Guided snowshoe hikes are a great, safe way to get to know Washington's trails in winter. From beginner programs to more advanced outings, the following programs are a great way to try snowshoeing or explore a new area of the state. With an ranger or expert leading the way, learn a new skill (like avalanche awareness or winter photography) or just get outside for the day.
Below is information for guided snowshoe programs at:
- Snoqualmie Pass
- Stevens Pass (Skykomish Ranger District)
- Mount Baker Ranger District
- Big Four Ice Caves (Darrington Ranger District)
- Mount St. Helens
- Mount Rainier National Park
Some private companies and resorts also offer guided snowshoe programs.
Information, Sno-Park permits and more
Whether you take a guided hike or want to plan your own snowshoe adventure, get more information about winter recreation information, current weather and avalanche forecasts, some beginner snowshoe trails, and Sno-Park Permit information.
Guided winter snowshoe walks on Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, near Mount Baker and on the Mountain Loop Highway
Get outdoors and learn about winter ecology snowshoeing on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest January through March. No experience is necessary and the Forest Service provides snowshoes. Participants should wear layered and insulated clothing, hats and gloves with sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots, hats and gloves. To offset the costs of the program a donation is requested.
Beginning in January, Forest Service Naturalists at the Snoqualmie Pass Visitor Information Center will offer a variety of guided outdoor winter walks and activities. Reservations are required to participate.
To make a reservation, call 509-852-1062 before December 19. From December 20 until the end of the season, the visitor center will take reservations Thursday - Sunday from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled.
Meet 15 minutes before your scheduled walk at the Snoqualmie Pass Visitor’s Center off I-90, exit 52. A donation of $15 is suggested of for adults, $10 for youth 16 and under, and $25 per person for the half-day hikes and photography outings.
Read the hike descriptions provided by the Forest Service, and sign up today:
90 minute walk: 1 mile roundtrip
Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Suggested donation: Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Learn about the winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety on this one-mile loop walk through opulent old-growth forest.
Ideas & Inspiration for Your Next Hike
Extended walk: 5 mile roundtrip
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.
Suggested donation: $25 per person
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks. Bring a lunch, a well-stocked day pack, extra clothing and water; you will be out from about 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Photography walk: 4-5 hours
Dates: 2/15, 3/1, 3/15, 3/29 at 9:30 a.m.
Suggested donation: $25 per person
Geared for photography enthusiasts of all abilities. Commonwealth Creek offers intriguing image possibilities with ice falls, cool vapors and swirling dark waters. Your guide will discuss light, composition and exposure. Bring lunch, this outing lasts four to five hours. Participants are encouraged to bring their own film or digital cameras and extra batteries. In order to reduce your own exposure, please carry a well-stocked backpack with lunch, as this trip usually lasts about 4 - 5 hours.
Kids in Snow! - 90 min. family snowshoe
Beginning January 18, Saturdays at 1:00 p.m.
Suggested donation: Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow membership and badge! Learn about winter tracking, how plants and animals survive through the winter and check out some hearty winter critters on this approximately 90-minute walk.
Avalanche Awareness Walk
Dates: 2/8, 2/22, 3/8, 3/22
Donations of $15 per participant are suggested for this program.
Join the Northwest Avalanche Center and the Forest Service for a snowshoe walk where the focus is entirely Avalanche Awareness. Professionals from the Northwest Avalanche Center will be leading and presenting these walks. Call for more details.
Both of these guided hikes will be held every Saturday and Sunday from January 4 to March 1. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled.
To make a reservations, call the Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2414 . Meet at the Forest Service Guard Station by Parking Lot A at Stevens Pass. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. (Check for fees and schedules.)
Junior Snow Ranger
10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
Suggested donation: Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow membership and badge! Learn about winter tracking, how plants and animals survive through the winter and check out some hearty winter critters.
Trek with a Ranger
11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Suggested donation: Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Learn about the winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety on this 90 minute guided nature discovery tour along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Mount Baker Ranger District
To make a reservation, call 360-599-9572, weekends 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet at the Glacier Public Service Center, milepost 34 on the Mount Baker Hwy., State Route 542. Groups will leave from there to the snowshoe walk location along the Hannegan Road, Heather Meadows or another setting in the Mt. Baker District area. Reservations required.
Ranger Guided Snowshoe Walk
Fridays - 10 a.m. Feb. 7, 14, 21
Sundays - 10 a.m. Feb. 23, March 2, 9, 16
Mountain Loop Highway - Big Four Ice Caves
To make a reservation, call the Darrington Ranger District at 360-436-1155. Meet at Verlot Public Service Center, 11 miles east of Granite Falls on the Mountain Loop Highway, for orientation. Groups will leave from there to Deer Creek and begin the four-mile, approximately five hour round-trip snowshoe hike to the Big 4 picnic shelter. Participants should be age 16 or older and in good shape. Snowshoes are provided. A $20 donation is suggested. Reservations are required
Big Four Ice Cave Snowshoe Walk
February 1 - March 2, weekends, 8:30 a.m – 2 p.m.
This is a great opportunity for those who have never used snowshoes before or anyone interested in learning about the amazing ecology and human history of this low elevation winter wonderland. Pack a lunch and bring an insulated mug of hot chocolate for the Big Four picnic shelter where we can listen for the crack of avalanches cascading off the massive face of Big Four.
Guided snowshoe hikes at Mount St. Helens
The Mount St. Helens Institute is also offering guided snowshoe adventures starting in January. Registration is required ($30) and does not cover the cost of a Sno-Park Pass. Rentals are available.
- January 18 - June Lake
- January 25 - Old Man Pass
- February 1 - Mount Adams Ice Cave and Natural Bridges Cross-country Ski Adventure
- February 15 - Ape Cave
- February 22 - June Lake
- March 1: Elk Rock Snowshoe
- March 8: June Lake Snowshoe
Ranger-led snowshoe hikes at Mount Rainier
Join a park ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals, and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier.
When: First-come, first-served guided snowshoe walks begin n December 24, 2013. Snow conditions permitting, the walks are generally offered on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and daily during winter break from December 24 to January 1.
After early January, walks are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. Walks start at 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center (near the information desk) in Paradise. Sign-ups begin 1 hour in advance of scheduled time.
Distance & Time: Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles in 2 hours.
Group size: Snowshoe walks are limited to 25 people, eight years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis. A sign-up sheet is available at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk one hour before each walk. All snowshoe walk participants must be present at sign-up.
Equipment: For an enjoyable snowshoe walk, you will need to wear sturdy, waterproof boots, dress in layers, and have a hat, gloves, suitable boots, sunglasses and sunscreen. Snowshoes are provided, or visitors may use their own. A donation of $4 per person is asked to help defray the cost of snowshoe maintenance.
Winter recreation at Olympic National Park
In the past, Olympic National Park has offered ranger-led snowshoe walks, but due to budget uncertainties, park officials have said they will not offer them this winter.
There are still plenty of great ways to enjoy Olympic National Park in the winter, though, including snowshoeing Hurricane Hill on your own.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters at midnight tonight, and if you've ever hiked in Washington, the awe-inspiring scenery may look familiar. If you're feeling the need to seek out an epic adventure (or a dragon) after watching the movie, WTA's got you covered.
From Mirkwood's gloom to The Lonely Mountain's craggy peaks, we've found Washington versions of places in the first two films from Peter Jackson's vision of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic tale. Some of the trails you can hike or snowshoe right now; the others will have to wait until next spring and summer.
Can't get enough Hobbit Hikes? Check out last year's blog with hiker suggestions for more ideas. And if you have your own thoughts about which of Washington's mountains is the Loneliest (Mount St. Helens, maybe?), share your Hobbit moments on trail in the comments below.
Snowshoe Artist Point
You'll feel like you're approaching the Desolation of Smaug when you snowshoe under the lofty peaks Mount Baker and Mount Shuskan at Artist Point. >> Snowshoe Artist point.
Hike Oyster Dome
Channel the athleticism and grace of your inner elf as you scale the trail to the rocky top of Oyster Dome, which will give you ocean views not too far off from these in the new film (which we think must be the Long Lake). >> Hike Oyster Dome.
Hike Ape Caves
Mirkwood Forest is so dark you might need to head into Ape Caves (shown below) to get the same effect. On the other hand, venturing under the tree canopy of Rockport State Park or the Hoh River Trail on a gloomy day might offer a similar feeling.
>> Hike Ape Caves (snow may require a snowshoe from the gate, once it is closed for the season).
A late summer backpacking trip (for hobbits)
Take a journey worthy of Bilbo and head into the backcountry for two or five nights next summer. One way to feel like you're approaching the towering heights of Erabor (we think) is to climb up and over Granite Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. From there, you'll take in the red rock views of Tower Mountain (shown below).
>> Backpacking 101
Hike Tiffany Mountain
Another hike to plan on for next summer. Take a trip to the Okanogan Highlands and you'll feel like you're stepping into a scene from the first film of The Lord of the Rings. The wide-open, high-elevation rocky grasslands of Tiffany Mountain will have you peeking under every other boulder for a secret passageway. >> Save Tiffany Mountain to your My Backpack.
Hike Horseshoe Basin
You can start to hike Horseshoe Basin in the Pasayten Wilderness as early as June, but you might as well make it a backpack. You'll want to spend time traveling the high plains and tundra that so resembles the high plains of Middle-earth. There are also a few spots, when Horseshoe Basin is particularly lush and full of wildflowers, where its rolling hills looks like nothing so much as The Shire. >> Save Horseshoe Basin to your My Backpack.
Hike Kamiak Butte (aka The Shire)
Hikers in Washington often have the delightful experience of feeling like they just stumbled into The Shire. In spring, the lush rolling hills of the Palouse as seen from the Kamiak Butte Trail in southeast Washington are a strong contender for Shire-status. The best time to tackle this trail is March-October. >> Save Kamiak Butte to your My Backpack.
Support our work in 2014 (and make Hobbit Hikes: Part 3 a reality)
Did you know that Washington Trails Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit that relies on community support to make our work possible? If you liked this post, use WTA's website to find hiking ideas information or want to support our volunteers on trail, please consider making a special year-end donation today. Your tax-deductible gift of $15, $40 or more will keep us going strong in 2014. Thank you!
by Cassandra Overby
Get outside in the off-season
Life during hiking season is an adventure. Each weekend brings with it the possibility of discovering a favorite new trail, conquering a difficult new peak, or making an epic new memory that you and your hiking companions will talk and laugh about for years to come. In comparison, life in the off-season can seem, well, off. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The place you live, wherever it is, is teeming with adventure. It’s practically vibrating with the energy of things waiting to be discovered: a cozy cafe, a sweeping vista, a lovely neighborhood park.
Explore the art, elevation gain, and nearby eats of Seattle’s stairways
For Puget-Sounders or Seattle visitors, authors Jake and Cathy Jaramillo help you find that adventure with Seattle Stairway Walks from Mountaineers Books. This inspiring new title is crammed full of neighborhood walks that will have you exploring the nooks and crannies of the city, discovering new favorite spots and -- you guessed it -- climbing a lot of stairs. You’ll even learn about local history and experience grassroots art along the way.
Small enough to slip into your jacket pocket, Seattle Stairway Walks features 25 hikes around the city, so it’s easy to just grab and go. Each entry contains information on where to start the walk, as well as handy maps that show your entire route with turn-by-turn directions. For the tech-savvy, there are even QR codes that link to digital directions to navigate via smartphone.
But the route information is just the beginning. Each entry also lists hiking distance, walking time, steps up and down, and whether or not the route is kid friendly.
One of our favorite features is the café and pub suggestions, as well as the little informational boxes on local history and attractions.
Rediscover the city with "new eyes"
Before and during your hike, you’ll learn a surprising amount about the stairways in Seattle. Did you know there as many as 650 publicly accessible ones? You'll also find out why they exist. You’ll become intimately familiar with all of the neighborhoods that give Seattle its unique flavor, from Madrona to Eastlake to Alki.
The off-season doesn’t have to seem off. Instead, these months of short, chilly days can be the perfect excuse to adventure locally.
Take a cue from Marcel Proust, who famously said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Strong legs, like the ones you’ll have after walking all of these stairs, don’t hurt either—and will have you ready for the trail come spring and summer.
- Buy or download Seattle Stairway Walks
- Cathy and Jake also keep a terrific blog
- Two great workout stairways in Seattle
- More hikes within 30 minutes of Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver
“She knew how to grin and laugh and she knew how to be a human being.” —Mike Owens
A tireless volunteer
Longtime WTA volunteer Rose Alfred passed away in late November surrounded by family at the age of 72. She worked as a registered nurse at three hospitals during a 45 year medical career, and was an expert HIV/AIDS nurse in the 1980s. In addition to her work at the hospital, she was a hardworking fundraiser for breast cancer awareness, and a volunteer cook for Community Lunch at Central Lutheran in Seattle.
But we know her best as a dedicated assistant crew leader with WTA, who earned her crosscut saw award in 2011, marking 500 days of trail work. She continued to volunteer until late 2012, logging 548 total work parties.
On the trail, she tackled each task with seriousness and determination, no matter how tricky or tedious. Mike Owens learned this on his first work party with Rose. He had assigned Rose’s team of three volunteers the task of filling a three foot square crib box with pebbles the size of his fingernail. It was a time-consuming task, but by the end of the day, the crib box was full, and Rose was still smiling.
An inspiration to others
Energetic and selfless, Rose would happily put off her own progress on trail work to help a frustrated volunteer. Pete Dewell recalls witnessing Rose work for an hour with a volunteer who was struggling with the work she had been assigned. Rose left her task to coach the volunteer, and with Rose’s help, she quickly understood the project better, had fun, and completed good work.
A persistent worker who got it done right
Rose was committed to a job well done. On one work party, she took on the task of breaking up rock outcrops, which were encroaching on the width of the trail. While the rest of the crew built a rock wall, Rose persisted at her project, and at the end of the day, the widened tread made for a more durable, longer lasting trail.
Pete’s recollection of that project is perhaps the best way to sum up the Rose Alfred we knew.
“That was Rose, the persistent worker, no matter the job or type of work—get it done right and leave a legacy in the process.”
Rose’s legacy lives on everywhere that she volunteered, worked, and gave back. Thank you for your smile, energy, and dedication. We will miss you.
By Anna Silver
Just a few hours into my fifth WTA youth volunteer vacation, I was huddled under the nylon walls of a tent in a meadow eleven miles from civilization as a thunderstorm closed in overhead, providing a soundtrack of thick gushes of rain hitting the ground and booming claps of thunder.
That morning, under an innocently sunny sky, I had surged straight into the wilderness with a group of willing teenagers and two awesome leaders. We were headed to White Pass for what would soon become one of the most enjoyable, and undoubtedly the most beautiful WTA work party I have been on.
The Calm After the Storm
After the dousing our first night, we awoke the following morning to placid weather and, as we emerged sleepy-eyed from our tents, took a good look around for the first time. We were camped in a small bowl just below the ridgeline of a mountain in a high alpine meadow. Green grass covered in purple and white wildflowers surrounded us, and a network of creeks laced their way through the campsite. Looking out, a wide expanse of the Cascades stretched out before us, tree-covered and snow-capped, their peaks fading from deep to light blue in the distance.
For work, we removed berm, or a raised section of dirt on the downhill side of the trail that prevents drainage, and tried not to get distracted by the view.
To entertain ourselves while we dug, we exchanged riddles and stories, and my personal favorite, sang. On one day, myself and another volunteer, Frida, spent the entire workday belting out the lyrics to every song we could think of in horribly off-key voices. Doing so, we had a ridiculously fun time hacking away at the mounds of dirt, rock, and roots with our grub hoes and pulaskis.
- On our day off, our group hiked to a glacier and an alpine lake. A few of us scrambled up the tallest ridge that was close by, where we encountered yet another incredible view and ate a lunch of delicious leftover curry while overlooking the valley and river below.
- There were marmots everywhere, and they are adorable. Marmots are fluffy, fat small mammals that scamper around, burrow underground, and whistle. Once, while walking to my tent with one of my leaders, a marmot only a few yards in front of us stood up on its hind legs, looked at us, and let out a piercing whistle-scream, sending us both jumping backwards and laughing in surprise.
- One of our leaders, Austin, forgot his sunscreen. So, in exchange for using some of mine, he let me and Frida braid his hair. We gave him several French braids, topped it off with a braided grass and flower garland, and made him skip through the meadow.
- The view from the latrine, which was stupendous. (see photo)
...And Making Friends
Throughout the week, I had an amazing time chatting with and getting to know the other volunteers. I love spending time with a group of people who are from all over Washington, both urban and rural, who go to different schools and have different stories to share. Each WTA group I find myself with is eclectic, goofy, and caring in its own way and getting to know each member is consistently one of my favorite parts of these trips (besides the delicious food, that is).
On our last night, we gathered in the meadow overlooking the mountains where Austin read us a Max Ehrmann prose poem called “Desiderata.” I sipped a cup of hot tea, listened to the musical trickle of the creek in the background, and felt the cool wind tousle my hair as it wound its way through the mountains.
In the serenity of that moment, I silently thanked WTA for giving me the opportunity to journey into the heart of the Cascades. It had been yet another week of rewarding work improving trails with others eager to trade their iPods for flowing creeks and hike into the wilderness.
From youth leaders to volunteer crews to the launch of our brand new Outdoor Leadership Training program, celebrate some of the our favorite youth moments on trail this year.
You can see which trails we worked on and see all of WTA's accomplishments in 2013.
Good friends: 23 community partners volunteered all year long
With a growing number of community partners more and more youth are getting outdoors and giving back to trails. In 2013, WTA led at least one youth group each month throughout the year. WTA thanks the 23 youth programs who partnered on more than 50 youth trail work parties.
Helping each other get outside: a thriving community of hiking families
YOWZA! More than 650 trip reports were submitted so far this year marked as Hiked by Kids. Check out this great list of trip reports hiked by kids. Additionally several other resources are being shared on the Families Go Hiking Pinterest board and newsletter. This year the number of Families Go Hiking newsletter subscribers has grown four fold.
Youth volunteers: a summer full of adventure and stewardship
Teens age 14-18 participated on 16 youth volunteer vacations in some spectacular locations all across Washington, including North Cascades National Park.
It was an amazing summer of youth volunteering in two State Parks, two National Parks and eight different National Forest Service Ranger Districts.
Hike-a-Thon: young hikers made their (696) miles count
Twenty-one youth hiked 696 miles in the month of August to support the 10th Annual Hike-a-Thon. That's the highest number of youth participants and miles hiked by youth ever. They made all those miles count and raised more than $2,100 for WTA. Thanks to all the youth and families who participated.
Launching a new program: getting more youth on trail
WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program launched this fall. It will support and empower youth development professionals and teachers to get more kids outside. The training workshops, gear lending library, funding assistance and supportive community were designed to engage community leaders and help kids have access to the outdoors.
A special thanks to Columbia Sportswear and Timbuk2 for their generous donations to the new gear lending library.
Outdoor leaders: youth volunteers share their perspective
Our first team of Youth Ambassadors visited 12 local schools and shared their experiences about volunteering with WTA with more than 700 students. A special thanks to Helen and Tzuria for participating on the 2012-13 Youth Advisory Committee.
Stuck on what to get a certain young one for the holiday season? Get the budding outdoor enthusiasts in your life something on our list and you're sure to hear about how cool it is all next hiking season.
The eleventh essential(s)
Budding backpackers will love these lightweight treats to add to their daily packs.
This headlamp comes in three colors, suitable for boys and girls, and has kid-friendly safety features. For its compact size it puts out a surprising amount of LED light—perfect for those nighttime prowls and campfire snipe hunts. $19
Bison Designs has taken the popular paracord bracelet to the next level by incorporating a high-output LED light on the BukaLite buckle. The surprisingly bright light comes in handy around camp and in everyday situations. Plus it makes a pretty cool bracelet. $20*
TWEET! TWEET! This whistle packs a compass, thermometer, magnifying glass, mirror and an LED light—along with the whistle! An ideal accessory for young hikers learning the art of orienteering. $12
Fashion forward hikers
Give them something stylish to wear on the trail, in camp, even at school!
Not all hats are created equal. The Beatrice Beanie has a great fitted look for women without all the bagginess of unisex styles. Made from soft merino wool with a fleece liner, it will keep the lady on your list looking sleek and staying warm. $39
Soooo soft and pretty! The Bella Scarf is made of 100% wool and has a gorgeous printed design that would work for the stylish hiker on your list. It comes in many color combos, but we especially love the green and turquoise palette. $50
Treats for techies
Know someone who just can't leave their iPhone at home? These goodies will keep their trail tech safe and usable in the great out of doors.
Do they enjoy listening to their favorite tunes on their hikes and workout runs, but always complain about their buds falling out? They'll complain no more with a pair of these revolutionary earbuds. Specially designed for active outdoor enthusiasts, these ergonomic twist-lock buds stay in place while being water- and tangle-resistant. $80
This heavy-duty case will protect their iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S from whatever falls, water, wind, dirt and dust they put it through. Perfect for the hardcore adventure-seeker—or that not-so-coordinated person you know—so they can go the extra mile knowing that this case has their back. $80*
Enhance their next camping experience with one of these items that keep in-camp downtime entertaining.
Camping doesn’t have to be a dirty affair! Get the chic woman on your list the book Glamping with MaryJane: Glamour + Camping. Now she can still be totally fabulous while roughing it in Washington's wild places. $17*
Do you have a budding Bear Grylls you can't tear away from Man Vs. Wild? This knife might be just thing thing for him or her. Survivalists talk about their knives with reverence because they can be life-saving tools in the wilderness. At just 3.7 ounces, the knife has a 3.5-inch blade, safety lock and reversible belt clip for easy carrying—and is made right here in Washington. $100*
Remember snipe hunting? It’s back—and this time they're real! Send the kids searching in the back yard or in the woods with the Snipe Hunt Game. This fun iteration on the classic prank will keep young ones entertained for hours in camp. $25*
Bacon. One word that puts a smile on the faces of hikers everywhere. Oberto Bacon Jerky is lightweight and shelf-stable, makes freeze-dried eggs more palatable and is a tasty addition to mac and cheese. A real trail treat! $6
Share with us
If you're still stumped, we have plenty of other options in our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. But it if we missed anything, or you have a foolproof gift for the hiker on your list, let us know in the comments!
With each purchase made through WTA's holiday gear gift guide, 7-10 percent of sales on some items is returned directly to WTA's programs thanks to our retail affiliates, helping to keep the trails you love open and accessible for you and for hikers across the state. (*Items marked with an asterisk excepted.)
By Tami Asars
Bird: Varied Thrush
If you set out for a forested hike this winter, you may see what you think are American robins. Before you dance a little jig that spring is just around the corner, take a closer look. What you’re seeing is likely a varied thrush.
While similar in size and coloration to the American robin, varied thrush primarily live deep in forest canopies, have an orange band over the eye and a dark horizontal band on their rust-colored chest. Their simple, single note often echoes through the wet understory, and many a hiker has been unknowingly serenaded by one of these small, feathered creatures.
Look for this forest friend year-round on trails throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Beast: Douglas Squirrel
Have you ever been scolded by a squirrel when hiking? If so, the chattering tantrum was most likely the work of a rust-bellied Douglas squirrel upset about you hiking too close to its nest or food supply.
Native to the Northwest, the Douglas squirrel is active year-round and spends its winter sleeping in tree holes and eating stored pinecones. Mating occurs in February and March, and the gestation of four weeks gives way to four to six tiny kits.
Their scurrying feet and noisy vocals are part of what makes our forest come alive and a delight to young and old hikers alike.
Look for Douglas squirrels in old-growth or second-growth coniferous forests throughout the Northwest.
Bloom: Tall Oregon Grape
Hillsides of it abound! Oregon grape is found in two varieties: one which stays as an evergreen ground cover, and its higher sibling (up to 8 feet, hence the name), the tall Oregon grape.
Found along trailsides in a wide variety of soils, tall Oregon grape is easily identified by its holly-like leaves and its yellow spring flowers.
In early fall, it produces dark blue berries that are irresistible to flitting forest birds, such as rufous-sided towhees, dark eyed juncos, cedar waxwings and woodpeckers.
The berries are a culinary delight for humans as well. Although they’re puckeringly tart directly from the vine, they can be cooked into a jelly with sugar, that’s delightful on warm scones.
This article originally appeared in the Jan+Feb 2013 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
This year's tree comes from the Colville National Forest.The People's Tree will be lit December 3.Photo by Architect of the Capitol
Christmas has arrived in our nation's capitol, having traveled all the way from Washington state. No, Santa did not relocated to the Evergreen State in search of great hiking.This year's Capitol Christmas Tree came from our very own Colville National Forest. The 88-foot tall Engelmann spruce will serve as the holiday focal point on the lawn at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The tradition of "The People's Tree," started in 1964, with the U.S. Forest Service providing a Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol Building. Every year a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide this holiday centerpiece.
This is the second time that Washington state has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree. The other time was in 2006, when a Pacific silver fir was selected from the Olympic National Forest.
If you can't make it D.C. to see this piece of Washington decked out in more than 10,000 lights, consider a trip to its originating forest instead.
Spotlight on Washington's Colville, a hiking and winter wonder
The Colville National Forest, located in northeast Washington, is a unique and beautiful backcountry made up of three mountain ranges with nearly 500 miles for hiking trails begging to be explored. The forest is home to some exciting wildlife such as the grizzly and black bears, cougars, bald eagles and the last remaining herd of caribou in the United States.
It is exciting to share a small token of the majesty of the Colville with the rest of the nation. WTA has hosted Volunteer Vacations and Backcountry Response Trips in this area for the past couple years, and we can attest to its beauty.
Three snowshoeing adventures in the Colville National Forest
- Sherman Pass Loop: This six mile loop offers views that stretch from Canada to the Columbia River Valley,including the Okanogan Highlands, and the Southern end of the Kettle Mountain Range.
- Columbia Mountain: This loop is described as one of the top snowshoe treks in the Columbia Highlands.
- Snow Peak Cabin: Rent this rustic cabin and explore this scenic area at your leisure.
Hike carefully this winter on snowy slopes. Granite Mountain can be notoriously dangerous in winter. Photo by Bburton
Do you know how to spot avalanche danger when snow covers a trail? We asked the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center's avalanche meteorologist Dennis D'Amico for some tips for those of you headed into the backcountry this season. See what he has to say before you head out on your next hike or snowshoe, and consider taking one of the upcoming avalanche safety awareness classes listed below.
WTA: How common are avalanches in Washington?
Dennis D'Amico: Very common; we have avalanches every winter and they can occur in the highest elevations any time of year given the right conditions. The type of avalanches differ in different snow climates.
The Cascades and Olympics have a maritime snow climate, meaning we have a deeper and warmer snowpack. This produces the greatest avalanche danger during and immediately following our intense storm cycles that come with fluctuating snow levels, periods of heavy snow and even rain at times.
This is a generalization of a maritime snowpack, and other avalanche problems do occur in our region.
How can someone spot an area that might slide easily?
The main giveaway is slope angle. Slopes between 30-45 degrees are the most likely to slide. A slope angle of 38 degrees is the prime avalanche slope angle.
If you see an avalanche path that cuts through dense trees at lower elevations, that's a definite sign that the slope has produced avalanches in the past. Depending on how new the vegetation is in the path -- no trees, saplings, or young trees -- you can take an educated guess at the last time there was a major slide.
If someone finds themselves in the path of an avalanche, what can they do to improve their chances of survival?
If your group hikes across an avalanche path, cross one at a time, leaving enough space that only one person is exposed to avalanche risk at a time.
Upcoming safety classes
Check out some free upcoming classes below, or check NWAC's calendar of events:
- REI Southcenter at 7:00 pm
- Evo Seattle at 7:30 pm
- Second Ascent Seattle @ 7:45 pm
- REI Southcenter at 7:00 pm
- REI Seattle at 7:00 pm
- Evo Seattle at 7:30 pm
If you are caught in an avalanche, try to cut away to the edge of the avalanche and dig into the bed surface. You want to let most of the avalanche pass by you; ending up in the toe of an avalanche will mean a deeper burial and a lower chance of survival.
If you can maintain an airspace during burial, your chances of survival will increase. But all of this advice is incredibly tough to implement if you are caught in a serious avalanche.
Where are the most severe avalanches in Washington?
That's a difficult question -- avalanches occur over a wide range of elevations throughout the mountains in Washington. Small avalanches can still kill people depending on the terrain. Some of the largest avalanches can occur high on the volcanoes in glaciated terrain.
Do you have any basic safety tips for hikers in avalanche terrain during winter?
Yes! Have the right gear: Avalanche Transceiver (beacon), shovel, probe and consider the new avalanche airbag packs.
Check the avalanche and mountain weather forecast from the Northwest Avalanche Center before heading out. Take time to check out the website and understand our new avalanche forecasts.
Take a free avalanche class. Some free upcoming classes are listed above, or check our calendar of events).
Finally -- be aware of your surroundings and remember a forecast is only the first step to being safe in avalanche terrain. Once you step into the backcountry, you are your own avalanche forecaster.
More winter skills resources