Hike description: When state Route 410 is closed and the snow level cooperates, a lovely, easy snowshoe trip through a winter wonderland awaits you. The path is a narrow, two-lane road bordered on both sides by thick forest - a narrow band through the trees. To the south, the White River wanders beyond the forest. With an ample covering of snow, the road becomes a forest path for the exercise and delight of snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
From the parking lot, snowshoe through the trees over to the road. Head up the road as far as your fancy and energy take you. At about two miles you will come to a wide area on the right with a large mound or two of gravel stored for seasonal road repair. This is a good spot for a rest and that thermos of cocoa or soup you stashed in your pack. It also is a good turnaround point. You’ve spent the day on a nice walk through the winter forest out of the way of avalanche slopes.
Directions: From Enumclaw, follow state Route 410 east to the winter closure at the junction with Crystal Mountain Boulevard, just before the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Turn left on the boulevard to find the parking lot immediately on the right. Use the parking area. Vehicles parked by the gate at the end of state Route 410 run the risk of being ticketed or towed.
Difficulty rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 4
Best time of year: December to March
Map: Green Trails 270-Mount Rainier East
Pass: None needed
Also: You always should be fully prepared for an unexpected bivouac, especially in winter. Carry enough extra clothing, food and gear to keep yourself warm and safe when you stop to take a break from huffing and puffing through the snow. With every winter breath, you lose fluid because of evaporation. Be sure to carry enough water or sports drinks, protected from freezing. This is not a groomed cross-country ski trail but proper etiquette recommends not snowshoeing in cross-country ski tracks if possible. Poles with snow baskets are recommended when snowshoeing, particularly if you have any inclinations to go off trail. Remember to pack out all trash, including toilet paper. Trash buried under the snow reappears with the spring flowers, but is not as pretty. Washington state law requires all vehicles (including four-wheel drive) carry chains in the mountains during the winter.
Information: Washington State Department of Transportation for road conditions at www.wsdot.wa.gov
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.