Some outdoor winter staples look decidedly different this year, and others were just canceled. Not so for self-guided snowshoeing. It's pretty easy to socially distance on snowshoe trails, and they're often less crowded than skiing trails. To help everyone make the most of the trails this year, we reached out to local snowshoer and Snowshoe Trail Coordinator for the Central Oregon Nordic Club, Bob Timmer, to get tips for newbies and seasoned snowshoe enthusiasts alike.
Timmer has seen a lot of what Central Oregon snowshoeing has to offer. Since the CONC has a volunteer service agreement with the Forest Service, he's coordinated snowshoe trail maintenance at trails including Edison Butte Sno-Park and the sno-parks off Century Drive since 2013.
"I enjoy Edison—the short loop on Edison because of the lava flows," Timmer said. "And then I enjoy the views from the Peak View trail that we implemented in 2018." Peak View is the area's newest snowshoe addition, located at Upper Three Creek Sno-Park, established in partnership with the Sisters Trail Alliance and Deschutes National Forest Trail Crew. It's a 1.75-mile trail that connects Upper Three Creek and Jeff View Shelter, providing great views of the Cascades.
Trails Recs for Experienced SnowshoersTimmer says snowshoers looking to venture into "unspoiled snow" for the first time should consider venturing inside a loop trail—like the Long Loop at Swampy Lakes Sno-Park.
"That way one always can get back to the trail easily if they get turned around because they're inside a loop," Timmer said. "Then they can experience breaking snow and breaking a new trail and the energy level required to do so."
For those looking for longer options or trails further away from Bend, Timmer recommends Ray Benson Sno-Park on Santiam Pass, which has several Nordic trails. He also recommends heading toward the Newberry National Monument and the 10 Mile Sno-Park.
"At the 10 Mile Sno-Park there is a Nordic trail that's a dual use trail between the 10 Mile Sno-Park and Paulina Lake," Timmer said. "That is a 3-mile trek up along Paulina Creek. You can stop at Paulina Falls and see the falls, commonly iced over—and that's really pretty—and then have the rest of the day up to Paulina Lake."
For some classic views of Mt. Bachelor, consider following alongside (but staying off) the marked Nordic ski trail at Vista Butte Sno-Park. Parking there can be tight. If the lot's full, park at Kapka Sno-Park, and then follow the snowmobile trail under Cascade Lakes Highway to Vista Butte.
Trail Recs for New SnowshoersFor new snowshoers, Timmer recommends the sno-parks off Century Drive, with the easiest trails at Swampy Lakes and Meissner Sno-Park.
"The short loop at Swampy is a good beginner's trail," he said. "As is the short loop at Meissner. The next in difficulty would be the trail out to the Meissner shelter, and the Porcupine Trail at Swampy, heading out clockwise on the trail to the Swampy shelter area." Of course, Timmer mentioned that due to COVID-19, consider staying outside the shelters once arriving.
“At the 10 Mile Sno-Park there is a Nordic trail that’s a dual use trail between the 10 Mile Sno-Park and Paulina Lake. That is a 3-mile trek up along Paulina Creek. You can stop at Paulina Falls and see the falls, commonly iced over—and that’s really pretty—and then have the rest of the day up to Paulina Lake.”—Bob Timmer
Trail Recs for Four-legged SnowshoersTimmer says snowshoers who want to bring their pups along should check out the areas maintained by DogPAC, an organization that works to provide more off-leash recreation in Central Oregon.
For example, there's a short snowshoe trail at Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park, maintained by DogPAC, Timmer said.
"Trails on the north side of Century Drive, dogs are not permitted in the wintertime. So that would be Meissner, Swampy and Dutchman [Flat Sno-Park]," Timmer said. "The snowshoe trails and sno-parks on the south side of Century Drive are dog-friendly—so Wanoga and Edison."
Before heading out, check out the individual sno-park pages on the U.S. Forest Service's website. Each park's page says whether they're open. Due to COVID-19, some amenities aren't available. For example, all front-country shelters are currently closed. For information about trail conditions and snow, check out the Forest Service's Winter Trail Highlights web page.