The snow is early this year in the Cascades, so on Thanksgiving weekend, we spent a day in the winter wonderland. Starting at the Frog Lake Sno Park just south of Mount Hood, we took the Pacific Crest Trail to the junction with the Twin Lakes trail for a 4 mile snowshoe hike in the snow.
[additional info about this hike from my hiking book]
Just like hiking, snowshoeing is an easy way to trek through winter wonderlands. Leave behind the heavy crowds at other Mount Hood winter destinations on this forested snowshoe hike to a small mountain lake.
- Distance: 4.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 700 ft.
- Difficulty: easy-moderate
- Hike type: out and back
- Trail: snow in winter
- Typically open: Oct. – April, but check on snow conditions first
- Best time of year (for snowshoeing): Dec. – Feb.
- Features: snow, forest, mountain lake
- Fees/permits: Oregon Sno-Park permit required Nov. 1 through April 30
- Agency: Hood River Ranger District, Mount Hood National Forest
Snowshoeing is just like hiking, only with snowshoes on your feet in addition to your boots, so a slightly wider stance is needed when hiking. Otherwise, it’s an easy way to enjoy the beauty of winter in the mountains without needing a lot of gear or the risks of downhill skiing. Good snow conditions for snowshoeing in this area are when there is at least 3-5 feet of snow on the ground, preferably just after recent snowfall so the trail isn’t a hard-pack of icy snow.
Outfitting for a snowshoe hike in the winter includes a base layer of wool or synthetic material for moisture wicking insulation (cotton is not a good choice since it stays wet and pulls heat from your body instead of insulating it), a middle layer for warmth, and a top waterproof layer including rain pants and waterproof jacket. The key is to wear layers so it is easy to make adjustments as needed to stay warm or cool off.
Trekking poles outfitted with a snow basket are helpful for keeping your balance and crossing any difficult terrain. One additional tip for snowshoeing: it’s much easier to step forward on snowshoes than it is to step backwards, so to avoid falling, move forward in a circle to turn around.
Look for the Twin Lakes trailhead at the north end of the parking lot near the restroom. Snowmobilers aren’t allowed on this trail and will instead be using the Frog Lake trail at the south end of the parking lot.
After a very short distance on this trail connector, turn right on the Pacific Crest Trail #2000. The forest is full of towering mountain hemlocks with snow clinging to the sprays of branches. Climb gradually for a half mile to a sharp turn in the trail. Continue north for another mile to a junction with the Twin Lakes trail. Turn right and head downhill along a ridge slope to the small mountain lake basin that holds Lower Twin Lake. An open area in the woods beside the lake makes for a nice spot to take a break before heading back the same way. It’s common for birds to dip and pick up any stray tidbits of food you drop, so don’t be alarmed if a fast swooping bird buzzes right by. Return the same way.
- From Portland, drive east on Highway 26 for 45 miles to the Frog Lake Sno-Park at Wapinitia Pass, located 7 miles southeast of Government Camp and 4 miles south of the Hwy. 26/35 junction.
- Park near the north end of the parking lot. The trailhead is to the left of the vault toilets.
- Drive time from Portland: 1 hour 40 minutes