When Seattle children want to play in the snow, all families have to do is drive up into the mountains for sledding. The wildly popular Hyak Sno-Park is the nearest public snow play area to Seattle, and features a sledding hill and groomed ski trail.
(I grew up on the East Coast, where sledding is something you stepped outside your door to do, so this whole snow park thing was a big mystery to me until recently.)
The main thing to know is GET THERE EARLY. This applies to weekdays as well as weekends. You don’t want to drive an hour there only to get turned away at the gate because all 150 spots in the parking lot are full. Imagine driving home with super-disappointed kids.
The snow park opens at 8 a.m. We arrived at 9:30 and there was already a long line of cars waiting to get in. By the time we left at 12:30 p.m., parked cars lined both sides of the on-ramp to I-90, which seems like an incredibly dangerous idea.
Getting there: The directions on the Hyak Sno-Park website are not terribly helpful. From Seattle, head east on I-90 and take exit 54 for Hyak. From the off-ramp, turn right. Straight ahead you’ll see the Summit at Snoqualmie, a ski resort, which is not where you want to go for sledding. Take the left-hand turn before the WSDOT maintenance yard.
This year there are huge signs warning against parking in the Summit at Snoqualmie parking lot or on any of Hyak’s streets, which could bring you a $200 fine.
Cost: $20 for the day or $80 for a season pass that runs through April. You buy it from a person at the gate. The pass covers everyone in your car, which is a screaming deal.
Amenities: Nice, heated restrooms with flush toilets! They’re unisex single stalls, and large enough that it’s easy to bring the kids in with you.
Easy access: The parking lot is right next to the snow play area.
The big sledding hill is closed, but the little hill and snow play areas are open. The little hill is perfect for us, and I never liked the big hill anyway. (Last year, I watched a kid shoot over the net fencing at the bottom and land in the creek on the opposite side.)
You can bring sleds, snowshoes, cross-country skis — or just your boots and mittens so you can throw snowballs and build snowmen.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Restrooms close at 4:15. You must leave the parking lot or your vehicle will be locked in.
COVID safety: Most people we saw were wearing masks. It got pretty crowded, but better outdoors than indoors, right?
Pets: No dogs allowed.
No sled? First there was a run on toilet paper and Clorox wipes, then desks and chairs. Now sleds are sold out everywhere. In a pinch, you can use a trash bag, a cookie sheet, a round trash can lid or the lid of a plastic storage box as a makeshift sled.
More fun in the snow