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Off the Beaten Path: Snowshoeing in the North Cascades

The austere beauty of the true PNW is manifest in slate grey lakes and skies and amplified by unblemished white snowfall.

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Bucket list item: feel the snowfields of the Cascade Mountains, especially the Alpine Lakes Region in winter.

The blankness of the landscape is meditative. The zen-like experience of serene silence: no thoughts are sometimes the best thoughts.

The expert or amateur snowshoe-traveler can sojourn across long scenic distances and expect to enjoy the solitude of nature while getting a heck of a workout.

A journey across snowfields makes for a fine day trip, and afterward you can come back to the coastal communities north of Seattle and find lodging with a warm bath and cozy bed sheets.

You can always find new places to explore by visiting the Washington Trails Association website. Here are your best bets for snowshoeing in our neck of the woods.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass is deep in the Cascade Mountains, but easily accessible by vehicles (you might need snow chains—it pays to pack them in advance). The steep elevation of surrounding peaks make for strenuous hikes, but that’s part of the fun of the workout.

Hike to Lanham Lake from the Stevens Pass Nordic Center. The Nordic Center is about five miles east of the pass’ main resort and heads straight up a mountain. The trail goes up 1,140 feet during the 1.6-mile climb to the lake.

The Nordic skiing center has four trails of varying difficulty, from absolute beginner on up.

Nordic Center trails cost $13 per day for a snowshoe pass and you can rent snowshoes there for $15 for a half day or $25 for a full day. Pros: parking is free and the trails are regularly checked by experts for avalanche danger.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Is there a more poetic name for an actual place than the Alpine Lakes Wilderness? Yes: this tract of mountainous land is as scenic as it sounds.

You can access the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from Stevens Pass. It takes you through the Central Cascades—past clear mountainous lake after clear mountainous lake.

This region is increasingly visited by snowshoeing enthusiasts who conveniently file and organize their experiences on a website that serves as an outdoor recreation database. On the Outdoor Project website for snowshoeing enthusiasts, visitors can sort potential hikes by region, proximity, and hike attributes (dog-friendly, old growth forest, etc.).

Renting Snowshoes

Your best bet is to rent snowshoes in Seattle NorthCountry is to visit the REI store at the Alderwood Mall.

REI, as you probably know, started in 1938 is Seattle an outdoor gear cooperative. Its local roots are strong and it still sells the absolute best gear for snowy outdoor excursions. Besides actual snowshoes, the store sells waterproof gear and freeze-dried food perfect for easy prep off the beaten path.


  • Adult, $22 a day then $11 each additional day for members (non-members $44/$22 with $100 deposit)
  • Tween Shoe, $18/$9 a day (non-members $36/$18 with $100 deposit)
  • Kids, $10/$5 a day (non-members $20/$10 with $100 deposit)
  • Poles, $8/$4 a day (non-members $20/$10)

*If you rent on Friday and bring them back by close of Sunday then you only have to pay for a single day.

What will you see out in the snowy wilds? What will you feel? Find yourself in the refreshing pristine blankness of mountainous snow.

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