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Jonathan Stull | 03.02.2017

The winter of 2016-2017 has proven to be one of the most prolific in recent memory in Oregon. Let’s just say that hasn’t been the kindest for your morning commute. Forget about work for a weekend, and consider instead the snowcapped peaks that parallel the Willamette Valley: these are phenomenal for winter snowshoeing, and in a winter with so much snowfall, the conditions are the best they’ve been in years. While winter is turning to spring, and March is upon us, there is still plenty of winter play to be found in the Cascades and the Coast Range near Salem. Check out one of these five snowshoe trails.

  1. Sahalie + Koosah Falls Snowshoe: Few hiking opportunities prove to be more spectacular than Oregon waterfalls in winter, and Sahalie Falls doesn’t disappoint. Its 100-foot cascade requires a bit of effort to access, since the trail is not maintained for snowshoeing, but the reward, in addition to the falls, is the solitude of old-growth forest.
  2. Clear Lake Snowshoe: Another winter convert, the trail around Clear Lake isn’t marked for winter travel, but regular use during snowbound months provides snowshoers with a rough 5.5-mile route. Clear Lake gets its name from the crystal clear waters, and on a good day snowshoers may see a forest submerged under the lake’s waters 3,000 years ago.
  3. Potato Hill Snowshoe: The sno-park at Potato Hill between Salem and the Cascades is easy to miss, but there are a few snowshoe trails here that are worthwhile on their own or together. Hash Brown Loop offers a gentle, 3-mile lope through the forest, and Jack Pine Road leads to an excellent viewpoint of the Cascades from Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack to the Three Sisters.
  4. Mountain View Shelter: Low congestion makes the Mountain View Shelter attractive, and so does the miles-long network of snowshoe trails from Maxwell Sno-Park. Mix and match trails to extend your trip however you like. The shelter is first-come, first-served, and it costs nothing to stay overnight.
  5. Mary’s Peak: Though not explicitly a snowshoeing trail, the highest peak in the Coast Range can keep its winter coat well into May. Being just outside of Corvallis, it might be one of the closest snowshoes to Salem. There are two approaches: the North Ridge Trail, gaining more elevation and lesser used, and the East Ridge. While the summer visitation is high, visiting in winter is a mixed bag, so be prepared for routefinding along the trail and variable weather.


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