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Winter day trip: Snowshoeing at Gold Creek Sno-Park

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Forget resolutions in the New Year; just go outside and get moving! One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to shake the winter blahs is to sling on a pair of snowshoes and hit our Western Washington mountain trails. Snowshoeing requires little to no athletic ability beyond walking and it provides a stealth cardiovascular workout while helping to build strength, balance and endurance, all surrounded by incredible winter forest scenery. Some of that beauty may distract one from the fact that snowshoeing burns an easy 420-plus calories per hour (that number can go to 1,000 calories per hour on hilly, unpacked terrain at a faster pace, but we’re keeping it real on beginner terrain here!).

One of the most proximal snow parks to Seattle is Gold Creek Sno-Park, a straight drive up Interstate 90 near Hyak in the Snoqualmie Region. This takes about an hour of driving from downtown Seattle. Gold Creek Sno-Park offers flat terrain, making it very easy for beginners and family-friendly for little ones. Leashed dogs are also welcome to come along. Marked trail signs direct guests along the popular one-mile option around Gold Creek Pond and other markers extend the hike further back for more adventurous options. Cross-country skiers also share the trails, taking in nature such as beaver dams, squirrels, winter birds, deer, and towering trees draped in snowy valances.

What you’ll need for Gold Creek: 

A Sno-Parks Permit  Mandatory as proof of purchase and must be displayed in your car window while using the park.  There are seasonal and day-only options (day passes also require a Discover Pass); details: https://www.wta.org/go-outside/passes/passes-and-permit-info.

Snowshoes – Rent from the Nordic Center at nearby Summit at Snoqualmie or your favorite ski shop in Seattle or retailer along I-90. Snowshoes can be purchased new for about $80-120 (and they last many seasons!).

Warm, preferably waterproof or water-resistant layers  Thick socks, hiking boots, ski pants, a waterproof pants shell to slide over jeans or thick moisture-wicking leggings; base shirt layer, sweater, and parka; gloves or mittens, knit cap, and optional gator or balaclava for the neck and face, respectively.

The little things

  • Hand warmers are wonderful for an extended time out in the cold, and they slide easily into mittens or coat pockets and last for several hours.
  • Bring a phone or camera for some of the best pictures and selfies to be had all year! Snow is reflective and casts beautiful, even light for close-ups.
  • A towel or two for the car on one’s return helps to keep the wet mess outside and off the upholstery.
  • Carry a backpack with light snacks and a thermos full of warm broth, coffee or tea for sippy breaks, or just keep it in the car for the return.
  • Have some facial tissues for sinus drip. These always come in handy!

Directions to Gold Creek Sno-Park: Take Interstate 90 east to Exit 54, which is two miles east of (after) the Snoqualmie Pass summit. Exit I-90, turn north, crossing under the freeway. Turn right into Gold Creek Sno-Park, which follows Forest Road 4832 and drive east (inland) for one mile. Park along Forest Road 4832 with your required Sno-Park permit displayed, and hike to the Gold Creek Pond parking area.  The snow-packed entrance is quite obvious with people coming and going.

Other beginner snowshoeing options
Depending on your location in Washington State, there are many more excellent beginners snowshoeing options within two hours of Seattle, including The Summit at Snoqualmie Nordic Center, Stevens Pass, Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Crystal Mountain Resort, and Mount Rainier National Park, where there are ranger-guided snowshoe walks. At the time of this writing, the government shutdown affects the operation of national parks, so be sure to call before heading up the mountain!

  

Knowing so many nearby options abound, the only thing to do is gear up and show up, so happy snowshoeing!