Wake up to snow!
Tamarack Cabin at Fields Spring State Park makes a comfy base camp for all kinds of snow play.
Feb. 6, 2019
Whether you’re a native Washingtonian or a recent transplant, you’ve probably realized that nothing but a blizzard can deter outdoor play in our state.
Diehards swear by winter camping, and Eastern Washington’s crisp, sparkly snow welcomes visitors from the rainy west side.
More than a few Washington state parks have winter camping opportunities. So come on out, get your noses cold, and then warm them up in a toasty tent, hut or RV.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
New to snow camping? Here’s your chance to dial your skills before hitting the backcountry.
Every winter Lake Wenatchee State Park turns one day-use area into a primitive campground. So bring your shovels and dig out a campsite. Let the kids stomp out the tent platform before they run off to the playground. If you don’t want your tent to blow away while you’re snowshoeing, attach and bury dead-man anchors or snow-filled stuff sacks. Then, cook a meal in the kitchen shelter and take a hot shower in the year-round restroom.
The groomed ski and snowshoe trails and tubing hill will keep you busy, and this alpine lake surrounded by snow-topped hills provides beyond-Instagram-worthy snaps.
Lake Wenatchee State Park lies 20 miles west of Leavenworth, where a congratulatory restaurant meal awaits after a successful night in the snow.
Campsites are $20 a night and $10 per extra vehicle, plus a Sno-Park Permit.
Snowshoers enjoy the beauty of Lake Wenatchee State Park.
Fields Spring State Park
If you haven’t experienced the Blue Mountains in winter, Fields Spring State Park in southeastern Washington is a must-do. This large park in the gently folding hills has three winter options:
❄ Tamarack Cabin near Wohelo Lodge (and a big sledding hill) sleeps four people. The comfortable cabin boasts a mini-fridge, bathroom with shower, microwave, coffee pot and parking spot. (Bring your own bed linens.) Bring snowshoes! The park features spectacular views on the 6 miles of groomed trails here.
❄ Puffer Butte Warming Hut sits 4,500 feet above sea level and sleeps four. The hut provides an excellent intro to winter backpacking without the tent-camping part. A stove (stocked with firewood) will keep you cozy, but first you’ll make the 1-mile uphill trek with all your provisions. Hardy winter recreationists can reserve this hut through the park at 509-256-3332 for $20 a night. Caveat: while you’ll have the place to yourself after dark, the hut is open to the public for warming all day.
❄ Primitive snow camping: Have a bigger group, or just not into backpacking? Drive to Fields Spring’s campground (near the bathroom and day warming hut), unload your gear and stake your tent in a flat campsite. You’ll have to do some digging, as the sites are not cleared. Remember your wool or synthetic layers, puffy jackets (no cotton) and hot water bottle or foot warmers to heat up your sleeping bag. Sites are $20 a night plus permits. Extra vehicle - $10.
Digging a platform and staking a tent in snow takes practice. Photo by Unsplash.
Lake Easton State Park
This lakeside park between Seattle and Ellensburg provides a jumping off point for several Sno-Parks.
Lake Easton State Park offers primitive snow camping in the day-use area near the playground — an excellent place to practice digging a campsite, anchoring a tent and firing up your cold-weather stove. When siting your tent, watch out for trees dropping snow bombs from above. After the hard work is done, treat yourself to a hot shower in the heated bathroom.
The park also allows RV camping in its parking lot. Sites are $20 a night, plus permits. Extra vehicle - $10.
For a longer snowshoe or ski from Lake Easton, hop on the adjacent Palouse to Cascades Trail.
RV campers ring in a happy, snowy new year at Crystal Springs Sno-Park.
RV camping at Sno-Parks
RV fans, don’t feel left out! You can enjoy snow camping at state parks, too!
Your crew can play all day and sleep like logs in most Washington Sno-Parks. (A few exceptions include Hyak, Gold Creek and Cabin Creek, which do not allow overnight parking.) A few Sno-Parks charge RV campers $20, but most simply require Sno-Park permits.
Parks Winter Recreation staffers see RVs camped at Crystal Springs and Swauk Campground, which has a shelter, fireplace and trails that link to Pipe Creek and Blewett Pass. They also see plows digging out stuck trailers after big snow dumps; they recommend that RVers take self-reliance and emergency preparation to a new level in the cold.
If you're planning a visit to Crystal Springs, we think you'll be pleased with the new layout and traffic-flow improvements at this Sno-Park. Take a look at what's new here.
Tips for RVers
Pamela McConkey, Winter Recreation program manager, recommends clearing RV roofs every day and taking in awnings at night. She’s a big fan of shoe microspikes to prevent falls, as campers are not allowed to salt the parking lots. Campfires must be lit in containers six inches off the ground and not under awnings.
Do you have a favorite Washington state park snow camp or winter camping experience?
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