Washington Snowmobiling: Vroom with a View

Mike Sternback and the WSSA on Starvation Mountain Winter 201
Snowmobiling in Washington can taking to the most stunning places in just an afternoon! Washington State Parks crew teams up with members of the Washington State Snowmobile Association for a recent ride to the summit of Starvation Mountain.

February 24, 2017

Whipping down frosty trails through pristine evergreen forests, kicking up flurries as you skirt through soft, white powder—for winter thrills, snowmobiling has got it going!

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Hi-er and hi-er! Snowmobilers are social and love to go riding with lots of friends. It's fun and a good safety practice as well! Photo taken at Crystal Springs Sno-Park.

  Feb. 24, 2017

Snowmobiling in Washington is, in a word, popular. And no wonder! With more than 3,000 miles of groomed trails traversing some of the most breathtaking scenery in the West, a weekend out on a “sled” in the Evergreen State is nothing short of epic.

“Some of the most intriguing things about snowmobiling are the amazing terrain they can cover and the destinations you can reach,” says Pamela McConkey, State Parks Winter Recreation Program manager. “Even on the cloudiest days, on a snowmobile you can get high above the clouds and take in breathtaking views, see the amazing topography of Washington and identify the many signs of wildlife that travel our groomed trails.”

Whether you are 6 or 60, there’s no shortage of snowmobile experiences waiting for you at one of Washington’s 80-plus Snowmobile Sno-Parks! Winter 2017 continues to be a particularly banner year for winter recreation in Washington. Snowfall in most of the state’s riding areas have averaged at least 6 feet of sturdy snow. Now is a great time to get your sled out, or rent one and try this exciting sport.


The Basics

All sports carry risks, and that’s all the more true in winter. The winter landscape is temporary—making it volatile for many reasons: from hidden dangers lying just under the surface of the snow (e.g. large rocks), to the risk of exposure, to the threat of avalanches in certain areas. In addition to common winter recreation guidelines, follow these tips to help you stay safe—and legal— while you sled.

Please be advised: Owing to considerably higher than average snowfall in areas across Washington, we recommend that your vehicle be prepared for potentially rugged winter weather conditions. Also, know what you and your ride can handle before you set out!

Register
Before you take off, you’ll need to register your sled and place the FREE Sno-Park permit that comes with your registration on your windshield.  This may not apply if you rent a sled, but check with your dealer. If you are visiting from out of state, you will need to purchase a one-day or seasonal motorized permit. BONUS: You don’t get a ticket.

Snow the rules


Rules and good conduct are a part of any sport. So be a good sport! Ride on the trails and practice good etiquette as well as safe riding practices.  Children between the ages of 12 and 16 must pass a safety education course. However, we recommend this course for any new rider. Courses are offered in the fall and registration begins in August. Check the Winter Recreation website or call (360) 902-8684 for more details. BONUS:  You get a certificate and maybe even a cool patch for your coat when you pass the course.

Wear your helmet


We expect this is a no-brainer, but moreover that it will prevent you from head injuries. BONUS: After your ride, you will still be able to feel your cheeks. Additionally, dress for well for the conditions. You never know when or where you might get stuck. Brr!

Ride with a pack


Snowmobilers tend to be social creatures and for good reason: there’s safety in numbers. Plus it’s just plain fun! If you don’t know anyone, join a club or organization! The Washington State Snowmobile Association (WSSA) is a good place to start looking for snomobuddies! BONUS: Riding buddies might bring fun—and useful—things like tools, food, dry gloves and spare fuel or a ride out of the woods in case you ran out of gas.

Know before you go


An informed rider is a safe rider. Before you go out, check with the National Weather Service for conditions in the area you plan to ride. And always, always, always check in with the Northwest Avalanche Center. BONUS: You can pretend to be a weather expert.

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So where are the hot spots for cool ride? You have lots to choose from. Here’s a start…

Central Cascades

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Incredible rides with incredible views. The Central Cascades are a winter sports paradise. Photo of Lake Easton.

Beautiful, easy to access and teaming with exciting, interconnected trails, the Central Cascades Sno-Parks are arguably the most popular in the state. If you are out early in the day, secure a space at Crystal Springs and take a full-day tour up to Stampede Pass, the Weather Station (for a bathroom break) and then to the southeast and down to Easton Reload Sno-Park. Then, head west up a small section of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (snowmobiles are not allowed on all parts of the trail, so watch the signs) and return to your car through an old railroad tunnel! Keep in mind you will be sharing the trail with skiers on this stretch, so be careful. If you can’t find a parking place at Crystal, don’t fret! There are 17 more great parks to choose from in the area! 

The Methow Valley and Okanogan County

Okanogan Snowmobilier CCFKR
Whipping through a winter wonderland! A ride through the Okanogan forests is a thrilling experience. Photo by brewbooks.

Like a good, long loop? Head up to Peacock Meadows. On this ride you can take forks and branches out to scenic views, or other parks such as Eight Mile and Boulder Creek. Or just stay on the loop through the Lone Frank Pass and circle back through the Kerr Sno-Park, and on to the town of Conconully, where you can ride your sled through town for a fill up (and a maybe a bite to eat) before heading back to your car.

Leavenworth/Chelan

Jason Drag Racing at Wenatchee Airstrip
Wheeeeee!!! Before heading out on the trails, do a little drag racing on the wide-open acres at Wenatchee Airstrip.

There are fewer Sno-Parks to choose from in this area, but they are all tons of fun! For a change of pace, head out to Lake Wenatchee Airstrip where you’ll find a flat open area perfect for doing a little “drag racing” on your sled. Then go for a ride around Fish Lake and out into the 186 miles of looping trails in the river canyons above Lake Wenatchee.  You WILL want your camera!

South Cascades


MTTA mountain view CC Anna Brones
Come for the snowmobiling, stay for the views. A snowmobile tour in the South Cascades provides exhilarating fun and a chance at some spectacular vistas! Photo by Anna Brones.

In the shadow of a volcano. you will find some of the best snowmobiling in Washington—and that’s saying something.  A much-loved and nearly straight shot across Mount St. Helen’s southern skirts,  Marble Mountain Sno-Park offers access to a great day of riding and some of the best vistas going.  You can also park at the nearby Cougar Sno-Park and ride in to the trails branching from Marble Mountain. This is also a popular area to snowshoe and Nordic ski. Book a room in the tiny, nearby town of Cougar, and make a family winter fun vacation of it! 


Learn more!

This is just a small sample! Washington has some of the best snowmobiling in the world!


Explore for yourself!

Looking for trail conditions, grooming reports and the like?
Check our Winter Recreation page,  and follow us on  Twitter: @WaStatePks_WNTR

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