Yes, it's uber popular on the weekends, but you can't go wrong with skiing the Iron Horse Trail at Snoqualmie Pass, which offers 7+ miles of mostly flat trail following a former Milwaukee Road railroad bed. The full trail extends from North Bend to Yakima, but the portion east from the Hyak Sno-Park Permit is groomed for cross-country skiing for 13 kilometers, about 7.5 miles, toward Stampede Pass. Beyond that the trail is open to snowmobiles.
I head up to the Hyak Sno-Park a few times a season to ski the portion of the Iron Horse Trail that skirts Keechelus Lake, like I did recently with my new skate skis. From Seattle it's not much more than an hour drive, except when there's lots of new snow at the pass and avalanche control is underway.
On this day the lake was frozen over, and while we started skiing in fog and low clouds, within an hour it cleared to powder blue sky and sunshine. We got to the Hyak Sno-Park just below the Summit East ski area (formerly Hyak) around 9 a.m. on a Sunday, before the crowds arrived.
|When not traversing Keechelus Lake, the tree-lined trail passes through forest.|
|Looking across Keechelus Lake as the cloud layer dissipates|
|We like blue skies and good ski conditions.|
|Looking up lake|
By the end of our ski, around noon, lots more skiers littered the trail. But Nordic skiers are generally a friendly and courteous bunch. Exercise and fresh air in the mountains makes everyone nicer anyway.
This is not really a wilderness trail, but it's an excellent place to go burn lots of calories while enjoying the lake views and the pleasure of being in snow-covered mountains.
Where are you favorite places to cross-country ski?
When You Go
Here's a link to a map showing the Hyak Sno-Park Permit location in relation to Keechelus Lake and I-90. The trail skirts along the left (west) side of the lake. Go with a friend if you can to split the $20 Sno-Park Permit day fee, or buy an annual pass. While there are a few entry points to the trail, I've always started at the Hyak Sno-Park, which is the beginning of the groomed trail. There are several heated restrooms in a replica of an old train depot at Hyak, but this is also the location of a popular sledding hill full of families with small children on winter weekends so you might have to wait in line at the peak of the day.