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.


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.


2 Days

Mount Massive Wilderness, CO

Pack glacier glasses for the eight-mile above-treeline Highline Loop, a route connecting the Rock Creek, Colorado, and Highline Trails. From Leadville National Fish Hatchery, ascend Rock Creek 2.5 miles to the CT. Look for blue blazes heading south. At mile four, go west on the HT for .5 mile to top an unnamed 11,220-foot peak for views of Mt. Massive. Camp near Evergreen Lakes and resume the eastbound trek on the HT to close the loop.

3 Days

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, WY and MT

It’s all downhill (no joke) on this 20-mile point-to-point from the Hellroaring trailhead. You’ll S-turn past Garnet Hill and drop to a bridge over the Yellowstone River. Veer west to camp near Cottonwood Creek. Next day: Trace the creek six miles to Camp Two, near Knowles Falls. At Bear Creek, detour one mile upstream for an optional trek up 6,200-foot Deckard Flats. It’s 2.5 miles to finish up at Gardiner trailhead.

4 Days

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

The Bear Lake area’s life-list scenery is all yours come winter. Self-register at the Glacier Gorge Junction trailhead and head south for a 24-miler. Camp at Black Lake (below the near-vertical Sharkstooth) and Emerald Lake before nine stiff out-and-back miles on the last day. You’ll ascend 12,324-foot Flattop Mountain’s 30° slope to the Continental Divide.


2 Days

Grafton Notch State Park, ME

Grafton Notch boasts 3,112 acres of the Mahoosuc Range’s sky-high scenery. Get a taste on the eight-mile Baldpate Mountain out-and-back on the Appalachian Trail. Head east to the krummholz-covered West Peak of Baldpate (3,680 feet), with big views of eastern Maine and the White Mountains to the west. It’s only a mile through the berry shrubs to East Peak (3,790 feet). Backtrack to Baldpate lean-to, then the trailhead in the morning.

3 Days

White Mountain National Forest, NH

The Whites aren’t truly in season until winter. For evidence, hike this 23-miler from the Nancy Pond trailhead. Climb along riffling Nancy Brook to tent sites at Norcross Pond. Begin day two with four miles on the steep (and technical if icy) Desolation Trail to 4,680-foot Mt. Carrigain. Descend to Carrigain Brook to camp. Follow Sawyer River Road to Sawyer Pond Trail on day three’s downhill cruise to NH 112.

4 Days

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, NY

Pharaoh Lake is the largest body of water in the Adirondacks unreachable by road, and this 23-mile snowshoe loop takes you up and over the wilderness’s highest point to get there. Start at Crane Pond Road trailhead and trek southeast toward Crane Pond, where red blazes lead up progressively steeper terrain through spruce-fir forest to the Pharaoh Mountain summit (2,556 feet). Ogle wind-whipped views of the High Peaks to the north. Descend the summit’s southeast flank to end the six-mile day at a lakeside lean-to. Explore the upper bulb of Pharaoh Lake on day two, working steadily northwest to your camp at Crab Pond. Go light after breakfast on an eight-mile round-trip to the upper Crane Pond drainage on day three. Return to camp; then enjoy an easy three-mile hike out on day four.