February is a great time to head up to the mountains to play in the snow. A little over an hour’s drive from Bellevue is the Lake Easton Sno-Park — not only is it a great place to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and sled, but it has heated restrooms.
Situated on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass, where the weather is usually drier, Lake Easton has snow that’s more powdery, and you may have a better chance of finding sunshine. It’s also less crowded than the snow parks closer to Seattle and Bellevue.
Lake Easton has five miles of groomed trails, most of them on relatively flat terrain, with a few gently rolling hills and a total elevation gain of only 50 feet, making it one of the best areas for families and those new to cross-country skiing. Once you get out of the woods, you’ll find stunning views of the Yakima River along the groomed ski trails.
The trails are groomed with clear, flat skating areas in the middle and groomed ski tracks on either side. You can snowshoe in this area as well, but please keep to the sides of the trail so as not to break down the ski tracks. This year, fat-tire bicycles are being allowed on groomed trails on a trial basis.
The main trails are one way so that you don’t have to worry about running into someone at the bottom of a hill. “Alley Oop” is a fun loop with rolling hills. One of the trails heads along the river to Frozen Toe Point. The name of this trail is a good reminder that it does get extremely cold here, and the wind coming off the lake can be quite biting. On cold days, it is a good idea to stop for lunch or rest in sheltered areas.
While this area is not as heavily used by snowmobiles as other snow parks, you may experience snowmobile noise for the first half mile or so, where the snowmobile trail runs alongside the ski trail. While snowmobiling is allowed on the adjacent John Wayne Pioneer Trail east of Forest Road 5400, the rest of the ski trails themselves are closed to motorized use and provide a peaceful experience. Use caution and watch for snowmobiles if using the John Wayne Trail to access other ski areas. If you’re lucky, you might even see a sled-dog team.
For those looking to make longer trips, Lake Easton connects to Crystal Springs Sno-Park via the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail. Once you’ve skied all of the trails, you can head over to enjoy the slopes at Wind Tunnel Way for some sledding with the kids.
No winter gear? No problem! Play it Again Sports in Seattle rents ski and snowshoe equipment and has great deals on used winter gear and clothing.
After your day of snow play, why not take an easy 15-mile drive into the town of Cle Elum for lunch and a warm beverage? You also can visit the nearby town of Rosyln, where the TV series Northern Exposure was filmed — and a reboot may again be filmed — and take a selfie in front of that famous moose mural or The Brick. There are several overnight lodging opportunities in the area if you’d like to make a weekend of it. A trip to the Lake Easton Sno-Park is a great way to spend the day or weekend enjoying snow, exercise, and fresh air with your friends and family. parks.state.wa.us/532/Lake-Easton.
How to get there:
Lake Easton State Park is located at 150 Lake Easton State Park Road. Take Highway 18 to I-90. Take exit 70, the Easton exit toward Easton/Sparks Road; turn right onto Railroad Street, and then take another right onto Lake Eaton Boulevard.
Good to know:
Snow Park with special groomed trails permit required Nov. 15-April 30 for day use and winter camping.
Learn how to ski and snowshoe safely:
The Mountaineers offer classes in mountain and winter activities, mountaineers.org.
Used winter gear and rentals:
Play it Again Sports and Ski Seattle, playseattle.com.