I heard about the REI-sponsored event called AllOut, in which they were partnering with other organizations all over the country to host all kinds of activities. It sounded like a neat way to explore a new area, so I picked an event to go to that I hadn’t explored before. The Salmon Ridge Sno-Park area trails fit well with my goal to find new family-friendly snowshoeing areas. I got an early start out of the house (It’s so much easier when I’m only packing for myself!) and enjoyed a glorious sunrise while I drove up north. It took me 2 1/2 hours to drive to the sno-park, with 2 stops for bathroom breaks. The road was in good condition, and had been sanded recently.
When I arrived, the folks from REI, the Forest Service, and the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club were still setting up tables and informational displays. I had a snack and dinked around a bit, then went over to say hi and find out about the trails. They were very helpful at giving me good advice about where to go, and handed me some printed maps with the snowshoe and ski trails delineated. The folks from REI were also loaning out snowshoes, so I took advantage of the opportunity to try a nicer set from MSR (mine are basic snowshoes from Costco.) If I had wanted to, I could have tried out nordic skiing as well, with equipment and people to give a short lesson. I didn’t feel like falling over and over this time, so I stuck with the snowshoeing.
I started out from the parking lot heading out on the Elk/River trail. As you face the north side of the parking lot, it’s the left-most trailhead, and is marked with a blue sign. You’ll need to stay off the first section of the Razor Hone trail, as it’s for skiing only. It’s obvious which one this is, because it’s nicely groomed with ski tracks. I headed down the Elk trail through the trees, toward the river.
The trail is marked with blue arrows and blue flagging, and is easy to follow. The snow goes right down to the river’s edge.
A thick frost covered shrubs and trees, and the snow had consolidated to become icy.
The sun was out for most of the trip, with only a hazy cloud covering occasionally dimming the light. I got some inspiring peek-a-boo views up the valley of pointy peaks.
I made my way methodically along the Elk Trail until I reached the junction with the Razor Hone Road, and shortly, Mom’s Trail.
At this point, snowshoers are allowed to travel up the road. I kept to the side, being careful not to walk in the ski tracks, and began gently gaining some elevation. I didn’t really have much of a goal in mind, I just wanted to explore and see how far I could get, and if there were any views or interesting features.
I passed a group of beginning skiers practicing going up and down short hills. I wished them luck and kept pressing onward. I stopped briefly to chat with another snowshoer who was coming down, and she said the snowshoe trails that go off toward the river on this section were really gnarly, and she didn’t recommend them.
So I stayed on the road until I crossed the bridge over the creek, and just a bit farther. At that point I decided it was time for lunch. I had gone 1.6 miles, and it had been over an hour (I told you I was taking a methodical pace). I appreciated having my foam mat and warm tea. The temps were in the upper 30s, so it was pretty comfortable, and I didn’t need my big puffy jacket that I had brought along.
After my snack I decided that I should make my way back down so I didn’t miss the 2:00 deadline for turning in my borrowed snowshoes. I did check out one of the trails that veered down toward the river, and it was more difficult and “interesting” than the road, but it looped me right back up to the road again.
Then I took the wide and flat Mom’s Trail back to the parking lot.
My GPS tracked almost exactly 3 miles and 217 feet elevation gain.
It was a little after 1:00. I had plenty of time after packing up my gear to drive up to the Mt. Baker Ski Area and see what it looked like in winter.
Wow! What a difference from just a few months ago when we were up hiking the summer trails. There were a lot of folks out enjoying the sunny day. The road was fine to drive, just be careful of all the loose sand and gravel.
Lots of folks were sledding below the ski area; I think I will take my kids up there at some point soon. Picture Lake was frozen over and had a layer of snow on top. But Mt. Shuksan looked glorious behind it all.
If You Go: The Salmon Ridge Sno-Park is 46 miles out Hwy 542 from Bellingham. The elevation is 2000 feet, so in years where the snow level stays higher, this area will not have snow. You will need a regular Sno-Park Pass to park. There are porta-potties there. Every car is required to carry chains up Hwy 542 from November 1 through April 1. You can take the trails as described in this report. There are a few other options, as well. You can cross the highway and ramble through the Silver Fir Campground along the river. You can also park at the Hannegan Pass winter trailhead just before you cross the bridge over the Nooksack River, and snowshoe up the Hannegan Pass road. This trail is multi-use, and allows dogs as well. From that road, there is another snowshoe trail that cuts up to another Forest Service road, and you can snowshoe up that as far as you are comfortable. You will need a NWForest Pass to park in that lot, instead of a sno-park pass. If there is no snow that low, you can try driving up to the White Salmon Road parking area, at a tight hairpin turn in the road, and snowshoe up the side of that groomed road. We are looking forward to checking out more of these options in the future, and it will be good to have another place to take the kids that is less crowded than the trails at Snoqualmie Pass.