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Backpacker Magazine – January 2009

Weekend Snow Climbs in the Pacific Northwest, Rockies, and Northeast

Pack snowshoes for these nine epic treks to snowy solitude in the Pacific Northwest, Rockies, and Northeast.

by: Steve Johnson

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (Tom Bol)
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (Tom Bol)

Pacific Northwest | Rockies | Northeast


2 Days
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Toast the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service on this 11-mile out-and-back in his eponymous national forest. The Packwood Trail ambles gentle grades through four miles of second-growth forest with views of Mt. Rainier. Pass a 1910 guard shack at the northwest curve of Packwood Lake and loop to campsites on the east shore. In the morning, climb the southeast drainage (bring snowshoes) to the 1,800-foot ascent above Lost Lake.

3 Days
Eagle Cap Wilderness, OR

Experience the "Switzerland of America" on a three-day, 18-mile snowshoe on the Hurricane Creek Trail in the Eagle Cap Wilderness southwest of Joseph. It's busy in warmer months, but winter brings a deep silence to the lodgepole forests and subalpine meadows. Views of Sacajawea Peak and the knife-edge Hurricane Divide open as you trek four miles south to camp at Echo Lake. Summit 9,838-foot Sacajawea Peak (pack an ice axe and crampons) on day two via the Thorpe Trail.

4 Days
Sawtooth Wilderness, ID

If you like the Sawtooths in the summer–and who doesn't?–you'll love this range's winter grandeur. Start this 23-mile snowshoe out-and-back from the Decker Flat trailhead, 45 miles north of Ketchum on ID 75. Cross the Salmon River on a westward course along Hell Roaring Creek, tracking six miles through shin-deep powder in a thick spruce-fir and pine forest to your basecamp at Hell Roaring Lake. On day two, climb west up to the 9,000-foot knob near the base of the Finger of Fate, an imposing 1,000-foot granite tower overlooking the lake and a trio of other 10,000-footers. On the third day, scale the hill north of camp, then trace the slender ridgeline east to link to the southbound trail back to the lake. From here, it's an easy six-mile trek to the trailhead.

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


Jeff Z
Jan 17, 2010

How about Mt. San Antonio,or Old Baldy in SoCal. you can take the metrolink from downtown LA to about a mile from the base of the mountain and it's over 10,000'? it's a real mountaineering experience that gets overlooked everywhere. i can hardly find anything about it on the internet, why has Backpacker forsaken this mountain?

Jan 16, 2010

hey Oregon hiker, I to got the Cali boys back an I didn't click on anything. Backpacker, show some love... every one knows the left coast is the best coast!

Jan 07, 2010

Varlo, there is plenty of steeper terrain that you can't skin up on skis that snowshoes work fine with. In addition, not everyone has the $$ that an AT setup costs and so snowshoes provide a low cost alternative

Jan 07, 2010

Snowshoeing??? Really??? C'mon you guys, snowshowing is for people from Boston anyway. Get yourself some backcountry skis and learn how to use them and you'll likely (hopefully) never have do use snowshoes again!

Mar 14, 2009

I snowshoed Pharaoh Wilderness 7-11 March 09 under springlike conditions, with one day of continuous snowfall. My route took me in from Crane Pond Rd TH via Oxshoe Pond LT overnight, then on to Pharaoh Lake LT4 at Split Rock Bay via the swing trail (not the Pharaoh Mt peak trail). The upper portion of the Swing Trail, before the pass into Pharaoh Lake, was a morass of melting beaver ponds with deep drifts. I was unable to follow the yellow DEC blazes there( the beavers take down the trees with the markers), and had to bushwhack in by GPS in a snowstorm. Although most trails had been packed before, rain and new snow tended to obscure them. I did not meet anyone in the Wilderness in the course of 4 days; at the trail head parking, I talked with two parties experienced with Pharoah. One had spent an unplanned overnight on Pharaoh Mt in a leaf heap in October after the trail became a bushwhack; the second got lost in the same beaver pond area I did and bushwhacked through by GPS. I had a great time.

Oregon hiker
Feb 14, 2009

Hey LLCoolJ, if you want to read about Cali so much, why did you click on the Pacific Northwest link. Try the other link that actually includes the California area. And maybe take a geography class...

Feb 13, 2009

The pharoah lake area is well marked by the DEC. The trails are heavily used. GPS waypoints seem like overkill but each to their own.

Goin back to Cali to Cali to Cal
Feb 13, 2009

And California being a giant state, with many mountain - not on your list? Why not? oh yes... its because you don't have any permanent reporters in southern california.... You're a northeast Boston NY newspaper, and that is why I cancelled my subscription.

Goin back to Cali to Cali to Cal
Feb 13, 2009

And California being a giant state, with many mountain - not on your list? Why not? oh yes... its because you don't have any permanent reporters in southern california.... You're a northeast Boston NY newspaper, and that is why I cancelled my subscription.

Jim Larsen
Feb 12, 2009

SE Wyoming offers some spectacular snow shoeing opportunities on short runs (morning/afternoon or 1 day)

Get lost in Medicine Bow Forest either at Happy Jack or over by the Snowy Range Ski Resort. a bonus keep your eye out for kimberlite as the area is said to have many opportunities for diamonds!

Walt/ narbowalt
Feb 10, 2009

The link is a very general reference indeed. Why isn't there a reference to a hike with GPS waypoints? Winter hikers need backup data, as it is easy to lose a trail under snow conditions. See and search Pharoah for recent trip reports and trail conditions.


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