Latitudinal position sets the framework. Then there are the huge swaths of land exposed to invasions of Arctic air, the plentiful high mountains hammered by storms, the snowbelts downwind of the Great Lakes and thus clobbered by lake-effect blizzards. Long story short, North America as a whole is blessed with plenty of the white stuff in wintertime.
And that means the continent’s rife with world-class snowshoeing opportunities. This highly accessible and beginner-friendly form of outdoor recreation gets you out in the heart of the North American winterscape, when scenery that’s grand year-round gets even grander under a frosty coat and crystalline bluebird skies.
Here’s a roundup of some of the very best places to go snowshoeing in North America: 15 stellar options, anyway, even if there are loads and loads of other top-grade destinations we could’ve slotted in.
Lorded over by the tallest mountain on the continent, Denali National Park draws most of its visitors in summer. But wintertime in the Alaska Range is sublimely beautiful, and the big quiet of big country is intoxicating.
Borrow snowshoes from the Winter Visitor Center, and go scouting for wolf tracks on the Park Road or the backcountry trails. Golden, low-angle sunlight and the Northern Lights extravaganzas of Denali’s long nights add to the magic.
Among the most stunning mountain tableaus on the continent serves as a killer backdrop for snowshoeing in Banff National Park, the first established in Canada and also one of the oldest in North America. Snowshoe from the town of Banff itself to the wonderful wintry vistas of the Hoodoos Viewpoint, or trek along the edge of gobsmacking Lake Louise.
The Main and Front ranges of the Canadian Rockies look pretty darn good in their winter coats, needless to say, and there’s ample opportunity to spot wildlife and tracks along the way.
Wander winter-bare aspen groves and huddled spruce-fir forests, gaping at Front Range slopes looming to tundra tops and snow-wrapped horns: Rocky Mountain National Park is another fabulous choice for snowshoeing adventures. The park offers ranger-guided snowshoe tours from mid-January into mid-March
The wintertime glories of the northern Sierra Nevada—and far fewer crowds than you experience during the summer tourism crush—delight snowshoers in Yosemite National Park. Head for the Badger Pass Ski Area and trek to staggering overlooks along the snowed-in Glacier Point Road, enjoy the extensive trail system of Crane Flat, or goggle at behemoth sequoias while snowshoeing the Mariposa Grove.
Hit up the deep maritime snows of the Pacific Ranges at Cypress Mountian Ski Area, set within Cypress Provincial Park just a stone’s throw from downtown Vancouver, B.C. The ski area boasts about seven miles of self-guided snowshoe trails through misty montane conifer forest, among the diverse trees of which the namesake yellow-cedar—aka “Nootka cypress” or “Alaska-cedar,” an extremely long-lived mountain conifer restricted to the Pacific Northwest—is notable.
Old-growth groves, views over the greatest of the Great Lakes, astonishing ice formations: These are among the plentiful rock-solid reasons to strap on snowshoes amid the Apostle Islands, that legendary freshwater archipelago off the tip of northern Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula.
The best-known winter attraction for snowshoers are the astonishing Lake Superior ice caves that can, conditions permitting, be explored along the Mainland Unit of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. But there’s plenty else snowshoers can enjoy in this fabulous Upper Midwest wilderness.
This coastal wonderland along the Gulf of Maine is another no-brainer when it comes to North American snowshoeing destinations. Accounting for some of the loftiest U.S. terrain directly on the Atlantic, Acadia offers snowbound woods and ledges plus long views out to sea. You’ve got some 45 miles of carriage roads to explore on snowshoes, though bear in mind these are also used for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The Beaver State’s loftiest peak, Mount Hood also anchors arguably Oregon’s greatest snowshoeing playground in the form of the Mount Hood National Forest and its various snowsports hubs and Sno-Parks.
The craggy white horn of the 11,249-foot stratovolcano cameos in innumerable, postcard-perfect views when snowshoeing the surrounding high forests of Pacific silver fir, mountain hemlock, and other Northwest conifers. Admire Oregon’s king snowpeak from Trillium Lake, tromp to the great gouge of Zigzag Canyon from Timberline Lodge, or trek up to unforgettable vantages among the Frog Lake Buttes.
Some of the most rugged country in the Upper Midwest—and some of the most gloriously snow-hammered, given the leeward position fronting Lake Superior—awaits the winter adventurer in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Snowy roads and trails offer endless delights for snowshoers here within the Wolverine State’s biggest state park and one of the greatest reservoirs of wilderness and old-growth in the North Woods.
The Colorado Plateau of the American Southwest serves up some of the most extraordinary scenery in the world, and among its scenic pinnacles is, without question, Bryce Canyon. Not a canyon at all, in fact, but a grand amphitheater of intricate hoodoos and pinnacles that achieve maximum bowl-you-over beauty with a winter dusting.
Bask in that splendor along snowed-in hiking trails such as the Rim Trail and Bristlecone Loop on your own, or join one of the snowshoe guided tours led by rangers here.
The Sierra slopes edging glorious Lake Tahoe are best known for their downhill skiing and snowboarding, but the epic snowfalls this area’s known for also ensure primo snowshoeing opportunities. From Donner Pass to Tahoe Meadows and Kirkwood, you won’t be hurting for snowshoe circuits amid diverse conifer forests and dazzlingly far-reaching sightlines.
The oldest national park in the world, spread between the volcanic caldera of the Yellowstone Plateau and the lower, ungulate-packed country of the Northern Range, easily ranks among the preeminent snowshoeing spots on the continent. Home to Old Faithful and an unparalleled concentration of other geysers and geothermal features, Yellowstone shows off steaming vents cast against a backdrop of pine forests, soaring peaks, and vast herds of elk and bison.
From the brink of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to the summit of Bunsen Peak, trails and unplowed roads in the park open its glories to the snowshoer—with plenty of guided treks available to snowshoers as well.
The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is one of the jewels of New England when it comes to sightseeing and outdoor recreation, and for wintertime pleasures it’s hard to beat Burke Mountain. Besides its downhill pleasures, the Burke Mountain Ski Area includes extensive snowshoeing routes serving up stirring views over this Northeastern wonderland.
The jagged Sawtooth Range ranks among the most straight-up impressive mountain fronts in America, and the small town of Ketchum, Idaho, one of the great launchpads for outdoor recreation in the west. From hot springs and lakeshores to backcountry ridgeline traverses, the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area promises fabulous snowshoeing amid an impressively ample winter snowpack.
Famed for protecting the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi—and some superlative old-growth pine forest—Itasca State Park is a snowshoer’s 32,000-acre dream come true. Tromp along maintained snowshoeing trails such as the Schoolcraft and Brower routes or explore the backwoods of the oldest state park in Minnesota.
Revved up for just about the chillest of snowsports? We’ve got loads of other resources for snowshoers here at the Mountain House blog, including:
● Tips for snow travel
● Info on wildlife-tracking in winter
● A guide to winter survival
And, of course, get set for your wintertime adventures with Mountain House freeze-dried meals, absolutely ideal for the snow-drifted trails!