The East Fork of the Foss River Trail is a great winter route that samples much of what snowshoeing is about. Starting on an unplowed Forest Service Road that follows the high bank of the Foss River, the first mile and a half is a good uphill warm-up to make sure you have your shoes on properly. After leaving the multi-use snow road and any possible snowmobiles or cross-country skiers, you hop on a trail with an even grade that is a snowshoer's dream. With a narrow trail that almost immediately enters an old-growth forest with towering trees, this is a nice hike to get away from it all.
After getting off of the multi-use road, a well-traveled trail follows the banks of the East Fork of the Foss River. While in summer the route is easy to see, winter sometimes obscures the path. Likewise, downed trees, stream crossings, or low snow cover may require you to alter your path. Remember that as long as you can keep the Foss River within earshot, it's hard to get lost. Throughout your time following the Foss River expect deep snow fields, stream crossings, big trees, a bridge crossing, some possible wildlife spotting (snow rabbits are common), and enough winter solitude to get spiritually lost in the amazement of surreal winter scenes.
Great camping spots line the way along the East Fork of the Foss River. The first great winter campsites are over 4 miles in, where you'll find Altarus Lake. It's one of the first big vistas on the drive in, and with a minimal climb and avalanche danger, it makes a great day hike. If you want more of a commitment and the avalanche conditions allow for it, make the trek up the side of the mountain and enter the lower lakes of the Necklace chain. No matter how far you go though, expect a good hike into snowy Cascade Mountains.
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.