We used to have it so rough. Three years ago, an intrepid snowshoer on Trail 100 in Mount Spokane State Park had three major stream crossings to contend with while venturing out to Smith Gap from the hairpin turn parking lot. One false move meant a wet boot, or worse, for the duration of the hike. Once at Smith Gap, our snowshoer would have found nothing more than a snow-laden picnic table next to a snow-covered fire ring. That’s not an inviting location for a lunch stop, so she would have probably just skipped a break in favor of returning to the car.
Now we have it easy. In the summer of 2013, volunteers with Washington Trails Association installed two foot bridges over two tributaries of Burping Brook. The following year the same group returned to put in a third bridge, while the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park completed a warming hut at Smith Gap.
Today’s snowshoer need not be so intrepid after all. Enter the trail system by crossing the main road (from the hairpin turn parking lot) and hiking through the gate for the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road. Hike straight for about 50 yards, then veer slightly right on Trail 100. At the first intersection, turn left and behold the first stream crossing. Instead of turning back due to deep snow or fast-moving water, simply grab the hand railing and snowshoe across. Trail 100 climbs steadily for the next half mile, then veers left at a marked intersection with trail 110. Cross the second bridge and enjoy a quarter mile of gradual descent. At the next intersection, turn right and continue another mile gradually uphill on Trail 100, crossing the third bridge along the way. A sharp left and steep descent deposits snowshoers at Smith Gap.
Make one final climb up a short hill to the cabin. Prop the snowshoes in the snow bank outside and add a log to the wood burning stove while enjoying a thermos of hot cocoa or packed lunch inside the cozy hut. There’s a beautiful handcrafted table, made of white pine salvaged from the Nordic area, inviting visitors to linger. There are hand-painted panels depicting local wildlife and our four seasons adorning the walls.
After enjoying the spot, return to the car via the Mount Kit Carson Loop Road for an easy snowshoe loop hike. Those looking for a more challenging hike should consider extending the route by climbing Trail 140 from Smith Gap, then returning via Trail 110. Find and print the best trail maps from the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park website (Mountspokane.org). The roundtrip distance for the shorter hike is about three miles and is best done on snowshoes or hiking boots with micro-spikes.
Getting There: Take the Mount Spokane Highway to the main Mount Spokane State Park entrance, then proceed approximately two miles to the hairpin turn parking lot at the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road. SnoPark permit required.