Explore Snowshoe Trails With Beautiful Scenery
Explore snowshoe trails in five top destinations across America. Watch for winter birds and wildlife, and admire the snowy landscapes.
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Scenic Snowshoe Trails Across America
I’m out on the snowshoe trails in the Mount Evans Wilderness, about an hour west of Denver, Colorado. Canada jays flit swiftly through the pines, and I hear the occasional muffled thump of snow as it falls off branches in the morning sun. My metal snowshoes crunch softly as they sink into the fluffy powder with each step. I hear my breaths, which come frequently now at nearly 2 miles above sea level. Otherwise, total silence surrounds me. It was so easy—no lift tickets, lines or crowds.
You can snowshoe nearly anywhere you find snow, making it an exceedingly accessible and affordable sport, but a few spots in the country stand head and shoulders above the rest. Here is a small sampling of snowshoe trails to kick-start your own adventure, plus some helpful beginners’ tips. Looking for a little motivation? Check out 50 beautiful winter pictures across America.
Colorado Snowshoe Trails
The sky’s the limit in the Rockies, literally, especially when you can drive to a trailhead at 10,000 feet above sea level. Echo Lake, on the road to the summit of Mount Evans, is a stunning, thin-air spot where you can strap on some shoes and work up a winter sweat. This is a steep, hard-breathing, thigh-burning out-and-back trail to Summit Lake that totals 12 miles, sometimes through very deep snow. Of course, you can do any portion of it you’d like or just stay near the lake.
The REI flagship store in Denver offers introductory classes (and gear) on trails at Echo Lake and a few spots near Rocky Mountain National Park. For other guided options in the Centennial State, Estes Park Mountain Shop and Kirks Mountain Adventures offer guided snowshoe trips in and around Rocky Mountain National Park, Pikes Peak Alpine School offers trips out of Colorado Springs, and Breckenridge Nordic Center offers guided snowshoe trips in Summit County.
Psst—You must see these contest-winning national parks pictures.
Michigan Snowshoe Trails
Imagine snowshoeing in the quiet of night, by the light of the moon and a dim lantern. Michigan is an unsung haven for long, flat forested networks of snowshoe trails. On the lower peninsula, a top choice is Hartwick Pines State Park. This nearly 10,000-acre park above the east branch of the Au Sable River has trails in old-growth pine forests and rolling hills. The park has a 19th-century logging museum and, sometimes (but probably not this year), make-your-own-snowshoes classes.
On the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a gem, with trails from 1 to 7.4 miles long, including a hike to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. In the winter, hikers are welcome to blaze a trail through the park’s 50,000 forested acres, some over a vast peatland complex that is too wet and mushy to explore in the summer. For something different, look for scheduled lantern-lit night hikes and wine-tasting tours. Crucial information for snowshoers: You can access heated restrooms at the Upper Falls and outhouses at the Lower Falls. The Upper Peninsula is also a great place for winter birdwatching.
Michigan requires a recreation passport (formerly a state parks sticker) for vehicles entering state parks. Passports can be purchased at state parks or online (for annual non-residents only) at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses.
California & Nevada Snowshoe Trails
Tahoe National Forest is notable for its quantity of snowshoe-accessible trails on all sides of the lake. Start at the parking lot and visitor center at Donner Memorial State Park, near Truckee, California, where you can access several trails, including the Snowshoe Adventure Trail, a 2.9-mile loop on the south shore of Donner Lake. Or drive up Donner Pass Road to the top and explore the area, which has fantastic views of the Sierras and access to the famed Pacific Crest Trail.
For a 2.1-mile trail, outside of Incline Village on the Nevada side, hike Chickadee Ridge near Mount Rose Meadows, an expansive open trail filled with birds. For a full-moon guided snowshoe tour, check out Tahoe Adventure Company, which sometimes has an astronomer on hand to help point out constellations. On the Nevada side of the lake, in a much less visited part of the region, you can rent a cabin at Zephyr Cove Resort with access to trails.
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Wisconsin Snowshoe Trails
The Badger State has extraordinary snowshoe trails, more than 250. Start at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where the Lakeshore Snowshoe Trail guides hikers along the frozen shoreline of Lake Superior to a series of spectacular ice caves. Be prepared for an other-worldly experience as you step inside. (Watch for falling icicles!)
The journey continues at Meyers Beach Recreation Area, about 5 miles east of Cornucopia. Always check ice conditions before your trip. Navarino Wildlife Area has 100 miles of snowshoe trails that twist through upland and lowland forests, sedge marshes, bogs and flowages. Lucky winter birders regularly spot grosbeaks, hawks, finches and buntings. Also look out for whitetail deer, coyotes, beavers, fishers, badgers, black bears and snowshoe hares. The nature center rents snowshoes. Other trekking options include High Cliff State Park, Peninsula State Park and Kettle Moraine State Forest in southeast Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is so serious about snowshoeing that the 2022 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships will be held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Vermont Snowshoe Trails
Northern Vermont is home to a number of quiet villages that turn into Nordic wonderlands in the winter. The Stowe area and Mad River Valley have miles of snowshoeing trails and are fairly popular. But the East Burke and Kingdom Trails region is truly unique. Picture yourself strapping on snowshoes for a short trek into town for dinner, which is then followed by a moonlit walk back to your rented cabin.
Kingdom Trails, some of which are regularly groomed, cover different difficulty levels. They afford massive and majestic views of the surrounding mountains. Around 95 private landowners have generously opened their land to recreation for the trail system. This has become the premier winter destination in the Northeast. The trail system connects the communities of Lyndon, Burke and East Haven. This area has plenty of small inns and cabins, including Burke View Vacation Rental & Villa.
You can both downhill and cross-country ski at Burke Mountain or even winter fat bike on miles of groomed trails. For a luxury option in central Vermont, Woodstock Inn & Resort maintains 28 miles of groomed trails around Mount Peg. It’s also near the snowshoe trails in Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The resort has its own Nordic Center for gear, guides and classes.
Essential Snowshoe Trail Tips for Beginners
Snowshoeing’s appeal comes from its low-tech, minimal-gear needs, and its price—usually free or around $10-12 for a pair of rentals—makes it even easier. You’ll need boots, layered wool or synthetic clothing, a hat, ski goggles and gloves.
Keep these tips in mind on any snowshoe trail:
- Lace your boots tightly and take time strapping in, making sure all buckles are secure and the shoes aren’t clacking into each other when you walk.
- Bring water: Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need to hydrate. A bladder on your back with a drinking hose is best, or keep a bottle within reach. Stop often for a drink.
- Use trekking poles or ski poles for balance.
- Consider taking a class through REI to learn helpful techniques. Call 800-426-4840 or browse classes at REI.com.