ready, set, snow
Author: Lauren Hunsberger | Posted In: Go | October 2021
Want to spend a day playing in the snow that doesn’t involve lift tickets and long lines? There are roughly 120 sno-parks in Washington State, with 80 designated for snowmobiling and motorized vehicles. Here’s everything you need to know about how to enjoy them.
What Is a Sno-Park?
The term sno-park was coined to simply designate parking lots that were cleared and maintained with the sole purpose of recreating in the nearby mountains. This broad definition leaves a ton of room for fun. From snowmobiling to dogsledding, there’s a spot or trail for everyone.
Three Types of Sno-Parks
When searching for the right park for you, you should know which type you’re heading to. Here’s some terminology to help guide you in the right direction.
Non-motorized sno-parks—open only to non-motorized recreational activities: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tubing, skijoring (dog sledding) and snow play
Snowmobile sno-parks—open to both motorized and non-motorized recreational activities
Snow-play sno-parks—open to general, open snow play, such as tubing and sledding but usually there aren’t any tracks or paths for skiing and skijoring
Washington Sno-Park Permitting
The vast majority of sno-parks in Washington require a special permit. They are only available for purchase online from November 1 to April 30 and cost $40. Here’s a direct source: parks.state.wa.us/130/Winter-recreation.
Etiquette and Advice
Once you’ve picked your park and activity, you are well on the way to a great day. But here are a few rules to keep you and your family safe:
Don’t walk, sled or tube on groomed trails. If you don’t have the right gear, traverse along the side of the trails to keep the grooming intact for other users.
Use the proper lanes. Skate skiing, track skiing and snowshoeing all use the same trails but not the same lanes. Be mindful of sticking to the appropriate lane for your activity, and try to not cross into the others.
Don’t stop on trails. If you need to adjust your gear or take a breath, move to the side to allow for others to pass.
Three Places to Play
Hyak Snow Play Sno-Park
Snoqualmie Pass has it all when it comes to winter recreation. It has very mild terrain and flat tracks that are often groomed and offer great mountain views. The only drawback is the popularity. If you want to enjoy this park, wake up early on weekends or plan a weekday off to avoid some of the crowds.
Crystal Springs Sno-Park
This is a very large, heavily frequented sno-park, and one of the few locations that offers skijoring trails for your sled dog! But they are very serious about making sure all dogs are kept on leashes and abide by safety precautions. Not into dogsledding? There are multiple other trails for both motorized and non-motorized activities.
Lake Wenatchee Snow Play Sno-Park
Another very large park, Lake Wenatchee includes a north and south park, with tons of trails and stunning mountain views. This spot is for those who want a non-motorized location. It’s known to be a cross-country skier’s paradise.