Vroom! with a view: Snowmobiling at Washington Sno-Parks

Mike Sternback and the WSSA on Starvation Mountain Winter 201
Snowmobiling in Washington can take you to the most stunning places in just an afternoon! Washington State Parks crew teams up with members of the Washington State Snowmobile Association for a recent ride to the summit of Starvation Mountain.

Feb. 19, 2020

Whipping down frosty trails through pristine evergreen forests, kicking up flurries as you skirt through soft, white powder—for winter thrills, snowmobiling has got it going!

Snowmobiling in Washington is popular for a reason. With more than 3,000 miles of groomed trails traversing some of the most breathtaking scenery in the West, a weekend out on a “sled” in the Evergreen State is nothing short of epic.

“Some of the most intriguing things about snowmobiling are the amazing terrain they can cover and the destinations you can reach,” says Pamela McConkey, State Parks Winter Recreation Program manager. “Even on the cloudiest days, on a snowmobile you can get high above the clouds and take in breathtaking views, see the amazing topography of Washington and identify the many signs of wildlife that travel our groomed trails.”

Washington’s 80-plus Snowmobile Sno-Parks mean you’ll find no shortage of snowmobile adventures! Now is a great time to get your sled out or rent one and try this exciting sport.

The Basics
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Hi-er and hi-er! Snowmobilers are social and love to go riding with lots of friends. It's fun and a good safety practice as well! Photo taken at Crystal Springs Sno-Park.
The Basics

All sports carry risks, and that’s all the more true in winter. The winter landscape is temporary, making it volatile for many reasons: from hidden dangers lying just under the surface of the snow (e.g. large rocks), to the risk of exposure, to the threat of avalanches in certain areas. In addition to common winter recreation guidelines, follow these tips to help you stay safe—and legal— while you sled.

❄️ Get those permits! 
You will need the right permits and registration for you and your sled. Some exciting new changes to Winter Recreation permits mean it’s easier than ever to get what you need to get out for a ride. Check out our Sno-Parks 101 blog for everything you need to know before you go.

❄️ Snow the rules 
Be a good sport! Ride on the trails and practice etiquette and safety.  We recommend children between the ages of 12 and 16 pass a safety education course to ride, but we also strongly suggest this course to new riders of any age. Courses are offered in the fall and registration begins in August. Check the Winter Recreation website or call (360) 902-8684 for more details.

❄️ Wear your helmet 
We expect this is a no-brainer! BONUS: After your ride, you will still be able to feel your cheeks. Additionally, dress for the conditions. You never know when or where you might get stuck. Brr!

❄️ Ride with a pack 
Snowmobilers tend to be social creatures and for good reason: there’s safety in numbers. If you don’t know anyone, join a club or organization! The Washington State Snowmobile Association (WSSA) is a good place to start looking for snomobuddies!

❄️ Know before you go
An informed rider is a safe rider. Before you go out, check with the National Weather Service for conditions in the area you plan to ride. And always, always, always check in with the Northwest Avalanche Center.

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So where are the hots spots for a cool ride? You have lots to choose from. Here’s a start..

Central Cascades

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Incredible rides with incredible views. The Central Cascades are a winter sports paradise. Photo of Lake Easton. 

Beautiful, easy to access and teaming with exciting, interconnected trails, the Central Cascades Sno-Parks are arguably the most popular in the state. If you are out early in the day, secure a space at Crystal Springs and take a full-day tour up to Stampede Pass, the Weather Station (for a bathroom break) and then to the southeast and down to Easton Reload Sno-Park. Then, head west up a small section of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail (snowmobiles are not allowed on all parts of the trail, so watch the signs) and return to your vehicle through an old railroad tunnel! Keep in mind you will be sharing the trail with skiers on this stretch, so be careful. If you can’t find a parking place at Crystal, don’t fret! There are 17 stellar great parks to choose from in the area!

The Methow Valley and Okanogan County

Okanogan Snowmobilier CCFKR

Whipping through a winter wonderland! A ride through the Okanogan forests is a thrilling experience. Photo by brewbooks

Like a good, long loop? Head up to Peacock Meadows. On this ride you can take forks and branches out to scenic views, or other parks such as Eight Mile and Boulder Creek. Or just stay on the loop through the Lone Frank Pass and circle back through the Kerr Sno-Park, and on to the town of Conconully, where you can ride your sled through town for a fill up (and a maybe a bite to eat) before heading back to your vehicle.

Leavenworth/Chelan

Jason Drag Racing at Wenatchee Airstrip

Do a little drag racing at the Wenatchee air strip before heading out on the trail!

There are fewer Sno-Parks to choose from in this area, but they are all tons of fun! For a change of pace, head out to Lake Wenatchee Airstrip where you’ll find a flat open area perfect for doing a little “drag racing” on your sled. Then go for a ride around Fish Lake and out into the 186 miles of looping trails in the river canyons above Lake Wenatchee. You WILL want your camera!

NOTE: As of 2/29/20 Lake Wenatchee has sparse snow conditions and snowshoe hikes have been canceled. Great winter opportunities still await at other Washington Sno-Parks!!

South Cascades


MTTA mountain view CC Anna Brones
Come for the snowmobiling, stay for the views. A snowmobile tour in the South Cascades provides exhilarating fun and a chance at some spectacular vistas! Photo by Anna Brones.

In the shadow of a volcano. you will find some of the best snowmobiling in Washington—and that’s saying something. A much-loved and nearly straight shot across Mount St. Helen’s southern skirts, Marble Mountain Sno-Park offers access to a great day of riding and some of the best vistas going. You can also park at the nearby Cougar Sno-Park and ride into the trails branching from Marble Mountain. This is also a popular area to snowshoe and Nordic ski. Book a room in the tiny, nearby town of Cougar, and make a family winter fun vacation of it!

Learn More

Snowmobile from JasonThis is just a small sample! Washington has some of the best snowmobiling in the world! 
Explore for yourself!

Looking for trail conditions, grooming reports and the like?
Check our Winter Recreation page, and follow us on Twitter: @WaStatePks_WNTR

Got some great tales from the riding trail? 
Tell us about them and share your photos here!