By Dante Zuniga-West

One of the best parts of living in the Eugene and Springfield area is our access to outdoor adventure. Often, a 40-minute drive can put you in some of the most beautiful places the natural world has to offer. A winter escape into the wild is time well spent if you know where to go and how to prepare. When it comes to easy and accessible fun during the snowy months, you just can’t beat snowshoeing. We’ll help you get yourself into the backcountry for a good time in our shared winter wonderland.

What to pack and how to prepare

The most important thing to manage when it comes to your snowshoe adventure is your snowshoes. Purchasing a set of snowshoes costs about $200. Average prices vary from about $100 to $350, and there are some very expensive models out there, too. It’s great to have your own set so you can hit the snow anytime you want, but for someone who snowshoes once or twice a year, renting is the way to go. And renting a pair of snowshoes in this town is easy. Berg’s, Rack N Roll, Play it Again Sports, and Eugene Ski Swap are all places where you can show up and rent a pair just about any time. Some stores, like Berg’s, will rent you a snowshoe package that includes walking poles and boots for just $15 a day. 

When packing for your snowshoe adventure, make sure you have the basics for stepping into the wild. Water, snacks, a knife, and some way to make fire are essential. Wool socks are also key, as they will keep your feet far warmer than cotton socks, particularly if your boots get wet. Some folks prefer walking poles while trekking the snow trails. Poles are a particularly good idea if you are planning to go on longer hikes or overnight trips.  

Where to go 

There is an amazing abundance of snow-laden trail systems that exist not far from the Eugene and Springfield area. The best part about it is that the good folks over at the U.S. Forest Service have already made your snowshoe adventure a priority. The Willamette National Forest area houses four log shelters that serve as ideal destinations for a snowshoe adventure, and there is an endless amount of snowy woods to explore.

Gold Lake Sno-Park

About 28 miles east of Oakridge near Willamette Pass, at an elevation of 4,800 feet, you will find Gold Lake. The nearby Gold Lake Sno-Park has a vast network of trails that are perfect for beginner and intermediate snowshoers. There are three “warming shelters” that can be accessed along the trek, complete with wood stoves stocked with wood. For more info on snowshoeing here, check out hikeoregon.net/gold-lake-sno-park.html

Rosary Lakes Trail

If you’re looking for a medium-sized snowshoe adventure, try the approximately 2.8-mile hike up to Lower Rosary Lake. Located just east of the Willamette Pass Ski Resort, the trail to Lower Rosary is in fact a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Sixty-six miles east of Eugene, right after the Willamette Pass Resort, turn left at the PCT sign. Make sure to park at the PCT trailhead, not where the snow plows are stored. Once you’re on the trail, follow the blue diamond markers all the way to the lake, an excellent spot for a midday picnic right next to the stoic beauty of a frozen high mountain lake.

Maiden Peak 

Maiden Peak offers a snowshoeing adventure that leads to a decent-sized cabin complete with a wood stove stocked with fire food. The Maiden Peak cabin is somewhat spacious by cabin standards and has glass windows, a chinked log wall, and a loft. Imagine tromping through the pristine snowy woods to arrive at the cabin, create a warm fire, and unwind your weary muscles. When we say weary, it’s because this hike is about 6.5 miles, so while perhaps not the best choice for beginning snowshoe enthusiasts, it is definitely worth the effort. If you’re looking to do your homework when it comes to this trail, check out fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recarea/?recid=4742