7 Spots to Strap on Your Snowshoes

December 20, 2017Katherine RivardNPF Blog
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve — National Park Service

Low temperatures and sheets of soft white snow are no reason to stay inside. Instead, take advantage of the chance to frolic in the cold and get your cheeks good and ruddy when you explore the parks through winter sports. For a unique way to discover the parks, plan ahead and prep yourself for the trip, then strap on a pair of snowshoes and take a hike! Below are 7 parks located across the country that welcome snowshoe-ers to experience the majesty of the winter season in the great outdoors,

Crater “Snowshoe” Lake

Crater Lake National Park is no stranger to visitors snowshoeing. The park offers snowshoeing hikes each weekend in the winter, providing the perfect setting, considering that it receives about 43 feet of snow each year! The two-hour walk veers off trail for a 1-2 mile lesson about the park’s plants, animals, and people.

From the Shores of Lake Michigan

Two people snowshoeing at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
National Park Service

Forget sand dunes and think about snow dunes! Beginning the first week of January, tag along with a park ranger each Saturday to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a whole new way. You’ll first drive from the visitor center to a trailhead, then heading out on an exploration of the park, learning facts about some of its unique aspects as you snowshoe for 1.5 miles.

When Hiking New Mexico Isn’t Possible

Last time you thought about snowshoeing, did you picture New Mexico? Well, it’s possible at Valles Caldera National Preserve. Most trails are left unplowed in the winter, but a couple of poles and a pair of snowshoes below your boots will allow you to explore the wintery wonderland, just as you would on a hike. Remember to wear waterproof pants to stay dry, and if you don’t already own snowshoes, stop by the Valle Grande Bookstore, where there is a limited number of snowshoes and poles for rent.

Moonlit Snow Hikes

Snow covering the red hoodoos of the Ampitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument
National Park Service

Visitors to the park can snowshoe along the trails individually or with a ranger on a guided tour, but that’s not all this incredible park has to offer! Cedar Breaks National Monument even offers a guided full moon snowshoe walk! Snowshoes and poles are provided as a ranger takes the group on a winter’s eve hike to learn about the moon and its effects on ourselves and Cedar Breaks.

Out of the Caves and Into the Snow

When you think about snowshoeing, caves most likely don’t come to mind, but this winter, consider visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. In 2017, the park kicked off the new year with snowshoeing events to promote health. While snowshoeing with a park ranger, visitors explore this gem while getting fit. This leisurely sport is also perfect for families seeking a bonding activity to create lasting memories outdoors.

Black and White Landscapes in Idaho

A group of people snowshoeing in a row at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
National Park Service

Black rocks created from once burning lava and soft white snow create a stunning contrast for visitors to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The park’s Loop Drive closes to visitors for much of the winter, but you can still ski the winter trail between December and March. The Snowshoe Loop Trail allows visitors to explore a 1-mile path via snowshoes, or you might choose to explore a cinder cone off the regular path! Scheduled snowshoe walks occur each Saturday in January and February.

Once the Water Freezes

One perfect spot for outdoor recreational sports on the East coast is Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This large park stretches into sections of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey and is a favorite among cross-country skiers and snowshoe-ers alike. For best results, wait till the snow has piled up sufficiently, then strap on your snowshoes and explore!

An Icy Midwestern Wonderland

Though the park does not provide snowshoes, those with the proper gear are welcome to snowshoe in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Conditions are best once 4-6 inches of snow have fallen. The trails are left ungroomed, but visitors enjoy exploring the extensive trail systems via both snowshoes and cross-country skis. Marvel over the beautiful layers of shelf ice along the lake’s edge from a distance, but don’t walk on the ice, as it can quickly break off into the freezing waters below!

Be Prepared!

infographic of how to properly dress for the cold weather

After you choose your park of choice, but before you pull on your mittens, make sure you plan ahead for your trip and that you’re properly equipped for whatever winter sport you’ll be enjoying. Even the most experienced Northern outdoors person should always check the weather and park alerts in advance, tell a friend or family about your trip plans before you go, and keep in mind the need to dress properly to prevent hypothermia.

When properly prepared, snowshoeing is an easy sport that can be enjoyed by park enthusiasts of all ages. Rub on some sun screen, put on your sunglasses, bundle up in layers, and don’t forget your 10 essentials. Then get outside to #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque on snowshoes this winter!

Comments

Thank you for including the Monument and South Dakota within your list of seven great places to snowshoe in the National Park Service. We truly appreciate the added publicity, and we hope even more visitors come experience the beautiful Black Hills during the winter season.
Jewel Cave
National Monument

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