If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you know that I’m
a terrible skier (not anymore! I’m learning how to ski!). The last time I went skiing, which was more than 8 years ago, I swore I would never ski again in my life. While I’m beginning to think that maybe I need to give the ol’ skis another try, I’m constantly on the lookout for other winter activities that will get me outside in the snow. Since I love hiking so much, snowshoeing is an obvious choice. Plus it’s way cheaper than skiing. Apart from the snowshoes, all you need is a good pair of winter boots, some gaiters, and hiking poles, and you’re set.
If you are planning a snowy vacation this winter, here’s the 10 best snowshoeing destinations west of the Rockies. Some of these are so cool that your skiing friends may even want to join in.
10 Best Snowshoeing Destinations West of the Rockies
BRYCE CANYON (UTAH)
First up on the list of the best snowshoeing destinations is Southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon. Now this high altitude desert is already a magical place, but in the winter, the white snow against the mighty orange pinnacles provides a stark, colorful contrast that can’t be found anywhere else. In winter, you will also find cheap lodging and thin crowds, even though most of the Park’s trails remain open, including Fairyland and Paria Point Roads which are left unplowed for skiers and snowshoers. For an even more exciting adventure, plan your trip around the full moon and find solitude among the eerie moonlit hoodoos on a self-guided or free ranger-led nighttime hike.
Source: Raj Hanchanahal
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK (COLORADO)
Less than two hours from Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park has over 355 miles of hiking trails, many of which are perfect for winter exploration. Best conditions are found at elevations above 9,000 feet where the snow is deep and abundant. For your first visit, head to Estes Park and take the Bear Lake Trailhead up two miles to Emerald Lake, a frozen, bowl-shaped lake backed by 12,713 foot Hallett Peak. The route itself passes through beautiful pine forest with awesome views of the Rocky Mountain’s alpine terrain.
Source: Brendan Bombaci
CASTLE ROCKS STATE PARK (IDAHO)
Next up on the list of best snowshoeing destinations is Castle Rocks State Park. This off-the-beaten-path landscape in rural Southern Idaho is right down the road from the more well-known rock climbing mecca, City of Rocks. Castle Rocks is known for unique rock formations, out of this world sunsets, and a heritage steeped in ranching. There are a wide variety of trails to choose from, with the 5 mile Castle Rocks Loop being a great choice to see the Park’s highlights. For those wanting an overnight stay, there are two 6-person yurts ($50/night), as well as a 8-person ranch house ($159) that can be rented with advanced reservations.
Source: Visit Idaho
PONDEROSA STATE PARK (IDAHO)
This is another awesome evening excursion offered only by Blue Moon Outfitters in the gorgeous mountain town of McCall, Idaho. Your one mile twilight hike begins with a guide who leads you along Lake Payette to a cozy yurt deep in Ponderosa State Park. When you arrive at your destination, a four-course culinary adventure awaits. Start with a warm beverage next to the rustic wood burning stove, followed by a delicious spread planned personally by the chef. At the end of the night, you make your way back, while gazing up at the stars and enjoying the silence of the forest. Oh, and it’s BYOB, so don’t forget that bottle of red to compliment your meal. The cost is $95 and requires advanced reservations.
Source: Blue Moon Outfitters
MT. ROSE PEAK (NEVADA)
On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Mt. Rose is an extinct volcano and one of the most prominent mountains in the Carson Range. While this 10-mile, all-day snowshoe hike is challenging, the real reward for making it to the top of this mountain is a stunning panoramic view of Lake Tahoe. At the end of the day, head down to Incline Village where there are tons of Airbnb rentals and dining options right near the lake.
Source: Michael D
GLACIER POINT, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CALIFORNIA)
No snowshoeing journey would be complete without a visit to what is easily one of the most diverse and beautiful parks not only in California, but in the entire country. Recognized by its stunning granite rocks and mountain faces, Yosemite National Park is always open to cross county skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. To enjoy breathtaking views of some of Yosemite’s most magnificent rock formations, including Half Dome and Clouds Rest, start at the Badger Pass Ranger Station and make the 7 mile, moderate round trip trek to the top of Dewey Point.
Source: Dale Carlson
MT. RAINIER (WASHINGTON)
One of the most prominent single mountains in the entire United States, Mt. Rainier has snowshoeing options for all abilities. Here you’ll encounter some of the most gorgeous glaciers that you’ll find south of Alaska. One of the quintessential winter hikes at Rainer takes you to Refection and Louise Lakes where you will have vast views of the mountain and the surrounding Tatoosh Range. If you are feeling really adventurous, this is also a popular route for winter camping due to its spectacular sunrises.
Source: Anna Brones
LILY LAKE SKI AREA (UTAH)
Two hours from Salt Lake City in the heart of the high Uintas Wilderness, the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance maintains 5 backcountry yurts that are accessible by snowshoe. Yurts are located anywhere from 2 to 6.5 miles from the Lily Lake Trail System trailhead, and an overnight stay requires packing in food, water, and supplies.
Source: Andy Delcambre
SANDIA CREST (NEW MEXICO)
You may have never thought that you could snowshoe somewhere as far south as New Mexico. However, the Sandia Mountains, which are just a short drive away from Albuquerque, are home to a number of snowshoe trails ranging in length from half a mile to thirty miles. For a fun day, ride the air tram to the top of the Sandia Crest and then follow the crest line until you are ready to turn back and head down. Just remember to check the snow report before you head out to make sure there is sufficient snow.
Source: Kevin Eddy
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (WYOMING)
Last but certainly not least on the list of best snowshoeing destinations is Yellowstone National Park. In winter, a majority of roads in Yellowstone are closed to vehicles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore. From the north entrance near Mammoth Hot Springs, hire a snow coach to transport you to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, where you can stay in an overnight cabin for as little as $105 per night. From there, take the trail to a large waterfall called Kepler Cascades and then follow along the Firehole River to the Lone Star geyser. Here you will find an impressive cone-shaped geyser that erupts every 3 hours, shooting a stream of geothermal water 45 feet in the air. The total trail is 9 miles roundtrip, and make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife.
Source: Robert Engberg
Need more snowshoeing inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board for tips, gear, and cute snowshoeing accessories!