Best Cross-Country Ski Areas in Washington (Updated for 2021)

The northwestern United States boasts with one of the longest ski season in Northern America, among them Washington State, where ski season starts in mid-November at the latest, and snow lasts as long as mid-April, or even the end of May in higher elevations.

This, along with the fact that the Evergreen State has some fantastically varied terrain available for cross-country skiers from the highest mountain peaks to the relaxed and meandering trails of gentle valleys, makes Washington State the perfect choice for finding the next best cross-country skiing trails.

Best Cross-Country Ski Trails in Washington

Let’s see the 8 best places for cross-country skiing in Washington.

Mount Spokane Nordic Center near Spokane, Washington

  • Trail length: 37 miles
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: Skijoring available on certain trails, and specific days of the week. There is one warming hut available to dogs (and their humans).
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: No
  • Warming Shelters: Selkirk Lodge and two warming huts along the trails
  • Other Services: Ski Lessons, Adaptive Skiing, Rentals, Skijor Clinic;

In the northeastern part of the State of Washington, there lies one of the largest state parks around the magnificent Mt Spokane at the southern tip of the Selkirk Mountains. While Mt Spokane is already well known for its superb downhill skiing, it also features 37 miles of meticulously maintained cross-country ski trails just below the mountain.

Arriving at the Selkirk Lodge, which serves as the starting hub from which no less than six routes start out. The Lodge also offers restrooms, water, tables and a wood stove for your comfort (currently all services are unavailable due to COVID-19, except the bathrooms). If you are a beginner, there’s a learning area just above the Lodge, where you can once more practice the basics before heading out to the hilly trails of Mt Spokane.

Thanks for the photos to the Spokane Nordic Ski Association!

Although Mt Spokane offers something for every XC skier, but most of their cross-country ski trails range from moderate to difficult levels. If you are looking for an easy route, choose the Linder Ridge or the Valley View trails until Junction 1, where you could either choose one of the more difficult trails (such as Sam’s Swoop or Blue Jay) or stay on the safe side by following Linder Ridge for a 2.8 km long gentle downhill along some beautiful winter landscape.

Note, that the trail system being quite extensive, you could easily get far away from Selkirk Lodge, although there are a couple of warming huts along the trails. Also, one of the great thing about cross-country skiing at Mt Spokane is that while it is a superbly maintained trail system with everything one should need for a day of Nordic skiing. On specific days, even skijoring is allowed on a handful of trails, so you can bring your dog too! Come, take in the magnificent views of the Idaho Mountain Ranges and the Canadian Rockies, and experience winter in Washington State to the fullest.

Nordic Ski Lessons at Mt Spokane
Spokane Nordic Ski Association hosts a wide variety of events, classes, and races for all ages and abilities – with individual, group, and private lessons available.
Their Nordic Kids program, for children ages 5-15, teaches kids anything from the basics to proper racing techniques. Their Adaptive Skiing Program also helps people with long-term physical limitations or temporary immobility get a skiing experience of their own. You can even bring your pup and participate in a Skijor Clinic!

White Pass Nordic Center near Yakima, Washington

  • Trail length: 17 miles (as of 2021/22 season)
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: No
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: Not needed
  • Warming Shelters: Available
  • Other Services: Nordic Café, Retail and Rental, Lessons;

Lying along US Route 12, a national scenic byway in itself, White Pass is a must-try for cross-country skiers visiting the area in Washington State. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that White Pass holds unparalleled views over Mt Rainier (also known as Mt Tahoma) which makes the trip worthwhile in itself. But White Pass offers so much more in terms of cross-country skiing!

With an elevation of 4,500 ft at the trailhead, White Pass naturally offers a longer season than most other Nordic ski areas, as well as top quality snow conditions. But they won’t leave it on chance: Trails (which are all two-way traffic) are groomed every day from Thursday to Sundays, as well as on holidays. They also have a separate lane dedicated for snowshoeing, so classic tracks and skate decks are almost always in perfect condition. By the way, the Nordic Center is naturally open for classic and skate cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but they also welcome fans of hok skiing, and fat biking.

White Pass has a variety of trails mostly targeting easy and intermediate cross-country skiers. The only “Expert” trail is “The Hill” though only 0.6 km long, it crosses the 4,600 ft high ridgeline steeply. But there is plenty of adventure for easy and intermediate skiers. Starting at the trailhead, you can either choose the western (more difficult) or the eastern (easier) side of the lake, but either way after 3-4 km you will hit trails heading uphill. If you have the chance to bring snowshoes with you, you should definitely make a detour from the Dog Lake Loop to check out the falls.

As a side note, Richard Brooks, White Pass Nordic Director filled us in on some new developments for cross-country skiers at White Pass: As of next season (2021/2022) the White Pass Nordic Center will expand with 10 kilometers of brand new trails leading to even higher elevations that will guarantee the stunning views of Mt Rainer and the Goat Rocks wilderness. With the new trails comes a new, third yurt as a warming hut, while the already operating yurts function as retail & rental and as a café.

Guided Snowshoeing at Night
If you have always wanted to try snowshoeing under the stars, this is your chance. The White Pass Nordic Center offers guided snowshoe tours every Saturday night. Snacks and beverages provided!

Hurricane Ridge Ski Area near Port Angeles, Washington

  • Trail length: 15-20 miles
  • Classic grooming: Not available
  • Skate grooming: Not available
  • Dog friendly: No
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: Not needed
  • Warming Shelters: Not available
  • Other Services:Visitor Center, Café, Gift Shop, Rental Shop (closed in 2021 due to Covid 19); Lodging nearby.

Hurricane Ridge is really a grim, but beautiful hidden gem atop northwestern Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by 922,651 acres of preserved wilderness that makes home for three distinct ecosystems (coastal, rainforest and sub-alpine), Hurricane Ridge humbly asks for the attention of everyone who loves the wilderness for what it is: wild and unpredictable. If you want to travel back in time for exploring the westernmost ridges of Northern America, this is the place.

Pick up your skis or snowshoes and explore the 15-20 miles of ungroomed Nordic trails or the countless backcountry routes. As you might expect, Hurricane Ridge is primarily recommended for backcountry skiers and for those who’d like to challenge themselves. Just above the visitor center, there is a flat meadow for practicing skills and technique before heading downhill (and later climbing uphill) for the greatest views you could imagine. The photos below (Thanks for Olympic National Parks!) will show you what I’m really talking about.

Photos: Courtesy of Aramark

There is no better after a day of exhaustive cross-country skiing in the cold winter, than retreating to the warmth and coziness of a nearby lodge. This is the Lake Quinault Lodge, a three hours drive from Hurricane Ridge, and an excellent choice for residing after a day of skiing and before the next day of exploring the southern parts of the Olympic Peninsula.

Check out their special room deal that is most ideal for cross-country skiers: “Book 1 Night, get the 2nd night Free” special is offered October-May.

Lake Wenatchee State Park near Leavenworth, Washington

  • Trail length: 30+ miles
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: Only the Chiwawa Sno-Park after 10 AM
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: Not needed
  • Warming Shelters: Not available
  • Other Services: Lessons, Winter Camping, Sledding Hill, Retail and Rental

With more than 30 miles of cross-country ski trails groomed for both skate and classic skiing, the Lake Wenatchee State Park located near Stevens Pass in Central Washington makes for a worthwhile cross-country skiing. The cross-country ski trail system at Lake Wenatchee is divided into several sno-parks each offering something different. The Lake Wenatchee North and South Sno-Parks are located on the respective banks of the Wenatchee River which empties the glacier-fed Lake Wenatchee itself.

It shouldn’t surprise you that many of the available trails are located along the scenic lakeshore, which you can all enjoy with your family. Since the Lake Wenatchee Sno-Park is one of the best choice for families in Washington. Most of the trails in the North and South Sno-Parks are rated the easiest, and the park on the southern side of the river even has a superb sledding hill, and winter camping availability near the beach.

If you are bored of the aforementioned easy Nordic trails, Lake Wenatchee also has a couple of more exciting routes in store for you. To the south, at the Kahler Glen golf course, another set of trails join the trail network, this is the Nason Ridge Sno-Park with 12 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. There is a large, outer loop and an adjoining inner loop taking you to the top of the ridge for the unforgettable views of Lake Wenatchee and the valley below. These trails are made for intermediate Nordic skiers, with a couple of steep parts giving you a challenge. The Kahler trails are connected to the South Park trails so you can start at either point. There is an intermediate out and back trail above Nason Creek called Lower Nason. From Lower Nason the adventurous can take the loop up to the top of Nason Ridge. Given the distance, this is a really challenging route!

Thanks for the photos to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commision!

The nearby Chiwawa Sno-Park is a 5 mile lollypop loop along the Wenatchee River. When the snow depth is sufficient an additional trail is groomed above Chiwawa Loop Road, Squirrel Run that connects with the See and Ski trail along the River. These trails roll up and down and are rated intermediate. Chiwawa Sno-Park is also the best choice for cross-country skiers with dogs, since dogs are allowed on the trails every day of the week after 10 AM.

The Lake Wenatchee State Park, Kahler Glen and Chiwawa Sno-Park all require a Seasonal Washington State Groomed Snow Park Permit or a Discover Pass and daily snow pass. Passes are available at South Lake Wenatchee State Park parking are or at the Midway Market.

Finally, Plain Valley is also an ideal destination for beginners and excellent for skaters. The trails are wide, and you always have the chance to choose from staying on the relatively flat main route or going uphill. It’s all optional. Daily Passes are available at the hardware store, proceeds support and excellent youth racing program for more the 100 local youth. Lessons and rentals are also available. Thanks for the contribution to Rob from Lake Wenatchee Info!

Methow Trails at Winthrop, Washington

  • Trail length: 120 miles
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: 40 km of groomed, dog friendly trails
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: No
  • Warming Shelters: Several warming huts available
  • Other Services: Lodges, Fat biking, Snowshoeing;

Located in north-central Washington, Methow Trails offers the largest cross-country ski trail network in the entire Northern America. With more than 120 miles of interconnected, groomed trails, the trail system lying in Methow Valley has everything anyone might need from all difficulty levels of nordic ski trails to in-town facilities and conveniently placed warming huts.

The cross-country ski trails in Methow Valley are actually divided into four distinct areas, all of which is connected by the 32 km long Methow Community Trail. Each of these areas targets a different group of skiers, while the Community Trail serves as an in-between corridor, or sometimes as a literal bridge, if you ski over the Tawlks Foster Suspension Bridge over Methow River.

If you have just started cross-country skiing, you should definitely start at the Mazama Trails that are located at the very bottom of Methow Valley. These trails lead you through gentle rolling terrain between scenic farm- and woodlands along Methow River. Despite their low altitude, these trails often get more snow even in the early and late season than other nearby trails, thanks to their closer proximity to the Cascade Mountains. Tip for the best beginner’s trail: the 3 km long Goat Wall Loop (no. 4) with spectacular views of the Goat Wall.

South of the Upper Methow Valley Trails (including the Mazama Trails) you could either go for the Rendezvous trails, or follow the Community Trail to the south. The Rendezvous Trails offer intermediate and advanced level cross-country skiing at as higher elevations as 4,000 ft with direct trailside overlooks. Steep uphills and sharp turns make these trails challenging, but even more worthwhile. There are five “Rendezvous huts” available for rent dispersed above the breathtakingly beautiful valleys, all of which could be the perfect remote and romantic winter getaway. Another nice touch, that a number of Rendezvous Trails are also available for skijoring.

View over Methow Valley cross-country skiing

If you want to take it easier, go for the gentle (and dog friendly) loops at Big Valley, or following the Community Trail, explore the Winthrop Trails at the southern side of the river. The Winthrop Trails offer the most facilities in the area with hotels, restaurants and ski shops, so it is ideal for families and anyone who doesn’t wants to get too far away from the comforts of towns.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the Sun Mountain Trails for finding the most variety in the entire trail network. The scenic views and mixed terrain of Sun Mountain will already have some familiarity for regular cross-country skiers with several loops of different levels all circling around the Beaver Pond at the valley bottom. For more challenge and more remote areas, head south to explore Thompson Ridge, and climb hundreds of feet elevations in merely a couple of kilometers.

After an exhausting day of cross-country skiing, you could retire to the warmth and comfort of the Sun Mountain Lodge, located at a picturesque mountaintop. Pamper yourself in the spa (Swedish Sports Massage – well recommended), have a heartening dinner, then relax in one of the outdoor hot tubs before another day on the trails. Isn’t Methow Valley a real paradise for cross-country skiing?

Cross-Country Skiing with Children
Methow Trails proudly offers free cross-country skiing on our trails to all children 17 and younger every day!
Their “StorySki” trails made especially for children are 1 km long cross-country ski loops with stories from children’s books, while the “WildSide” trails engage and teach children between ages 6-12 playfully.

Salmon La Sac Sno-Park near Cle Elum, Washington

  • Trail length: 3.7 miles
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: Yes (on ungroomed trails)
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: No
  • Warming Shelters: Not available

The little brother of the nearby Snoqualmie Pass, Salmon La Sac is a small and quiet place, where no one should worry about the negative effects of mass tourism. Salmon La Sac lies in the gorgeous Cle Elum Valley of Washington State, and if you like such small-scale places like this, you will immediately fall in love with it.

The cross-country ski trails start out just across the bridge over Cle Elum River. For a little bit of sightseeing, you will also see the historic guard station built in 1912 along the way. The flat loops meander through evergreen forests with several open areas for a wider vista. You will glide alongside frozen streams and rivers (namely Cooper River and Cle Elum River), these easy, gentle runs are an ideal place for family winter recreation, or trying cross-country skiing for the first time.

Highlands Nordic Sno-Park at Tonasket, Washington

  • Trail length: 22,3 miles
  • Classic grooming: Available
  • Skate grooming: Available
  • Dog friendly: On the east side only!
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: No
  • Warming Shelters: Available
  • Other Services: Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

Hidden in the Okanogan Highlands there is one of the best cross-country ski trails in the entire United States (a strictly personal opinion) and surely one of the greatest gems of Washington State. The Highlands Nordic Sno-Park just below the Canadian border isn’t the largest network of cross-country skiing trails, nor it is the most modern packed with facilities, but it is a gorgeous place suited to practice any level of cross-country skiing with abundant amounts of snow every year.

The trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing, and some of the trails are shared with snowmobiles too. But the plenty of space, and the large number of possible routes make it easy for everyone to find what they are looking for. There are several trails for easy, intermediate and difficult level skiers, and there are even a couple of ungroomed trails for those looking for the most challenge.

The meadows, creeks and wooded areas are surrounded by the unforgettable views of the Cascade Mountains, the Baldy Mountain or the neighboring Mt Bonaparte, and they would never let you get bored of the landscape. Beginners should try the Sunshine Loop for some of the best views of Mt Bonaparte, while advanced skiers are recommended to check out the Twista Vista trail, if they want to find some magnificent overlooks – but beware the steep uphill!

And if you are feeling tired, there is even a super warming hut at the White Tail trail, which is open almost all season, being the first to open and the last one to close. Build a fire, eat your lunch, and relax in the winter warmth and calmness of the Okanogan Highlands.

Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area near Wallawalla, Washington

  • Trail length: 10 miles
  • Classic grooming: Available at Tamarack Trail and Wandering Wolf
  • Skate grooming: Available at Tamarack Trail and Wandering Wolf
  • Dog friendly: No
  • Lighted Trails: No
  • Snowmaking: No
  • Warming Shelters: Not available

It’s a bit of a cheat, since the Horseshoe Praierie Nordic Ski Area is just south of Washington State, in Oregon, but as one of the best places to cross-country ski in the Blue Mountain region and around Wallawalla, we thought it deserves an honorable mention, most other options being too remote and too wild for Nordic skiers.

This relatively small area offers some great skiing for novice cross-country skiers and families with all its signage and mapping updated this year. It is now easily accessible at Highway 204 for both classic and skate skiers.

Horseshoe Prairie is an excellent place to acquire all the basic skills for cross-country skiing, and to find challenging but short trail sections to level up. Beginners should head to the Tamarack Trail loop, while intermediate skiers should find more variety on the open slope of the Prairie Loop or in the pine woods of the Wandering Wolf trail. The hardest trail reminding of backcountry conditions is the ungroomed Umatilla Rim Trail offering beautiful vistas over the wilderness.

You should definitely check out the Viewpoint trail, which is accessible from several trails and offers an impressive view over the canyon. The trails are maintained and groomed thanks to the hard work of volunteers at the Blues Crew group of the Blue Mountain Land Trust. Thanks for the tip to Gwen from OutsideWallawalla!

Washington State’s Winter Recreation Program

Several of the above mentioned cross-country ski trails are part of the Washington State Parks’ Winter Recreation Program, making so-called Sno-Parks available for skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers to be able to safely park and access the trailheads. Sno-Park permits are required to park at all Sno-Parks between Dec. 1 and March 31 for winter recreation activities.

A Sno-Park permit is always required to park at a Washington Sno-Park between Nov. 1 and April 31, including the 12 annual State Parks free days when no Discover Pass is required for parking at Washington state parks. The Discover Pass is no longer required to accompany the daily or seasonal Sno-Park permit, even in Sno-Parks on Washington State Parks land.

In addition to the seasonal permit, a special groomed sticker is required to park at Lake Wenatchee and Mount Spokane. The special groomed sticker is not required with the daily Sno-Park permit, even on these properties.

Revenue generated by the special groomed sticker pays for more frequent trail grooming, lot clearing, sanitation and staffing at these high-use Sno-Parks.

Please note: You need a one day or annual Discover Pass when visiting these WA DNR winter trailheads: All Ahtanum State Forest locations and Rattlesnake Trailhead. For more information or to purchase an annual Discover Pass, please visit the Discover Pass site.

Thanks for the info to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission!

Do You Know a Better Cross-Country Skiing in Washington?
If your favorite cross-country ski area is not listed above, feel free to contact us at contact [at] norwiski [dot] com.
We are eager to find out more about the best cross-country ski areas in Washington!