Snowshoes can take you where snowmobiles and skis can’t—far into the wilderness and off the trail, if you’re inclined to venture. There are, however, plenty of marked trails that can be just as exciting as backcountry terrain. Public lands like state and national parks open up their terrain to snowshoes and those who take advantage in the wintertime enjoy fewer crowds and nature at its most serene.
Though you need to be aware of snow conditions, avalanches and other cold-weather dangers, a little knowledge can go a long way and snowshoeing is typically safe. If you’re ready to strap on some snowshoes and head outdoors, check out these 10 great spots across the country.
One of the best mountain biking spots in all of Illinois certainly doesn’t lose its allure in the winter; it just attracts a different crowd. The Palos Trail System is a quick 30 minute ride from downtown Chicago and it’s certainly worth the trip. From singletrack to multi-track paths, the ten trails range in difficulty and length, which means there’s something for everyone.
Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country, attracting major crowds in the summer, which makes winter a perfect time to visit. The park is home to one of the best snowshoe treks in the country: the seven-mile loop from Badger Pass to Dewey Point. The loop offers visitors one of the best views of El Capitan anywhere and if you dare to look down, a wild view of the valley 3,000 feet down.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a sparsely populated, nature haven chock full of great places to snowshoe. In the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, You’ll find 100 miles of trails, 19 wood-heated old-world cabins and three yurts—with enough advanced planning you could snowshoe from hut to hut.
Best known for alpine skiing, Stevens Pass is also a great spot for snowshoeing. If you’re looking for stellar views along with challenging elevation gain, this is the place for you. Trek across the Skyline Ridge and make it to the frozen lake—you can start out at the ski area and on a clear day from the ridge the views are unmatched.
The Bretton Woods Nordic Center gives cross country skiers and snowshoers access to a trail system with 62 miles of snow-covered terrain. Set at the base of Mount Washington, the trails take you through fields and forests, offering fantastic views of the mountains nearby.
The land of the lakes has plenty to offer in the winter with a long list of trails perfect for snowshoeing and Itasca State Park is a top spot. There are plenty of scenic trails great for snowshoeing, but three trails are specifically groomed for the sport. Check out the manageable Dr. Roberts Nature Trail, Mary Lake Trail and Schoolcraft Trail which are all less than two miles long and kept up specifically for snowshoeing.
The state of Colorado is rich with snow, mountains and lots of trails, making it the perfect place to enjoy all that winter has to offer. Rocky Mountain National Park is a particularly great spot with 355 miles of trails ranging from easy strolls to tough accents. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to find out about snow and avalanche conditions and they can tell you which trail would be best. If you call ahead for reservations you can also take a free snowshoe tour led by a ranger.
For a look at wild buffalo, partially frozen trout streams and soaring granite peaks, check out the Black Hills National Forest on a pair of snowshoes. With more than 1.25 million acres at your disposal, you’ll find a nearly endless array of trails and backcountry terrain. Head to the Spearfish area to find trails designated for snowshoeing or take off on the Centennial Trail—a 100+ mile trek with some gorgeous views.
Set in the scenic Green Mountains, Camel's Hump State Park has an extensive trail system with trails for every level. Those looking for a bit of a challenge might want to try the Bald Mountain Trail, a three-mile trek to stellar views. Those looking for something easier could try the two-mile Osmore Pond Loop.
In an area rife with wilderness and towering peaks, Mount Greylock is certainly one of the more challenging snowshoe treks, but it’s also among the most rewarding. Take the Hopper Trail to the Appalachian Trail—it’s about an eight-mile trek and the views from the 3,491-foot peak are other-worldly.