Winter recreation and hidden dining treasures abound
written by Richard Durrance
Winter is the season for life along the Snoqualmie Pass. Named for the Snoqualmie people, once one of the area’s most populous tribes in the Puget Sound region, Snoqualmie Pass is still an attraction bolstered by its natural resources.
Keep in mind that in February and March, the pass still receives more than 70 inches of snow per month. Snow and expectations are piled high. Often there are skis of alpine, backcountry or cross-country width in the car or snowshoes. In any case, playing on the Snoqualmie Pass in winter and early spring is going to be an adventure.
Your trip, however, doesn’t have to be quite so transactional. Here we explore options and resources to make your out-and-back a full weekend.
SUMMIT AT SNOQUALMIE ALPENTAL
With 2,280 feet of vertical, twenty-five chair lifts and nearly 2,000 skiable acres, Summit at Snoqualmie has enough height and width to explore over many days. Plan a full day at Summit at Snoqualmie with a first-chair start to avoid traffic.
After the lates start filling up chairs, take your late breakfast break at Silver Fir Cafe, where you can get coffee, tea or an early lunch of Asian fare or burgers. You’ll be making turns when others are making haste to fight lunch crowds.
Summit is composed of four mountain areas: Alpental, Summit East, Summit Central and Summit West.
A quad and three double chairs at Alpental serve the steepest runs at Summit. Summit East has a happy mix of grades and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Nordic center is here if your agenda puts you on skinny skis. Not merely for the beginner, the Nordic trails at Summit have 70 kilometers of groomed trails that entice even the elite XC skiers.
Summit Central is the food and family hub. A variety of ski school grads plus tubing and a base of restaurants makes Central the place to go for families and the place to avoid if you’re not a skiing family.
Summit West is another good learning area and, like Central and Alpental, is open for night skiing if you’re escaping on a work day.
A full day at Snoqualmie should feel like an accomplishment. Start your après ski at Silver Fir Bar or Tiroler Stube. The former has cocktails, beer and food at the base of Summit Central. The latter has beer and food at the base of Alpental.
For lodging, look to Nearby Summit Inn in Snoqualmie Pass. It has standard rooms, a big communal hot tub and good breakfast options, as its restaurant is Summit Pancake House.
If you want something a little more upscale, you’ll head down the east side of the pass to Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum. If you do, make dinner plans at the resort’s Stovehouse for Wagyu burgers, or at Orchard Restaurant in Cle Elum for handmade pastas or at Brick Saloon in nearby Roslyn for a burger and the Roslyn salad.
SNOWSHOEING • FROZEN FALLS
Today is a day of opportunity. Bring snowshoes or rent them at Summit at Snoqualmie and head to Gold Creek Snowshoe trailhead for a nearly 3-mile flat out and back snowshoe under the Cascades and out around Gold Creek Pond. You’ll need a Washington State sno-park pass, which is $10 for the day or just $30 for an annual pass. Bring water, chocolate and charged cell phones that you keep close to the warmth of your body.
Another must-do today is hiking or snowshoeing to the base of Franklin Falls. In winter, the 135-foot falls freeze and create a marvelous setting for photos. Park at the Denny Creek area and expect a two-mile out and back and a memorable sight that will light up any Instagram account.
Plan your dining for the night in North Bend, just a little more than 20 miles to the west. For such a small town, there are at least two top-notch options. Iron Duck Public House has steak frites and a full menu of American whiskeys. Or pop in to Gianfranco Bafaro’s Il Paesano Ristorante for housemade pastas and pizza with an impressive list of Italian wines.
SNOQUALMIE CASINO • HIT THE TRAIL
If you’re feeling plucky and lucky, hit Snoqualmie Casino on your way home. Just a few miles west of downtown North Bend, Snoqualmie Casino has baccarat, roulette, pai gow poker and a sportsbook if you want to get behind your team that Sunday.
On your final morning, grab a coffee and pastry at Pioneer Roasting in Cle Elum or Huxdotter Coffee in North Bend and set your sights on the Palouse to Cascades trail for a final act of outdoor bathing. Take a dip into a short section of the trail before heading home. This trail can be accessed on the pass at Hyak, Easton and Cle Elum and is one of the longest rail-to-trail conversions in the United States. This former railroad line, now a state park, goes from North Bend to the the Idaho border along a 300-mile path. This should put an aspirational bookmark in your adventure calendar for summer, when the trails are clear and you can hike, run or bike forever.
Brick Saloon, Roslyn
Il Paesano Ristorante, North Bend
Iron Duck Public House, North Bend
Orchard Restaurant, Cle Elum
The Stovehouse, Suncadia
Snoqualmie Pass Hideaways
Gold Creek Snowshoe
The Summit at Snoqualmie