Ranger Guided Snowshoe Walks at the National Parks

January 19, 2010, 11:43 am

The Inuit have 52 different words for snow because it is an integral part of their lives. We, on the other hand, have only one, which perhaps suggests an insufficient appreciation of how great snow truly is.

Being a counter-seasonal park visitor offers several advantages, most notably a less crowded park experience. You’ll also find that a coating of snow enhances the scenery in most places. We love visiting parks in the winter for all the seasonal activities, including snowshoeing. Even though the winter weather is cold, it also makes for some beautiful scenery at our national parks. Snowshoeing is a great way to get out and enjoy the winter wonderland.

Here’s a roundup of ranger guided snowshoe tours at national parks across the country. Unless otherwise noted, tours are free, but participants must rent or supply bring their own snowshoes.

Yosemite National Park, California
Learn about the wonders of winter on a ranger-guided snowshoe stroll. Programs are offered daily at Badger Pass Ski Area through March 28, conditions permitting. A free shuttle from Yosemite Valley to Badger Pass is available. See the park newspaper, Yosemite Today, for a schedule of current programs.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Explore Bryce Canyon under crystal clear blue winter skies. During snowshoe hikes, rangers explain the winter ecology of the park and how its distinct hoodoos are the product of the winter struggle between ice and sun. The hikes take place weekly, provided there is sufficient snow coverage. For more information, call (435) 834-5322.

Glacier National Park, Montana
Discover how the Glacier National Park’s wild winter residents survive the cold and harsh months of winter during guided winter snowshoe excursions. The two-hour hikes leave from Apgar Visitor Center and are offered twice daily each Saturday and Sunday through March 21 (weather and snow conditions permitting).

Excursions begin at 10:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. each weekend day. In the event of severe weather or insufficient snow, individuals should call Apgar Visitor Center at (406) 888-7939 to confirm the day’s outing.

Snowshoes are available to rent for $2 at the Apgar Visitor Center. Participants may also bring their own. Snowshoes are also available for rent in West Glacier and elsewhere in gateway communities.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Experience snowshoeing through a red fir forest blanketed in deep snow at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Snowshoe walks are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center through April 4. The National Park Service provides snowshoes for the walks. A $1 donation is suggested for their use and maintenance.

For more information, check the park’s schedule of events or call the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at (530) 595-4480.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
Join a park ranger to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in its winter splendor! On the trail, rangers help participants identify flora and fauna, learn more about the lakeshore’s unique features and witness the effects of winter. Snowshoe hikes will be offered every Saturday and Sunday through the end of February or later, if conditions permit. Each hike will start at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire at 1 p.m. If you do not have your own snowshoes, you can reserve and borrow a pair from the park, free of charge.

Reservations are not required, but are strongly suggested, especially if you wish to borrow snowshoes or are with a group. For more information, check the park’s schedule of events or call (231) 326-5134, extension 328 for details and to make reservations.

Olympic National Park, Washington
Join a park ranger at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park to experience the wonders of winter on snowshoes. The National Park Service provides snowshoes and instructions on this ranger-led program. A $5 donation per participant helps the park provide these snowshoe walks and funds snowshoe repair and replacement.

Snow permitting, snowshoe walks are offered at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and Monday holidays (January 18 and February 15, 2010) through March 28.  The walk lasts 1.5 hours and covers less than a mile. Group size is limited to 30 people. Registration begins at the Hurricane Ridge information desk 30 minutes before the walk. If the Hurricane Ridge Road is closed, walks are cancelled.

For more information, visit the park’s website or call (360) 565-3136.

Acadia National Park, Maine
There aren’t any ranger-guided snowshoe walks on Acadia’s schedule of events, but the park’s 45 miles of carriage roads offer the perfect for snowshoeing.

 The park maintains a list of grooming status for the carriage roads.

Cross-country ski equipment and rentals are available in local communities; chambers of commerce can provide the names of outfitters.

Winter Safety and Other Considerations
If you’re planning to participate in snowshoeing or other outdoor sports, prepared for winter conditions. Dress in layers and wear warm, waterproof boots.

Carry extra blankets, food, drinking water, a shovel and tire chains in your vehicle. Since weather can change quickly, be prepared to spend the night in your vehicle, if necessary.

Although many snowshoe walks are free of charge, remember that you’ll still need to purchase a park entrance pass or display an annual pass in their vehicle before you can join the fun.