Exploring a winter wonderland, one step at a time — Photo courtesy of Steve Mason, Getty Images
You can snowshoe just about anywhere with a base of snow. Surrounded by landscapes that look powdered in confectioners’ sugar, snowshoeing is a peaceful way to commune with nature. Compared to snow skiing and snowboarding, there’s no steep learning curve or expensive equipment. It’s a good low-impact exercise, and you don’t need to be in top shape to have fun.
Simply slip the snowshoes over your regular waterproof shoes or boots and start walking, lifting your knees a little higher than you normally would. The racquet-like base of the snowshoe distributes your bodyweight over a broader area, making it feel like you’re floating over a sea of snow. Poles are helpful for balance, but not necessary.
Here are 10 awe-inspiring places to give snowshoeing a try.
In a national park
Snowshoeing in Yosemite National Park — Photo courtesy of Rush Creek Lodge
Yosemite National Park’s majestic beauty is breathtaking in all seasons. In winter, a sprinkling of snowflakes dusts the giant sequoias, creating a stunning contrast of white against red-hued bark. Rush Creek Lodge, located just outside the park’s entrance, has a recreation program run by expert naturalists, who offer a half-day group snowshoe trek with equipment included. After communing with nature, soothe tired muscles at the lodge’s indoor-outdoor spa.
At a zoo
Sightseeing in the snow at Utica Zoo — Photo courtesy of Utica Zoo
Central New York is a snowbelt, and the Utica Zoo takes full advantage of its geographic position with a snowshoe trail that winds past the Zebra Pavilion and African Lion Habitat. The path is accessible when there’s at least six inches of snow, presenting up-close glimpses of Canadian lynxes and Mexican wolves at play. The zoo rents snowshoes and poles for a nominal fee.
By the sea
Exploring Maine’s Marginal Way — Photo courtesy of Beachmere Inn
Maine’s coastline is dotted with lighthouses, rugged cliffs and quiet coves. The village of Ogunquit’s coastal walking path, Marginal Way, is a 1.25-mile trail that leads to Perkins Cove, an artist’s enclave with a working dock. During frosty months, snowshoeing is an excellent way to enjoy the breathtaking seascape. Along the way, park benches offer resting spots that hug the coastline so closely, you might be christened by sea spray. Family-owned Beachmere Inn has direct access to Marginal Way and free snowshoes for overnight guests.
At an art museum
Exploring the campus at Clark Art Institute, thanks to Project Snowshoe — Photo courtesy of Clark Art Institute
Williamstown, Massachusetts, surrounded by the Berkshire’s gentle hills, is home to The Clark Art Institute, which embraces the intersection between art and nature. When a blanket of white snow covers the institute’s 140 acres, the sprawling campus transforms into an ideal setting for a snowshoe adventure. The Clark’s Project Snowshoe offers hundreds of pairs of complimentary snowshoes for no-cost fun.
At a state park
Minnesota State Park, one of many places to snowshoe in the state — Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota
Minnesotans don’t shy away from arctic weather; rather, they embrace the frigid climate by bundling up and heading outdoors. Snowshoe opportunities can be found across the state, from the Twin Cities to the untouched wilderness of the North Shore of Lake Superior. It is permitted at all 75 state parks and recreation areas, on or off trail, except on those that have been specifically groomed for another activity, such as snowmobiling. Many state parks rent snowshoes for a nominal fee, and several hold evening events on trails lit with lanterns or luminaries.
At a country inn
Winter wonderland at The Hermitage Inn — Photo courtesy of The Hermitage Inn
Vermont’s mountains and snowy glades are a winter wonderland. With 112 acres of countryside, an apple orchard, a covered bridge and miles of trails for snowshoeing, The Hermitage Inn looks lifted from a Nordic fairytale. After a day spent in the cold air, feast on cheese fondue as you thaw in the cozy comfort of a private gondola. Meals are made with ingredients sourced from nearby farms, orchards and dairies, while a top-notch wine cellar adds a bacchanalian touch.
At an environmental studies center
Snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies — Photo courtesy of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is a nonprofit science and environmental educational organization committed to providing immersive programming for residents and visitors. The center offers small-group snowshoe tours, with instruction and snowshoes, that explore spruce and fir forests, winter animal habitats and mountain ecology. With an absence of summer foliage, excellent views of resident birds are possible.
At a nature center
Wooden snowshoes for rent at RMSC Cumming Nature Center — Photo courtesy of RMSC Cumming Nature Center
In New York’s Finger Lakes Region, 900-acre Cumming Nature Center is part of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. In winter, it looks like the inside of a snow globe, with trails winding by ponds and a sugar shack. Watch beaver activity and spot animal tracks in the alabaster landscape. Traditional wooden snowshoes are available for rent for a low price, adding yesteryear charm. Children can enjoy an indoor break at the Nature Play Room, with touch tables and free popcorn.
At an all-inclusive resort
All in a day at all-inclusive Woodloch Resort — Photo courtesy of Woodloch Resort
Woodloch is a Pennsylvania resort with a loyal clientele who return year after year. There’s a nostalgic vibe, with plentiful meals, tons of activities and wholesome evening entertainment included in the price. Families flock here to enjoy togetherness and time outdoors.
When the flakes start to fly, guests can grab a pair of snowshoes from the Skate Shop and venture out on the nature trail or around picturesque Lake Teedyuskung. Keep your eyes open for scurrying woodland critters and birds, including bald eagles, soaring overhead.
In the Big Apple
The author snowshoeing in Central Park in New York — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi
Urban snowshoeing is gaining popularity. I snowshoe in Central Park near my home in New York City. Circled by snow-dusted trees, I like to blaze a trail across the meadow. For a moment, it’s quiet, the silence broken only by a crunch underfoot. I look up and see the Midtown skyline a few miles south, as I hear the brake of the M10 bus in the distance. It’s a frosty Shangri-La in the heart of the Big Apple.