If you want to escape from the highway and into difficult backcountry terrain as quickly as possible, Pipe Creek might be the best choice Blewett Pass has to offer. The Pipe Creek Trail is located just west of the pass, and it feeds into the greater Blewett and Tronsen Meadow trail system. This trail sends you farther away from the road than any other dedicated non-motorized trail in the area, with the possible exception of Haney Meadows. You'll get some views and access to potential downhill slopes along the way, but the real reward is solitude.
The large loop described here involves both long distances and difficult terrain. If your time is limited, consider completing a portion of the trip: a there-and-back to Diamond View Loop or the Swauk Meadows Loop alone. Both of these options still involve double-chevron ascents and descents. The loop can also be extended in a number of ways, most notably by taking Rockslide over to the Haney Meadow Trail. As you might guess, Rockslide slides, so be aware of avalanches along the snowmobile trail.
The Pipe Creek Trail leaves from the southwest corner of the spacious Pipe Creek Sno-Park. After a challenging descent you'll face a steady climb above the banks of Pipe Creek. Stay in control on the downhill portion, as this trail has an especially large number of downed trees, some of which rest at head level. Continuing straight along this wide, easily-followed forest road will lead to Diamond View Loop after about 1.5 miles. The mile-long loop is a worthwhile detour, with full views of nearby Diamond Head on the eastern leg of the trail.
From the loop, the trail continues to climb through several clearings, turning right off the road after a quarter mile and meandering up to the intersection with the Dunning Ranch Trail, a mile from the loop. Between here and NF-9716 lies a mile of mostly level terrain that passes under some potential ski slopes.
A broad groomer that sees a fair amount of snowmobile traffic, NF-9716 makes for a speedy ski down. Be sure to watch for Diamond Head again, along with some big vistas of the Swauk Valley. There are two possible routes back to your car: routing over Swauk Meadow is a total of 3.5 miles from the NF-9716 intersection to the sno-park, and routing via Blewett Pass Sno-Park is 4.5 miles. The Blewett Pass option passes the very obvious snowed-in parking area that marks the start of the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail. This is a worthwhile trip in its own right, though not part of the official cross-country trail system.
Once at Blewett Pass itself, continue down the slope to the left of the parking area to find the trailhead for XC141.1, a portion of the Swauk Meadows Loop that parallels Highway 12 for an easy, densely forested 2 miles back to Pipe Creek.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.