By Tom Rohrer
Fortunately for Thurston County outdoor enthusiasts, there are a variety of snowshoeing trails a short distance away, including both day parking and overnight camping areas.
Rent snowshoes and pole locally at Alpine Experience or Olympia REI. It is important to have the proper clothing and equipment before a snowshoeing trip, including warm gloves, socks, hats, and protective face-ware. Weather conditions should also be monitored leading up to a trip.
Here are a few snowshoe day trips that are an easy drive from Olympia.
Goldmyer Hot Springs
Located off Exit 34 on I-90 east, Goldmyer Hot Springs is owned and operated by a non-profit organization. This is the perfect setting for a winter snowshoeing and camping excursion. The hike is about 4.5 miles to the hot springs, and should only be undertaken on snowshoes by experienced campers and hikers. A visit and sit-down in the hot springs makes the trip worth it and a host of on-site caretakers provide support in case of an emergency. Upon registering at the trail entrance and paying the camping fee, a caretaker will eventually help find your group a campsite. Olympia native Reid Haefer undertook the trip in December and said the hike is difficult due to the weight of the backpacking gear. He also noted that the hike took about three hours and that it was very beautiful throughout the trip. For more information, visit http://www.goldmyer.org
For those looking to explore the scenic Snoqualmie Pass area, but skip overnight camping, Kachess Lake may be the ideal trip for you. Located at Exit 62 off I-90 East, the one mile roundtrip trail along the Kachess Lake shore takes you through the pristine old-growth forest of the area, and has terrific views that are ideal on a sunny day. The trail leads over Box Canyon Creek before eventually leading to a view of the alpine lake that sits at 2,300 ft. An ideal snowshoe adventure for in-experienced hikers and families, the trail has an elevation gain of only 50 feet. Olympia area resident Erik Fastle and Olympia native Kyle Brown recently undertook the journey in with a few friends. The group reported that the trip was easy, but still fun, and the sunny conditions made for spectacular views. For more information, visit http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/kachess-lake-shore.
Considered to be one of the Olympic National Park’s top hikes at any time of the year, the Hurricane Hill Snowshoe Trail, part of the Hurricane Ridge trail, is located about 20 miles south of Port Angeles. The six mile trail is more difficult than Kachess Lake, and has an elevation gain of 800 feet. However, there is a lodge at the beginning of the trail where snowsshoers can stage their equipment. Also, the trail has a variety of settings, including the Hurricane Ridge Meadows and the peaks of Hurricane Hill. Explorers should be mindful of the conditions and it’s required to check in with park rangers upon beginning the hike. Views on the trail include the shores of Vancouver Island, the Olympic Foothills, Mt. Baker, the San Juan Islands. and the Strait of Juan De Fuca. For more information, visit http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/hikes/hurricane-hill-snowshoe.
Capitol State Forest/Capitol Peak
This Thurston County area trail is reliant on snowfall to make it an ideal snowshoeing trek. However, with an elevation gain of 1300 feet and a high point of 2659 feet, there is a good chance snow will be present throughout the winter months. The nine mile trail ends up at the second highest summit in the Black Hills and offers great views on clear days of Mt. Rainer, Adams and Baker, along Olympic National Park, the Pacific Coast and the inlets of Puget Sound. It was reported in December that the trail featured at least 8-10 inches of snow throughout, and had great trail conditions for snowshoeing. For more information, visit http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/capitol-peak.