Your Guide to Snowshoeing Near Fort Lewis

On a December afternoon during my white cycle (two weeks of easy half days) I received a text from a friend that will change how I view winter forever. I was invited to go snowshoeing, and, quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.

Friend: “You’ve never heard of snowshoeing? You put on snowshoes and go hiking in the snow.”

Me: “I don’t have any snowshoes.”

Friend: “Well, then rent some. And poles.”

So, my first step was to try and find a place that rented snowshoes. Fortunately, JBLM’s NorthWest Adventure Center had everything I needed and more for the outdoor excursion.

The Adventure Center staff was very friendly and helpful to this winter sport newbie. Plus, they had a wide selection of snowshoes, poles and boots that I scored for my wife and me for just $78. Considering the cheapest snowshoes at REI run about $140 a pair, that’s a significant deal. Equipment can be rented for one, three or seven days.

Now that we had all the necessary gear, the next step was to make sure I had the right cold weather clothes. Luckily the military provides you with plenty of gear to combat the cold. I won’t bore you with what I wore; just wear something to stay warm and dry, Soldier. Ok, if you insist, I will bore you. See pic below.

The next day, we met our friends in the morning to begin our trip to the mountains. We decided to go to Hurricane Ridge Trail in the Olympic Mountains. It’s an easy flat hike with amazing views, and is about a two-hour drive from Fort Lewis. I recommend getting to the trailhead around 10:00 AM to get a good parking spot as there's limited space.

To get into the park, you’ll need a National Park pass. Fortunately for military members, we get a free yearly pass to all National Parks with a valid military ID. Upon entrance, they’ll ask if you have tire chains, which you will need if the roads get icy. After a 9-mile drive to the trailhead, we unloaded the car, strapped on our snowshoes and set off.

The snowshoes were interesting. Basically, they keep you from sinking down into the snow, which is vital considering the snow was more than 15 feet deep in some places. It takes about a half mile to get used to them, but they are easy and intuitive.

From the start of the hike, you’re surrounded by phenomenal views. The Olympic Mountains are one of the few places in America where you can see mountains, ocean and another country (Canada) all in the same view. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

We hiked for about four miles. It may not sound like much, but the snowshoes make for a slower pace than a regular hike. Plus, it’s a great workout. By the end of the trip we were smoked and ready to eat.

Overall, we had a great time. The views were unforgettable, and experiencing something new — especially something I’d never ever heard of — was a lot of fun.

Right and Up Tip: Even though it’s winter, the sun can still wreak havoc on your skin. Wear sunscreen! Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your hike. Weather conditions can change quickly, so be sure to check the forecast in advance. Follow Hurricane Ridge NPS on Twitter for the latest information on road conditions and weather updates.