This time of year, I start to get questions about where Tacoma and South Sound area families can head to go sledding or for snow play.
Here’s a round up of places to head if you want some real sledding and snow action. While this probably goes without saying, these are weather dependent. Always check condition reports and be prepared before you go!
The snow play area at Paradise is always a popular place for winter fun. Get your fill of sledding and snow play Thursdays-Mondays, from late December to early March. Note from SFM: As of January 6th, 2020, it was not open. I have to think it will be soon with all the snow the mountains have been getting.
Note that there are some very specific rules about the kinds of sleds permitted, and this is the only area in MRNP where sledding is permitted. Families with children 8 and up may also want to join a ranger lead snowshoe walk. You’ll have to pay the daily vehicle fee to enter the park or show a pass. If you happen to have a 4th grader you can get in free with the Every Kid in a Park initiative. This is an older post, but the info. is still good.
The sledding hill was still closed as of 1/10/2020. There is a line with a recording you can call for updates, and I would suggest always calling before you go 509-656-2230.
Directions: In good weather, you can reach Hyak in about an hour from Tacoma. From eastbound I-90, take exit 54 and follow the signs. You will pay $20/vehicle for the Snow Park Permit and you will also need a Discover Pass. Go as EARLY as you can possibly get up there, because the parking lot’s 150 spaces WILL fill up and the rangers will turn folks away.
There are no rope tows or magic carpet, so be prepared to walk up the huge hill with your own sleds or inner tubes. There is also a bunny hill nearby. This is also a popular base camp for snow shoeing! Best of all, heated restrooms are in the parking lot. Note from SFM: This post was originally written by our previous assistant, Keri. I haven’t been here personally, and if you check out the fb page below you’ll quickly discover that there is a difference of opinion about whether this spot is awesome and fun or over crowded and unsafe. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The Central Cascades Winter Recreation Council is a fb group you can join for more information. Someone usually has a recent report on the sledding area, though most of the group members are cross country skiers and not really fans of the sled hill from what I can tell!
Note that this is a multi use area, so brush up on your snow manners so you know how to share the area with snoweshoers, cross country skiers, and other winter adventurers! You will see some references to skate tracks-this refers to tracks for other recreation; there is no safe area in Western Washington for ice skating, outside of a rink!
Snoqualmie is a really great place to go tubing because it’s very well maintained, with a hill that’s 550 feet long, an elevation of 40 feet, 8 lanes for tubing, and a rope tow to bring you back up to the top of the hill with little effort. There is a Tubing Lodge nearby for food and warm drinks. Open!
While this is pricey, it is a lot of fun. My teenager has been and felt that two hours was plenty of time and said he was able to go down the runs (which are huge!) at least 20 times. Their website has video and lots of other good info. and tips. This link is the best for current conditions and pricing.
Drive about 90 mins northeast from Tacoma to Suncadia, where the Winterfest does not disappoint. Note from SFM: The Suncadia winter recreation page hasn’t been updated for 2020. I assume this info. is mostly the same, but do check first.
Rope Tow Inner Tubing is offered on weekends. They also have other winter fun like sleigh rides. Check out the their winter recreation page for more info. An overnight here isn’t cheap, but this would definitely be a fun mini vacation. Do check hours and days on activities, as quite a few are only available on the weekends. PS Leavenworth is another winter road trip option-consider going here on a weekday and after the holidays unless you don’t mind having a lot of company.
Half Camp Near Crystal Mountain
My kiddos took ski lessons at Crystal Mountain for several years, and until recently I had no clue you could sled anywhere near here. You definitely CANNOT sled on the ski and snowboard runs or at Crystal Mountain itself. But, there is an area just before you get to Crystal Mountain where apparently you can! As far as I can tell, it’s the Half Camp area you reach via the Crystal Mountain access road. I looked on You Tube, and it looks like it’s sort of behind those buildings to the left of the lifts where they have the horse corrals in the summer. Several folks said if you go up to Crystal you’ll spot the sledding, though like I said-I sure did not!! Here are the best directions I’ve found to the Half Camp area if you want to try this. Or Another option is to do an overnight at the Alta Vista resort nearby! If you try this or know all about it, please do me a favor and leave a comment! PS I see a fair amount of trees in the You Tube video, so please do proceed with caution if you try this (I’d probably just go to the area at Paradise, but I am a chicken……). PSS If you’re looking for current information on conditions, make sure you’ve found Crystal Mountain in Washington. There is also one in Michigan. That’s not near here. 🙂
Road to Crystal Mountain DIY
Just want the kids to see some snow? Do it Yourself! Drive towards Crystal on 410 heading past Bonney Lake and Enumclaw. Before you get to Crystal Mountain, you will find several areas where you can pull off and make a snow angel and throw some snowballs. SFM safety note: My legal team wants you to know that I am NOT advising any sledding or similar activity in an ungroomed area, and that any of these spots could have hidden rocks, stumps, etc, so Consider yourself warned! Try the pull out view points/ picnic areas between Forest Service Road 72 and 73. PS I haven’t driven up here recently. If you have, and you can share a snow report, please do!
If everything about snow play sounds fun except for the drive, you may want to check in with your parks department! The link will take you to some options from Metro Parks Tacoma (you need not be a Tacoma resident to register). Your parks department likely has some, too.
Local Ski Resort
While this is in NO WAY a frugal activity, all the area ski resorts do offer ski and snowboarding lessons and lift packages, and their beginner lesson and lift deals are pretty much the best they offer. Note that these spots generally prohibit other kinds of snow play-and really-do you want to go sledding in the middle of a bunch of boarders? I think not! If you’re new to the area, most folks in the Tacoma area go to Crystal. If you can go during the week, it will be much more fun than a busy weekend. The boys and I have done lessons and rentals here many times. One of us is now a very good skier. Two of us like the bunny slope.
Wait around for snow in the lowlands, and be prepared with your sled or inner tube to take the streets in your own neighborhood park! Or, just chill out indoors and make some snowflakes instead!This little project uses coffee filters and food coloring. It may be the most (only?) Pinterest worthy project on this site!
Got another good option for families who can’t wait for snow days? Leave a comment and let us know! If you do head out, don’t forget to take snacks, chains, and warm clothes. Be sure to check the comments for advice from other readers, too!