Sno-Park 101: What Do I Need?

Person snow shoeing
January 8, 2016

The tepid temps of Winter 2015 are auld lang syne. Snowfall in some areas of Washington is more than triple what it was at this time last year. We know what you’re thinking…

You’ve been itching for those inches to fall so you can get out to the snow, and your options are endless! Your Washington State Winter Recreation Program manages more than 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, 300 miles of cross-country trails and five Sno-play parks and more than 120 Sno-Parks in Washington, including State Parks, U.S. Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources lands.

Before you go, let’s review the basics and what you’ll need to get out and enjoy that wonderful white stuff.
The Basics

First, safety…

All outdoor fun carries risk. But remember, the winter landscape is temporary. That makes for volatile conditions, and anything can and does happen — from accidents due to poor visibility, lack of preparation for the cold and avalanches. We want you to have fun, and that means staying safe. Whether you skate ski, snowshoe, sled, skijor, cross-country ski, fat tire bike, snowmobile or just build a snowbeing, brush up before you go, and be prepared for an emergency. Here are some great tips from our outdoor friends and partners!

General winter safety: Visit Take Winter by Storm for a comprehensive crash course on how to stay safe in the snow.

Skiers: Find solid information and fun quizzes to bolster and test your knowledge of ski safety, helmet use, etiquette, youth skiing and more at the National Ski Patrol site.

Skijoring: Don’t let your winter fun go to the dogs! Not when you can learn so “mush” at the Skijoring USA site!

Snowshoeing: When it comes to getting out and about in the Evergreen State, our friends at the Washington Trails Association know how to go! Learn snowshoeing basics and how to stay safe here!

Snowmobiling: Buzzing through the trees is a blast! But anything from a busted sled to an avalanche can put the brakes on your riding fun. The Washington State Snowmobile Association has a handle on everything you’ll need to stay safe on your sled.

And speaking of avalanches…We strongly advise you to check with the Northwest Avalanche Center every time you plan to go out in the snow. And now…

Get your mitts on the right permits!

Depending on which Sno-Park is on your winter itinerary and the type of adventure you have planned, you’ll need a Sno-Park permit. Sno-Parks are plowed with groomed trails—and have sanitation services—so you can park and enjoy winter fun!

It costs money to prepare and maintain Sno-Parks. Permit revenues are important to keep these areas usable for everyone. When you buy a Sno-Park permit, you’re helping pay for trail grooming, snow removal, maps, brochures, signage, enforcement, bathrooms and more! (Snowmobile registration fees and a percentage of the state’s fuel tax also help pay for these services.)
People on snow mobiles
Depending on which winter activity you’ll be doing, you will need one of the following:
  • Daily Sno-Park Permit
  • Annual (Seasonal) Non-motorized Sno-Park permit
  • Annual (Seasonal) Snowmobile Sno-Park permit
  • Combination Daily Sno-Park Permit/ One-day Discover Pass
  • Combination Annual (Seasonal) Non-motorized Permit/Special Groomed Sticker

Q. Snowmobiling? Oh yah! What will I need?

You’ll need a Snowmobile Sno-Park Permit. When Washington residents register their snowmobiles, they get a no-cost annual (seasonal) Snowmobile Sno-Park Permit. To register, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) website or get one in-person at a licensing agent.

Visiting Washington from another state? You can purchase an Annual Snowmobile Sno-Park Permit or a Daily Sno-Park Permit.
Be sure your snowmobile is registered before you hit the trail! Remember to affix the permit in the lower left corner of your vehicle’s windshield or snowmobile towing vehicle before you go.

Q. I like to ski, snowshoe and do other non-motorized winter recreation activities. What do I need?

For all types of non-motorized winter adventures, you’ll need a Seasonal Non-Motorized Sno-Park Permit ($40). Unless…

Q. I’m only visiting for the day this season…what do I need for non-motorized activities?

You’ll need a Combination One-Day Sno-Park Permit and a Discover Pass.

Q. I’m visiting a Sno-Park with special groomed trails…what do I need? 

A few Sno-Parks have special groomed trails ideal for Nordic skiing and skate skiing. To ski at the following Sno-Parks, you’ll need a Combination Special Groomed Trail sticker ($40) and a Seasonal Non-Motorized Permit ($40):
  • Cabin Creek
  • Chiwawa
  • Crystal Springs
  • Hyak
  • Lake Easton
  • Lake Wenatchee
  • Mount Spokane
  • Nason Ridge
Skiing along the shores of Lake Wenatchee.
If you’re using the Combination One-Day Sno-Park Permit / Discover Pass, you DON’T need a Special Groomed Trails Permit.

Q. So where do I buy permits and passes?

For Sno-Park permits and Special Groomed Trail stickers, you have the following options:
  • Buy online.
  • Call the State Parks Winter Recreation Program at (360) 902-8684.
  • In person through a Sno-Park Permit vendor. (Please note that handling fees of up to $2 will apply.)
  • You can purchase daily Sno-Park Permits at some Sno-Parks, depending on staffing.
To purchase a Discover Pass, you have the following options:
  • Buy online.
  • In person from any of nearly 600 recreational license vendors where state fishing and hunting licenses are sold.
  • Call (866) 320-9933.
  • When you renew your vehicle license through the Department of Licensing.
  • At State Parks headquarters and region offices and at state parks when staff is available. (Some state parks have automated pay stations.)
Read more about the Discover Pass.

Q. Anything new this season? Absolutely!

Fat tire biking: We are excited to announce not one but TWO parks now offer riding areas for the growing sport of fat tire biking. Enjoy a ride in the snow at Pearrygin Lake State Park and Lake Easton State Park. At Lake Easton you may ride in the park, but NOT on the Iron Horse Trail. Remember, these are pilot programs and we’d love to see them grow! Please exercise safety and winter wisdom when enjoying your ride. We recommend that you wear a helmet and have front and rear lights on your bike for safety.

Note: The Price Creek Westbound motorized Sno-Park is permanently closed.

Evergreen Sno-Park—near Cle Elum! At 2,200 feet elevation, the newest motorized Sno-Park gives snowmobilers access to more than 100 miles of groomed trails on the Taneum-Manastash trail system. The new Sno-Park replaces the old Woods and Steel Staging Area and can accommodate up to 25 vehicles with trailers. Once completed, the two-acre site will be expanded to five acres! This promises to be a fun and popular new place to ride!
Trip Planner...
Wherever you are in Washington and however you like to play in the snow, there’s a Sno-Park near you and for you! Check out our winter recreation web page to get started planning your trip today! Then, stay up-to-date on conditions, fun stuff to do and grooming reports on our winter recreation Twitter feed: @StatePks_WNTR.

Now you will need to get the right permits to fit your frosty plans. Visit our online permit purchasing site to review the permit types and get just what you need for your winter play day!

We’ll be sharing snowmobile and non-motorized winter recreation adventure inspirations and tips throughout the season. In the meantime, check out these maps for snowmobile and non-motorized Sno-Parks to discover this weekend. There are even a few that are perfect for tubing, snowperson building and general snow play fun!
Get your Sno-Park permit and enjoy a day of snow play at Lake Easton - build a Snowhenge!
Still have questions?
Call the State Parks Winter Recreation Program at (360) 902-8684 or check out our winter recreation web page.

What’s your favorite Washington Sno-Park?
Share your Sno-Park and state park photos and adventure stories here!