Vigorous yet gentle exercise, beautiful views, peaceful wilderness, low-cost gear—these are all reasons to enjoy snowshoeing.
Sherman Pass Loop (Advanced)
At 5,575 feet of elevation, Sherman Pass is Washington State’s highest mountain pass that’s open year-round, according to Recreation.gov. Since no avalanche advisories are available for this area, Sherman Pass is recommended for experienced users who know survival skills and are educated about assessing avalanche risk.
Located in the Colville National Forest, east of the town of Republic, the Kettle Crest Trailhead begins just off Highway 20 (Sherman Pass Scenic Byway), and connects with Kettle Crest South Trail #13 to create a 6-mile loop, with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. “It’s a gorgeous area,” says Mark Beattie, Mountain Gear’s assistant store manager with over 40 years of snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, telemark skiing, and Nordic skiing experience. You’ll likely see backcountry skiers enjoying this area as well.
Beattie recommends visiting Snow Peak Cabin, located south of the summit—a one-room cabin open year-round that’s available for overnight reservations through the recreation.gov website. Before you go, check pass driving conditions at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) website. A Washington State Sno-Parks permit is required for parking. For more hike details, visit wta.org.
Fourth of July Pass (Beginner)
East of Coeur d’Alene, the Fourth of July Ski & Snowshoe Area (exit 28, I-90) is a network of trails for snowshoeing, in conjunction with cross-country ski trails. “It’s moderate terrain, with no huge grades,” Beattie says, which makes it suitable for beginners. However, he notes that “it’s a good idea to always have a paper map with you—a GPS is not always reliable.” Heed his advice and prevent getting lost on an unexpected 25-mile snowshoe hike you aren’t prepared for. Familiarize yourself with this area via the Panhandle Nordic Club website. Here you’ll find digital, downloadable maps for the Inner Loop, Outer Area, and Twisted Klister Trail System. While some trails are designated as snowshoe-only (with dogs allowed), most are mixed use with groomed cross-country tracks.
An Idaho State Park-N-Ski sticker is required for parking and is available as an annual or three-day pass. There are two warming huts; the first one is only a quarter mile from the parking lot and the other, Ian’s Eagle Warming Hut, is an additional 3 miles away.
Lookout Pass (Intermediate to Advanced)
Formally called Runt Mountain on a topographic map, the national forest land around Lookout Pass is as ideal for snowshoeing as it is for backcountry and Nordic skiing. To figure out where to go, the Panhandle Nordic Club website once again has maps and trail descriptions. Beattie, an alumni of Wallace High School, recommends the trails beyond the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) navigation installation where “the views are amazing.” He says the St. Regis and Copper basin areas can have high avalanche risk. However, the area located left off I-90 (when traveling eastbound), is better-suited for novices. “ It’s relatively open, with sparse trees, and you can create a number of loops and see all your navigation points,” he says. To check current avalanche advisories, visit the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center online.
Canfield Mountain (Beginner)
Canfield Mountain is located mere minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene. As long as the snow is deep enough, Canfield Mountain is ideal for beginners, says Randy Richards, the sporting goods manager for Tri-State Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene. Public parking is available, and the trail network includes small loops and out-and-back trails. “The nice thing about snowshoeing is you can make it as tough as you want,” he says, keeping in mind terrain, travel speed, and distance traveled. “It’s a sport that anyone, any age, can do.”
Farragut State Park (Beginner to Intermediate)
Only 20 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene, Farragut has three designated snowshoe trails: Thimbleberry Loop, Visitor Center Trail, and Highpoint Trail. A trail map is available at the Idaho State Parks and Recreation website. Parking requires a $5 day-use fee or annual Idaho Passport. //
Amy S. McCaffree snowshoed last winter with her husky around the park and soccer fields near her home in Spokane. She’s hoping for enough deep snow for that to happen again.