How to Snowshoe with the Whole Family
Brian Terry and his wife, Tove, snowshoed a lot before they had kids, and when their son Finn arrived, they didn't slow down at all. When Finn was just 6 weeks old, they bundled him into a sling, strapped on the snowshoes, and headed back out.
There was a brief period of challenge as Finn grew into a toddler and lost tolerance for sitting in a backpack, a sled or anything else. They didn't give up, though. When Finn turned 3, he got his own pair of snowshoes "more for fun than out of necessity," Brian Terry says. "He loved it!"
Snowshoeing is one of the easiest, least expensive, fastest growing and most popular winter sports. Snowshoes are flat, paddle-shaped devices that help distribute weight, allowing you to walk on top of the snow. They strap easily onto boots, and no additional equipment is required. Snowshoeing is one of the easiest ways to get outside with your kids in the winter. If you stay on marked trails and follow a few basic precautions, it is a safe and enjoyable activity for all ages.
Snuggling infants into a large down jacket that fits over a baby carrier is a great way to keep them warm as you head into the winter weather. Be aware of any body parts outside of the jacket, though – for example, feet dangling below. Remember that your infant is not moving as much as you are.
For toddlers, Terry suggests bringing a sled: "Think of it as a short sledding trip in the woods," he says. Preschoolers and older children can wear snowshoes, too, though sleds will remain a hit for years.
Snoqualmie Pass offers many possibilities, all within an hour of the city. One great beginner option is Gold Creek/Hyak, (Interstate 90, exit 54). The Gold Creek Pond Loop is one flat mile, though you can go as far as you like up the trail toward Alaska Lake. Don't forget to bring your winter Sno-Park Pass. You can get a Sno-Park pass for immediate use online (you'll need a printer) or at a vendor.
The Forest Service offers 90-minute interpretive hikes (snowshoes provided) at both Snoqualmie and Stevens passes. Snoqualmie tours leave at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Sundays, with extended hikes, "Kids in the Snow" and photography programs available as well. Reservations are required through the Snoqualmie Pass Visitor Center or call 425-434-6111. Stevens Pass tours leave at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations for Stevens treks can be made online or by calling 360-677-2414. Note: there is a suggested donation of $25 for adults and $15 for kids for these guided hikes.
It's a longer drive, but ranger patrols with beautiful views are available in the Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge. Guided hikes of less than a mile (plan 90 minutes) are available through March at Hurricane Ridge at 2 p.m. on weekends and Monday holidays. Space is limited, so register at the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station at least 30 minutes before the tour starts. Cost (including snowshoes) is $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 15, and free for kids 5 and under.
Paradise at Mt. Rainier offers guided snowshoe tours Saturdays and Sundays (and holiday Mondays) at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., though this program recommends participants be at least 8 years old. These tours are 1.8 miles and last approximately 2 hours, with snowshoes provided if needed. A small donation is requested to help cover program costs. Sign up at the Jackson Visitor Center an hour before the tour begins.
It's usually less expensive to rent gear before you head to the mountains. Check out these places to rent gear around the Sound.
Keep it simple
After snowshoeing with his two children from 6 weeks through 5 years of age, Terry suggests that anyone heading out to snowshoe with a young family keep it simple. "Plan to go slow and explore as you go," Terry says. "Bring hot chocolate, too."
Washington Trail Association provides excellent information about winter outdoor safety and activities.