Winter Vacations in Washington State

The snow-covered mountains and forests of Washington State make a fantastic winter playground where fans of such winter sports as snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling will find trails all over the state, all located within an hour or two drive of some of Washington's largest cities and towns.

In particular, the areas just east of the Cascade Mountains are especially fun during the winter as they offer visitors tons of fresh-fallen snow and ample sunlight, and there are even a number of great Christmas towns in the state if a holiday vacation is more what you're after.

Whatever it is that draws you to the Pacific Northwest this winter, Washington State has plenty to offer tourists and residents alike in terms of winter activities and getaways. Explore the following list and start planning your winter vacation today—you'll want to book early for some of the resorts and lodges as space fills up quickly during the busy ski season.

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    Horses Pulling Sleigh Full of People in Winter near Red Tail Canyon Farm (near Leavenworth)
    Red Tail Canyon Farm near Leavenworth (Washington State Tourism)

    Leavenworth, Washington, is a stop along Amtrak's Empire Builder route whose abundant snow and sunshine make the area wonderful for both downhill and cross-country skiing.

    In addition to the local Leavenworth Ski Hill, Mission Ridge Ski Resort and Stevens Pass are both within easy driving distance of Leavenworth and the nearby Wenatchee National Forest has trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, making Leavenworth a great base for a winter vacation.

    Combine these resorts and slopes with the array of fun restaurants, unique shops, and charming accommodations in the town of Leavenworth itself and you have a winter vacation destination that will appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.

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    Methow River and Snow from a Hot Air Balloon in the Sky Above Winthrop
    View from a Hot Air Balloon in the Sky Above Winthrop (Washington State Tourism/Sunny Walter)

    Located just east of Washington's North Cascades, Methow Valley includes the towns of Pateros, Twisp, Winthrop, and Mazama, and this scenic region is a favorite destination for snow-sport enthusiasts, particularly cross-country skiing.

    Over 120 miles of groomed, interconnected trails and sunny conditions make for great family outings, and for an extra special winter getaway, stay at the world-class Sun Mountain Lodge to enjoy the snow along with fine dining, spa treatments, and upscale accommodations.

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    Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington
    © Javier Velazquez-Muriel via Flickr

    A popular destination year-round and just under an hour's drive from Seattle, Olympic National Park offers guests a variety of winter activities and accommodations perfect for the whole family. Hurricane Ridge is especially great for winter sports, but the season doesn't really hit until closer to the end of December.

    For a winter vacation that's a bit warmer, consider visiting the nearby coastal resort of Iron Springs, which offers visitors a chance to fish, hike, bird watch, explore beaches and parks, and even visit a few local farms.

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    View of Mount Rainier Peak from Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park
    © Angela M. Brown (2008)

    Just east of Seattle you'll find the massive 14,000-feet-plus Mount Rainier and its 6,000-elevation peak Sunrise, which is the highest point in the state accessible by car.

    In terms of winter activities, there's no shortage on Mount Rainier throughout much of the winter including winter camping, sledding and sliding, ranger-guided snowshoe walks, skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

    Snow begins falling in late October and continues through February or March, meaning you'll have plenty of opportunities to visit the snow-capped mountain throughout the winter.