It's hard to drive down a snowy road or embark on a trail blanketed afresh without reminiscing on one of Emily Dickinson's best wintertime musings, Nature, Poem 50: The Snow.
It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.
Snow has a remarkable propensity to turn even an unsightly and abandoned parking lot into a scene worthy of a Christmas card, as Dickinson so eloquently pointed out. And what the fluffy white goods do for the North Cascades and Mount Rainier is a magical experience all its own.
The summertime playgrounds that Seattleites frequent are all the more beautiful and serene after a snowstorm, enhanced by the fact that the crowds are far less numerous. Below you'll find five adventures every wintertime snowshoer should cross off her list this winter. Below that are some suggestions for further exploration, but by no means is this list exhaustive. One could explore for decades without crunching over every wintertime gem this state has to offer. More important than getting out there, though, is doing it safely. ALWAYS travel with a friend, and be sure to check the weather report to avoid getting caught in a storm.
If you're searching for a steep pitch to eye-popping beauty, search no further. Though the drive to the trailhead (situated in the Mount Baker Ski Area upper parking lot) is windy and can be treacherous when it's under snow, there's hardly a snowshoe trail that can rival Artist Point in the state—this you'll realize while standing on Kulshan Ridge and looking at Mount Shucksan to the south and Mount Baker's commanding presence to the west.
Getting to the trailhead can be an adventure in itself. You may or may not be required to hike up the fairly steep Forest Service road that winds for miles up the mountain for the summer trailhead. Truly, that'll all be worth it once you you reach the lake and can easily while away the hours watching the impressive peak shedding small avalanches off its sheer face.
Surprise Lake sits just inside the border of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the trail more or less follows the summertime route to the lake. Once there you'll find the magnificence and splendor of this summertime scene shrouded in magic under fresh blankets of snow. Surprise, Thunder, and Spark Plug Mountains truly paint a breathtaking backdrop in the snow.
If you love to play in the snow and have found that skiing isn't quite your cup of tea, hitch a ride with friends to Steven's Pass Resort and peel off to tag this incredible snowshoe hike (always go with a buddy, though). Travelers are rewarded with stunning views of high alpine lakes and second-to-none vantage points of Jove Peak, Labyrinth Mountain, and the jagged Lichtenberg Mountain.
Mount Rainier is one of Seattle's most beloved summertime playgrounds, but the natural beauty, opportunity for adventure, and lessened crowds make winter recreation top notch in the shadow of this iconic behemoth. This easy snowshoe for all visitors earns fabulous views of the volcano and should be a must-do for all Seattlites.
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.