This is more a less a how-to on snowshoeing in Washington. I’ve gone once, so I’m claiming to be an expert like the rest of the internet. In all seriousness though, snowshoeing is easy! Easier than you think. It’s quick to learn, fun, and accessible for just about anyone in any snowy place. I had a great time renting snowshoes and taking to the powder for a few hours this month in Snoqualamie at Gold Creek Pond. Here’s how I did it, what I learned, and the advice I’d give to other newbies.
So you want to give snowshoeing a try? Good! You should. Getting started and doing research is the hardest part. Fortunately, not much research is necessary unless you’re a type-A planner like me. Don’t waste your time looking up techniques, or snowshoe types, or using poles vs not using poles. My biggest and best advice for newbies: just get out there and give it a try. It’s really easy to rent snowshoes from Sports Authority, REI, or other sporting goods stores. Since snowshoes are pretty expensive ($150 and up per pair) it’s best to give a rental pair a go before you invest. Rentals cost $10-30 a day depending on where you get them from. At $10 a day, I found Sports Authority rentals to be the most cost-effective.
Whether you’ve rented your snowshoes the night before or the day-of, there’s not much else you’ll need besides layers and some waterproof boots. Dress appropriately for the weather, and a little warmer than you would skiing since you won’t be moving as much and you’ll likely be stopping periodically to enjoy the views. Gather some extra dry clothes to store in the car because we all know Washington weather is ridiculously unpredictable—especially in the mountains.
Other than equipment, you’ll also need to find a place to snowshoe. This was a hard one for me. I wanted to find a place that was fairly easy, but not heavily used, which was not an easy task. I found the easy part, but not the seclusion. The parking was almost entirely full, and this was on a rainy day, so I can only imagine it’s packed on a pleasant weekend. It was all good though, because seeing other people put us at ease on a new trail, assured us others were around should we need help, and provided a clear path of snowshoe tracks to follow and not get lost. If you’re brand new to snowshoeing, Lower Gold Creek Basin is a great starting point. We saw a few parties venture off into the woods to make their own trails, and there’s plenty of accessible fresh snow to trek in should you want to explore just off the trail.
Finding secluded places to snowshoe is a bit of a struggle. Unless you find a list like WTA’s “Great Snowshoe Hikes” or “Top 5 Day Trips for Snowshoe Beginners.” there isn’t a single resource to find snowshoe-specific hikes. Official national park websites warn that awesome summer hikes won’t necessarily make great snowshoe hikes because of steepness and avalanche danger. It all depends on your skill level and your ability to navigate and survive in the snow should you get stuck in a poor situation. I do, however, see people (on Instagram or blogs) snowshoeing these popular hikes quite a bit (and they all have snowshoe-specific trail pages): Snow Lake, Artist Point, Wenatchee Crest, and Hurricane Ridge.
Also, be sure to check the WSDOT weather report before you go. They’ll tell you if you need tire chains, if there’s a back-up, or if the roads are completely closed.
Shortly after you begin your snowshoe adventure, you’ll decide if hiking poles are your friend or not. Some people love the support and the exercise, but some people find them hard to walk with. If you’re not sure of your stance, get a pair that folds up nicely so you can attach them to your pack should you decide they’re not for you. Once you get a feel for the shoes you rented, you’ll also note things you like and don’t like about your loan pair—size, buckles, spikes, etc. If you’re planning on purchasing a pair of your own take note of the style you tried and how they felt.
Really, there’s nothing to it. Just one foot in front of the other, so get out there a go for a nice, cold walk.