Pacific Northwest Snowmobiling

7 Great Places for Snow Adventures

Winter is when many Pacific Northwest residents retreat indoors, waiting for warmer weather to explore the natural wonders of the region. For snowmobilers, the falling snow creates a buzz of excitement, knowing that adventures in the snow are just around the corner. The snow may limit outdoor exploration on foot, but those with a snow-machine will revel in riding and taking in backcountry views.

In Washington, there are about 80 Sno-Parks to explore. North Idaho is also a haven for snowmobile riders, bringing them into the rugged landscape that defines the Gem State. Before leaving home, check the weather forecast and avalanche conditions from the Northwest Avalanche Center to ensure all in your group have a safe day. Sno-Park permits are required at many locations, so inquire locally before heading out. Don’t have a snowmobile? Check with local rental agencies to see if they are offering tours and rentals during COVID-19 and verify their safety and restrictions.

Because of COVID-19, please take recommended safety requirements, check road closures, and practice social distancing if you are planning a future trip. 

Snow at Southern Cascades

Snowmobile tracks in fresh snow at Mount St. Helens. Photo by Aploon/Getty Images.

1. Snoqualmie and I-90

On the east side of Snoqualmie Pass and up over Blewett Pass, there are four classic places to ride. Right off Interstate 90, the Kachess trail system gives riders a little bit of everything on its 23 miles of stunning groomed trails. Nearby Crystal Springs is another favorite, with 51 miles of trails to ride, including a route to the photogenic views at Tacoma Pass on the King and Kittitas County border. Dandy Pass out of Crystal Springs is also a great view.

Further east, you’ll find the Elk Heights trail system, a gem to the region that offers 90 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and numerous scenic vistas of the eastern Cascades. North of Interstate 90, you’ll find the Blewett Pass trail system. There are 70 miles of groomed trails, leading to remote huts and fantastic views on bluebird days. The ride to Table Mountain is a favorite, as the loop ride passes two huts.

2. Southern Cascades

In the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, you’ll find Marble Mountain, a classic spot to ride in Washington. Near Mount St. Helens, you’ll find a 25-mile trail system at the base of the volcano. From November to May, adventurous riders can work their way to the crater rim of this active volcano. This experience is limited to those who have a permit and stay outside the designated non-motorized corridor. Please stay away from the edge on your machine and hike the last 100 yards to the top. Be cautious because cornices have been known to break under the weight of snowmobiles. Near Marble Mountain, Wakepish is another great spot, offering 17 miles of groomed trails and 60 miles of ungroomed routes to explore.

Near Packwood, Skate Creek, Orr Creek and Johnson Creek are three great options to snowmobile on groomed and ungroomed routes. Skate Creek is smaller with 53 miles of trails and minimal amenities. At Johnson Creek and Orr Creek, you’ll find more than 148 miles to ride, as well as restrooms and shelters. Please check before you go as some amenities may not be available because of COVID-19.

3. White Pass and Yakima

Tucked between Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, few spots in Washington showcase the views that you’ll have near White Pass and Yakima. Just off White Pass near Rimrock Lake, you’ll find the Cold Creek and Fish Creek trail systems. Although there are minimal amenities found here, you gain access to 66 miles of trail, groomed and ungroomed. Favorite routes out of Cold Creek are up Pinegrass Ridge and to Conrad Meadows; both run up near Goat Rocks Wilderness. Off of State Route 410, the Boulder Cave trail system has 25 miles of groomed trails, with a highlight being the ride to the hut at Little Bald Mountain. Elsewhere, Manastash trails have 78 miles to ride, with routes leading nearly to I-90.

Snow at Stevens Pass

Snow at Stevens Pass. Photo by Seastock/Getty Images.

4. Stevens Pass to Lake Chelan

Around Lake Wenatchee and Lake Chelan, one can find hundreds of miles of groomed trails with stunning scenery and great snow. The trail systems in the North Central Cascades are a sledder’s dreamland, giving long days of terrain to explore. Starting your day at the Lake Wenatchee Airstrip or Fish Lake gives you access to 186 miles of groomed trails, climbing up ridges, passing through forests and showing off the occasionally frozen lakes. South of Lake Wenatchee, the Twenty-Five Mile Creek trail system gives riders 63 miles to explore, passing a hut, mountain peaks, passes and views of Lake Chelan. On the north side of the lake, the Antilon Lake Trail System has 100 miles of groomed paths to follow, also crossing scenic peaks and huts.

5. The Inland Empire

Kings Lake, Mill Creek and Mount Spokane are three excellent options for a day on your snowmobile in the Inland Empire. Mount Spokane offers 19 miles of groomed trails, passing lodges and a hut and giving ample opportunity to take in the views. Mill Creek, located in the Gillette Recreation area near Colville, is nestled against the Idaho border. Passing lakes and weaving through forests, the 138 miles of groomed trails are perfect for a long weekend of riding. South of Mill Creek, the Kings Lake trail system is another incredible destination. Kings Lake has 134 miles of groomed trails that circle lakes, climb ridges and pass a hut. Down near the Oregon border, Touchet Corral has 56 miles of groomed trail to explore near the Bluewood Ski Area. The trails are scenic and offer hours of sledding through the powder of the area.

6. Mount Baker and Methow

The North Cascades Highway may be closed to cars during winter, but a memorable trip is snowmobiling up the highway. This is a fantastic introduction to both snowmobiling and to exploring outdoors in the winter, with the terrain easy to manage and the views spectacular.

On the west side of the mountains, the Mount Baker National Recreation Area has 19 miles of jaw-dropping groomed trails to explore. Nearby, Canyon Creek and Glacier Creek have a combined 50 miles of groomed trails that lead to impressive viewpoints. On the east side of the mountains, Scatter Creek near Winthrop has 63 miles of groomed trails that climb up over passes and through forests. This area also is near the starting point to ride the North Cascades Highway.

Read more about snow play at Methow Valley. 

Snowmobiling near Lolo Pass

Snowmobiling at Lolo Pass. Photo by Visit Montana.

7. North Idaho

Around the panhandle of Idaho, the snowmobiling opportunities are amazing. One could ride from the 4th of July Summit on Interstate 90 all the way to Lake Pend Oreille without stopping. The trail network is so expansive that many say it is harder to find a place where you can’t ride. While that may be true, three spots provide enough riding to capture the spirit of North Idaho.

Priest Lake is a dreamland, giving hundreds of miles of riding to all levels. Riders will find elevations ranging from 2,500 feet to more than 7,000 feet above sea level and picturesque scenery around every corner. East of Coeur d’Alene, the Silver Valley of Idaho is a gem. North of the towns of Kellogg, Osburn and Silverton, you have access to hundreds of miles of trails, leading to great views, remote warming huts and trails for all. Along the Idaho/Montana border, you’ll find 250 miles of groomed trails at Lolo Pass. The trails crisscross the mountainous border, passing through forests and giving the occasional sweeping view of the entire area.

–Written by Douglas Scott
–Top image of snowmobile tracks in fresh snow at Mount St. Helens. Photo by Aploon/Getty Images.

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