SNOWSHOEING HAS BECOME ONE OF NORTH AMERICA’S FASTEST-GROWING WINTER SPORTS. WHETHER YOU’D PREFER TO COMPETE IN A SNOWSHOE RACE OR JUST SPEND A COUPLE HOURS MEANDERING THROUGH THE FOREST, WE CAN SUGGEST AN IDEAL SNOWSHOEING LOCATION FOR YOU.
Snowshoeing doesn’t offer the extreme thrills of snowboarding or ice climbing, but it does allow participants to enjoy the peaceful solitude of trail hiking in the middle of winter.
You can snowshoe just about anywhere once the snow begins to fall on the ground, but some spots are better than others. Our top criteria are fantastic scenery, accessibility, and a lack of large crowds. Secondary factors include nearby lodging and snowshoe rental opportunities.
Read on to learn about five of the top snowshoeing spots in North America, and remember to pack a backpack or waistpack with essentials before heading into the wilderness. (Quick tip: The best time to visit these destinations is during the coldest, snowiest months of December, January, and February.)
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
While some high-elevation national parks largely shut down once heavy snow appears, Yellowstone remains fairly accessible. The road from the North entrance to the Northeast entrance (52 miles or 84 kilometers) stays open for motorists all winter. Some in-park lodges remain open year-round, so visitors don’t have to worry about where to stay at night.
While much of Grand Loop Road does close to vehicles in the fall, it typically opens for snowmobile traffic in December, giving ambitious snowshoers a chance to get deep into the iconic park and see all of its famous features, including the geothermal springs and abundant wildlife. The bears may be hibernating, but bison, elk, foxes, and wolves remain active.
Can’t make it all the way to Yellowstone? Yosemite and Olympic National Parks also have a growing number of snowshoers exploring the backcountry each winter.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Snowshoeing opportunities are abundant across the entire province of Ontario. With nearly 3,000 square miles (4,828 kilometers) of territory covering various types of terrain, Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the best choices for backcountry snowshoeing. Be sure to dress for the very cold weather in that part of Canada, and include a water bottle in your pack, because staying hydrated in the backcountry is critical, even in the winter.
Alternatively, beginners who want to ease into the snowshoeing experience can visit the Scenic Caves Nordic Center. Located two hours outside Toronto, Scenic Caves offers guided hikes, equipment rentals, and five miles (eight kilometers) of trails specifically designed for snowshoeing—one of which crosses a 420-foot (128-meter) suspension bridge that provides killer views.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
With plenty of snow and only modest residential populations, northern Michigan is an ideal snowshoeing location. Guests can find private companies that sell and rent snowshoes and trail maps of the region’s parks and forests. Spots worth considering include Porcupine Mountains State Park and Hiawatha National Forest, both of which have established trails and lots of territory for exploring on your own.
Other snowshoeing opportunities in the Midwest include the numerous lakeside parks throughout Minnesota, as well as Starved Rock in north central Illinois, a scenic state park that boasts waterfalls and canyons.
British Columbia’s Yeti series
Looking for a more competitive and social snowshoeing environment? British Columbia is the primary home of the annual Yeti series of snowshoe races. The number of entrants per event ranges from a few dozen to more than a hundred, and the atmosphere is fun and laid-back. Some folks even wear costumes!
In previous years, 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) and 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) snowshoe races have been held in Whistler, West Vancouver, and Courtenay between January and March. Race dates and venues vary each year, so check theyeti.ca to stay updated.
New England’s forests
If you live in New England, finding a cool snowshoeing spot can be as simple as walking out your back door. In terms of specific locations, start with Maine’s Acadia National Park, where snowshoeing is a popular winter activity. The National Park Service recommends snowshoeing on Acadia’s 45 miles (72 kilometers) of carriage roads that were originally built in the early 1900s for horse carriages.
Also worth considering are New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Winters can be fierce here, so unless you’re experienced, stick to the relatively flat areas and don’t try summiting the highest peaks. Next door in Vermont, the Green Mountain Club holds an annual Snowshoeing Festival in February that attracts a couple hundred enthusiastic participants.
Before you take any snowshoeing trip, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, offbeat destinations, urban adventures, and everything in between. He blogs about his travels at http://quirkytravelguy.com.
While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.
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