading home.

Cooper River Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
Nearest City: Roslyn
Length: 8 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Top Elevation: 2,900 feet
Duration: 6 hours
Snowshoeing Season: Late December - March
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.4042, -121.0989
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

Cooper River is a favorite Seattle snowshoeing trail for families that hike regularly. The close proximity to Rosyln and Cle Elum make it a great destination for a weekend trip. While the trail covers a decent distance the trail is fairly level and the path is easy to navigate.

An abundance of wildlife can be seen including deer and many birds. The Cooper River snowshoe trail gets its name from the river it follows for most of the hike. Cooper Lake can also be easily reached at the end of the trail and offers lovely scenery and nice spot to enjoy a winter picnic. Owhi Campground sits on the banks of Cooper Lake though the campground is not open during winter.

Head back into town for a warm meal at one of the local diners.

Kendall Peak Lakes Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 9 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
Top Elevation: 4,400 feet
Duration: 7 hours
Snowshoeing Season: January - early March
Ranger District: Snoqualmie
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3978, -121.3952
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

With an elevation gain of 1700 feet and avalanche risk the Kendall Peak Lakes snowshoe hike should only be attempted by skilled snowshoers. That said, the hike is worth it for those comfortable enough to make the journey. This snowshoe trail provides the hiker with stunning views of evergreens, open areas covered in snow and tall peaks.

The trail concludes at two small lakes situated at the foot of Kendall Peak. The trail is full of switchbacks which takes away some of the pain of the high elevation gain. Once you reach the lakes keep away from the steep slopes next to the mountain as these are prone to avalanches.

Amabilis Mountain Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Difficult
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: Easton
Length: 8 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet
Top Elevation: 4,554 feet
Duration: 6 hours
Snowshoeing Season: Late January - late February
Ranger District: Cle Elum
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.2965, -121.2889
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The Amabilis Mountain snowshoe hike offers impressive views for experienced snowshoers. While the hike is difficult it does follow forest service roads which makes it less dangerous for those with less experience navigating with a map and compass.

Along the way you will see terrific views of Kachess Ridge with Kachess Lake below. From the summit views of ridges can be seen stretching all the way to Mount Rainier.

Commonwealth Basin Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Backcountry
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 10 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet
Top Elevation: 5,300 feet
Duration: 7 hours
Snowshoeing Season: January - early March
Ranger District: Snoqualmie
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.4282, -121.4124
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

This is an excellent trail for experienced snowshoers looking for a longer trek. The trail starts out going 2.5 miles through beautiful old growth forest.

Idyllic views of Red Mountain, Kendall Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain can be seen along the hike. The trail is wide and easy to follow and fairly popular. If you’re new to snowshoeing Commonwealth Basin is a good hike as the trail is usually visible. While you may not see many other snowshoers you will be able to easily follow the path.

Views along the hike are breathtaking and ever-changing with new snowfall. Consider snowshoeing here at the start of the season and again a month later. Nearly half the way up the hill to the basin the slope will be out in the open. At this point there is some danger of avalanche so as with any snowshoe hike avalanche risk should be investigated before hiking by contacting the local ranger station.

Granite Mountain Snowshoeing

Skill Level: Backcountry
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: North Bend
Length: 5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,750 feet
Top Elevation: 5,629 feet
Duration: 8 hours
Snowshoeing Season: December - early March
Ranger District: Snoqualmie
GPS Co-ordinates: 47.3979, -121.4878
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The Granite Mountain Trail is tough in summer. It’s downright difficult and potentially dangerous in winter. You’ll want to plan ahead and purchase a guidebook before heading out on this trail as in the winter there really isn’t a trail. Instead you’ll use a map and compass to guide yourself along this hike.

This snowshoe hike begins at the summer trailhead, although you’ll quickly move off the summer hiking trail and climb straight for the top. Be prepared for a 1500 foot per mile climb as you make your way to the summit. If you reach the top you’ll enjoy spectacular views that you’ll be able to brag about seeing for years to come.

The Summit at Snoqualmie Nordic Center

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Nearest City: Easton
Directions from Seattle: Google Maps

The Summit at Snoqualmie offers many wonderful snowshoeing opportunities. Daily rates for age ranges 7 - 69 are $16. Children under 7 and adults over 69 snowshoe for free! If you're just looking for a place to take the kids to have a good time The Summit at Snoqualmie is the place to go. We suggest making a weekend of it - snowshoe one day, go tubing the next, or hit the slopes if your family skis or snowboards.

Resources for Snowshoeing Near Seattle

Special thanks to Ryan Markham for his help on this project.