Our top picks for winter adventures:
SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
Crystal Mountain. No one is quite sure why Crystal Mountain is still relatively “unknown” outside of Washington state. (Actually it’s probably because the locals are trying to keep it that way!) Crystal boasts masses of terrain, a great lift and trail system, superb “inbounds backcountry” areas bookending the terrain, and if you are there when the sun shines, views to die for. The biggest resort in the state, it averages 486 inches annually, with 57 designated trails and 2,300 acres (931 hectares) of lift serviced terrain, making it the largest ski resort in Washington. The terrain stretches across half a dozen peaks and basins and provides a myriad of variation including groomers, steeps, trees, cliffs, bowls, chutes and backcountry access.
Mt Baker has its own cult following due to it’s insane snowfall - a jaw-dropping 701 inches average annually. If big snow is on your bucket list, this is a must-experience for any powder hound. However, it is an expert’s mountain and it’s not the best place to go for beginners or intermediates. You don’t come here to ski groomers, it’s all about powder, hits, steeps, trees, chutes and cliffs. The closest large town, Bellingham, about an hour and fifteen minutes away, is absolutely charming. A destination to explore in its own right, Bellingham is located on beautiful Bellingham Bay with tons of parks and waterfalls seemingly around every corner.
Want to make it a treasure hunt and bag all you can? Here’s the rest of the roundup:
- Summit at Snoqualmie (short drive from Seattle)
- Mission Ridge near Wenatchee
- Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula (one of only 3 lifts that operate in a National Park Nationwide)
- Loup Loup Ski Bowl
- Bluewood (near the Columbia Gorge and Oregon)
- 49° North
- Mt Spokane
- Leavenworth (a Bavarian wonderland)
(AND FAT TIRE BIKING, SNOWSHOEING AND MORE)
With over 220 kilometers of groomed, interconnected nordic ski trails, Methow Trails is the largest in North America, even though it’s relatively unknown. Plus you can ski right from town, which means you can load up on coffee and fresh baked goods at either of the three main access areas: Sun Mountain Lodge, Mazama and Winthrop. Kids ski free, there’s lots of dog friendly trails (and free doggie trail passes with pics if you stop in) and plenty of rentals, lessons and camps for beginners. You can also rent a fat tire bike or a pair of snowshoes and just get out there and enjoy yourself right away. Plenty of trailside lodging is available if you book early enough too!
If you’re a XC ski fan, there’s plenty of other places to explore as well, including Stevens Pass Nordic Center (28 km), Summit at Snoqualmie (50 km), Lake Wenatchee State Park, Echo Ridge near Chelan (40 km), White Pass (18 km) Mount Spokane State Park (50+km) and the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.
(aka, “Go Big or Go Home")
For access to completely untouched, deep North Cascades powder, heli-skiing is the way to go. According to Outside Magazine, North Cascade Heli Skiing is ranked in the top 10 places to heli-ski in North America (including Canada and Alaska). “You’ll be guaranteed at least seven runs a day. And if you’ve never been to this side of the North Cascades, the word cement does not apply. Start dreaming of fluffy, and almost Alaska big.”
Cape Flattery, Neah Bay
The lookout at the end of Cape Flattery Trail is one of the best spots in the state for storm watching. As the northwestern-most point in the continental US, waves crash relentlessly, especially during big storms. The trail is only three quarters of a mile and an easy walk, with four viewpoints at the end. Dress appropriately, it’s cold and wet!
Cape Disappointment State Park
With two active lighthouses plus massive waves, this spot is ideal for photographers. With spray getting tossed up to 100 feet in the air, there’s plenty of action and visual excitement. Winds at North Head have been recorded up to 126 miles per hour! The state park has campsites and cabins plus an interpretive center for learning about the area’s history.
BECAUSE YOU STILL WANT MORE
Luge at the Loup - now the first area in the Western US to offer Luge Sledding! 5 km and more than 1200 feet of elevation gain, with 12 km of groomed luge trails.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE SOUTHEAST REGION
Did you know that Washington State has an official State Waterfall?
Palouse Falls, perhaps the crown jewel of the beautiful Southeast Region of Washington State, holds this impressive title.
Over 13,000 years ago the Ice Age floods carved out the path that the Palouse River now follows, and the Palouse Falls is one of the last remaining active waterfalls along its path. Plummeting 200 feet, the falls is a bucket-list subject for northwest photographers, as the frothy falls cascade prominently, framed by a striking bowl of geometric basalt columns.
The river keeps flowing onwards past the falls through the Palouse River Canyon, full of coulees, cataracts, pools, buttes and pinnacles that characterize the scablands in this region.
The designation for Washington's official state waterfall came in 2014, when the State Legislature passed a bill that was lobbied for by school children from the nearby town of Washtunca.
Artists and photographers are drawn to the bewitching landscapes of this region, as the rolling hills, shades of changing light, and shifting seasons create a year-round opportunity for creative expression and interpretation.