Sno-Parks 101: Your 2017 Winter Guide
What a winter!
This 2017 winter season is shaping up to be one of the best in years for snow play fun!
You’ve been itching for little white flakes to fall so you can get out to the snow, and now your options are nearly endless!
Washington State Parks Winter Recreation Program manages more than 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, 300 miles of cross-country trails and five Snow Play Sno-Parks. Altogether, Washington state has more than 120 Sno-Parks, located on State Parks, U.S. Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources lands.
Before you go, let’s review the basics and what you’ll need to get out and enjoy that wonderful white stuff.
All outdoor fun carries risk. But remember, the winter landscape is temporary. That makes for volatile conditions, and anything can and does happen. Accidents happen due to poor visibility, lack of preparation for the cold and avalanches. We want you to have fun, and that means staying safe. Whether you cross-country ski, snowshoe, sled, skijor, fat tire bike, snowmobile or just enjoy building snow sculptures, brush up on winter safety tips before you go, and be prepared for an emergency. Here are some great tips from our outdoor friends and partners!
General winter safety: Visit Take Winter by Storm for a comprehensive crash course on how to stay safe in the snow.
Skiers: Find solid information and fun quizzes to bolster and test your knowledge of ski safety, helmet use, etiquette, youth skiing and more here.
Skijoring: Don’t let your winter fun go to the dogs! Not when you can learn to “mush” at the Skijor USA site!
Snowshoeing: When it comes to getting out and about in the Evergreen State, our friends at the Washington Trails Association know how to go! Learn snowshoeing basics and how to stay safe here!
Snowmobiling: Buzzing through the trees is a blast! But anything from a busted sled to an avalanche can put the brakes on your riding fun. The Washington State Snowmobile Association has a handle on everything you’ll need to stay safe.
And speaking of avalanches…We strongly advise you to check with the Northwest Avalanche Center every time you plan to go out in the snow. And now…
Get your mitts on the right permits!
The kind of permit you need will depend on whether you are heading to a motorized or a non-motorized Sno-Park. Sno-Parks are plowed parking areas with groomed trails—most have some kind of restroom—so you can park and enjoy winter fun!
It costs money to prepare and maintain Sno-Parks. Permit revenues are important to keep these areas usable for everyone. When you buy a Sno-Park permit, you’re helping pay for trail grooming, snow removal, maps, brochures, signage, enforcement, bathrooms and more! (Snowmobile registration fees and a percentage of the state’s fuel tax pay for motorized Sno-park services.)
Depending on which winter activity you’ll be doing, you will need the following:
- Daily Sno-Park permit
- Seasonal Non-motorized Sno-Park permit
- Seasonal Snowmobile Sno-Park permit
- Combination Daily Sno-Park permit/ One-day Discover Pass
- Combination Seasonal Non-motorized permit/Special Groomed Sticker
Like snowmobiling? Here's what you will need:
You’ll need a Snowmobile Sno-Park permit. When Washington residents register their snowmobiles, they get a Snowmobile Sno-Park permit at no additional cost. To register, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) website or buy one in person at a licensing agent.
Visiting Washington from another state? You can purchase a Seasonal Snow Park permit or a Daily Sno-Park permit.
Be sure your snowmobile is registered before you hit the trail! Remember to affix the Sno-Park permit in the lower left corner of your vehicle’s windshield or snowmobile towing vehicle before you go.
Like to ski, snowshoe and do other non-motorized winter recreation activities?
For all types of non-motorized winter adventures, you’ll need a Seasonal Non-Motorized Sno-Park permit.
You are only visiting for the day this season, in which case…
You'll need a combination One-Day Sno-Park permit and a Discover Pass IF you are at a Sno-Park on State Parks or Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife or Natural Resources lands.
Want to visit a Sno-Park with special groomed trails?
A few Sno-Parks have special groomed trails, ideal for classic Nordic skiing and skate skiing. To ski at the following Sno-Parks, you’ll need a Combination Special Groomed Trail sticker AND a Seasonal Non-Motorized permit.
If you're using the Combination One-Day Sno-Park permit/Discover Pass, you DON'T need a Special Groomed Trails permit.
*On State Parks free days, you don't need a Discover Pass for Sno-Park access on State Parks land, but you will still need a Sno-Park permit.
So where do I buy permits and passes?
For Sno-Park permits and Special Groomed Trail stickers you have the following options:
- Buy online.
- Call the State Parks Winter Recreation Program at (360) 902-8684.
- In person from a Sno-Park permit vendor. (Please note that handling fees of up to $2 will apply.)
- You can purchase daily Sno-Park permits at some Sno-Parks, depending on staffing.
To purchase a Discover Pass, you have the following options:
- Buy online.
- In person from any of nearly 600 recreational license vendors where state fishing and hunting licenses are sold.
- Call (866) 320-9933.
- When you renew your vehicle license through the Department of Licensing.
- At State Parks headquarters and region offices and at state parks when staff is available. (Some state parks have automated pay stations.)
Read more about the Discover Pass.
Is there anything new this season?Ya, sure, you betcha!
Fat tire biking: We are excited to announce even more riding areas for the growing sport of fat-tire biking—or fat biking, as it’s often called.
At Pearrygin Lake State Park or Lake Easton State Park you can enjoy a ride around the trails. Or, on the Iron Horse Trail (which goes through Lake Easton) you may ride from the Crystal Springs Sno-Park at Interstate 90 exit 62 to the Easton Reload Sno-Park at exit 70. This is a fairly easy 18-mile round-trip ride.
You may NOT ride fat bikes on the Iron Horse Trail between Interstate 90 exits 54 and 62—the Stampede Pass area to the Hyak Sno-Park area.
Fat bikes also are not allowed on trails that have groomed skating lanes and/or designated areas for Nordic skiing.
When you’re on the trail with your pets, please, don’t just bag your pet waste—take it with you! Remember, no one wants to find unwanted “treasures” when out having a good time in the snow!
Wherever you are in Washington and however you like to play in the snow, there’s a Sno-Park near you and for you!
Get started planning your trip today! Check out our winter recreation webpage at http://parks.state.wa.us/winter to stay up-to-date on conditions, fun stuff to do and grooming reports. Check out our winter recreation Twitter feed, too, @WaStatePks_WNTR.
We’ll be sharing snowmobile and non-motorized winter recreation adventure inspirations and tips throughout the season. In the meantime, check out these maps for snowmobile and non-motorized Sno-Parks to discover this weekend. There are even a few that are perfect for tubing, snowperson building and general snow play fun!
Still have questions?
Call the State Parks Winter Recreation Program at (360) 902-8684 or check out our winter recreation web page.
Tell us about your favorite Sno-Park adventure!Share your Sno-Park and state park photos and adventure stories here!