Oregon Winter Day Trip

Oregon may not be as well known for winter sports as other states but don’t let that fool you. January is a great time for an Oregon winter day-trip!

Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are all great choices at Walt Haring sno-park! Here is everything you need to know!

Where is Walt-Haring sno-park?

You can find it just East of Willamette Pass on Oregon Highway 97.

  • From Eugene: Take 58 East to 97 South. It is on your right, just North of Chemult.
  • From Bending: Take 97 South and look for it just North of Chemult.
  • From Kamath Falls: Jump on 97 North

Is there a trail system?

Yes! There is a complex system of cross country skiing or snow shoe trails. The map shows these as groomed but we didn’t see any indication that grooming had been happening.

In any case, there is a big trail system. I recommend looking at the map and understanding that there are two main loops, however. Each loop varies in length from approximately .5 to over 2 miles and the first two loops are connected to all other loops by a subtle connector trail. We were having so much fun that we found ourselves over an hour an half away from the parking lot and still going further into the woods! The only way back was to keep following the loops out and wait to head back or to turn around.

I can’t remember the last time we turned around while hiking but today was the day!

What should I know about the trails?

  1. The trail is well marked by blue diamonds. Where the diamonds are absent, there are yellow ribbons in the trees. I could pretty much always see a marker ahead.
  2. The distances on the map are for each individual loop, not the distance from the trail head. I can’t stress that enough!
  3. Trail names and distances are absent from the trail markers after you get past the initial two loops. Trails are only marked by blue diamonds. No other trail markers are present.
  4. The first loops (upper and lower runner) start at the campground. There is a lot of opportunity to be in the sunshine. The loops further from the trail head are in the forest and a heavier canopy makes it shady and cooler.
Be sure to check out the connector between the closer loops and the further. Although it is all fun, once you take that connector, there is not fast way back!

What is the terrain?

It was relatively flat at the beginning and then hills and valleys as we got back the two initial loops. Views of Diamond Peak were limited by the trees had personalities and there wasn’t anyone else in site!

The snow was too sunbaked for skiing but it was perfect for snowshoeing, however.

Follow the blue diamonds through the old fire area and into the thicker forest.

Do I need 4 wheel drive?

I would say “no” but here is how it was plowed today. We were alone when we pulled in but two trucks and trailers arrived later and quickly got stuck in the unplowed part of the parking lot. I found this parking lot very interesting as it was plowed for driving but if you parked where it was plowed it blocked the road. In any case, we did not use our 4 wheel drive but can see where it may have come in handy!

Chains are required on Willamette Pass if you come from the West.

Parking lot is huge but was mostly not plowed.

What amenities are there?

  • A warming hut! A nice warming hut was just a few feet from where we parked. It is complete with a picnic table and wood stove. Be sure to come prepared with wood!
Warming Hut. Oregon Winter day trip!
Warming hut picnic table
  • Bathrooms. They were open but posted that they are not maintained in the winter.
  • Picnic tables. Besides the one in the warming hut, there were picnic tables near the parking lot and at every campsite, of course. There was too much snow on them for us but there were plenty around and I can see where they would be useful on a sunny winter day.
4 sets of bathrooms are near the parking lot. They are not maintained, however.

Next time, I am bringing wood and friends (post-Covid, of course) and setting up shop in the warming hut. A fire in the wood stove and dinner in the hut would be the perfect end to an Oregon Winter Day Trip!

Next up is further progress on our Sprinter Van Conversion. We are working with Roost Vans on our DIY conversion so be sure to stay in touch and see how it goes!

Check out Cresent Lake sno park and Santiam Pass!

4 Things That Add Fun To Winter Van Life

When I am talking about winter van life, I really mean winter in the Pacific Northwest. That means rain in many places and wet snow in others.

1. Slippers

In the Pacific Northwest, mud is an entire situation in itself. It adds another dimension to cold and wet winter socks!

Honestly, I am not much of a slipper person myself but when it comes to traveling in the van, I am fully onboard with slippers. Here are the reasons why!

We like to hike. We get on our rain jackets, boots, and rain pants inside the van. As soon as we step outside, there is no going back. So here we are, hour after hour in the mud and rain. The rain never seems to slow down enough to leave the van door open, take off our wet clothes and get inside.

It never fails that rain pours inside the van when we try to sneak in. With the rain, comes mud.
Even when mud is not an issue, there is the standard issue of cold toes in the winter. My kids have really opened my eyes to all of the ways that snow can get inside your boots! I had no idea!

CD’s love for “camping socks” inspired me to try “van slippers”! It was a win for sure!

2. Camp Chef Stryker Stove

Hot chocolate? Tea? Chicken noodle soup?

I can whip up hot chocolate, tea, or even soup in just a few minutes and from the warmth of the van. We don’t have a formal kitchen in our van and this product has been a game changer for sure! It is really best for heating water fast but when in a pinch or when I just can’t be bothered to set up the stove, I have made mashed potatoes and gravy, soup, indian food, and rice all in the Camp Chef Stryker. I don’t recomment counting on it for meals but it is good to know it is possible if you find yourself 1000 mile days and on a tight time schedule.

I recommend keeping a bag of marshmallows on hand to really impress the kids when they show up after a tough day of sledding and skiing!

3. A griddle

Earlier this winter, I hit the wall of what to cook on our camp stove. Then a camp stove griddle came into my life. Hashbrowns, perogies, grilled cheese, quesadillas, fajitas … The list goes on and on! This was simple solution to a boring camp stove cooking and added to the options for the next afternoon tailgating at one of Oregon’s sno parks.

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4. Snow Tubes!

This has winter fun written all over it. Great for day trips but probably not very practical for longer trips as they don’t exactly pack small! After a hand full of broken plastic sleds, the snow tubes are where it is at for sure! The more air you add, the higher they bounce and faster they go. My only reservation is that I worry they are TOO fun! They can really catch some air and pick up speed, especially on highly trafficed sledding runs! In any case, go for the snow tubes to bring your winter fun up to the next level!

Whether you are hiking around in the rain or heading to the snow for some sledding, these four items have made our winter days much better!

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Follow us for our latest van conversion! It is right around the corner and we are teaming up with Roost Vans for help with our latest DIY conversion! Check them out at Roost Vans!

Crescent Lake Sno-Park

We decided to follow yesterday’s wildly successful sledding trip with a second trip to the mountains. This time we headed towards Willamette Pass, hoping to get a parking spot at Gold Lake Sno-Park. We arrived around noon and there wasn’t an open parking spot in site so we pushed onward. Approximately 7 miles later we found Crescent Lake sno-park. The parking lot is smaller than Gold Lake but obviously much less popular. Among the half a dozen cars there, at least three were attached to snomobile trailers and one was clearly park for the long haul. I had intended to opt for snow shoes today but once I saw the groomed and relatively flat route, we decided to try the cross country skis again.

Here are a few things to know about Crescent Lake sno-park.

1. There are snowmobiles and plenty of space for everyone.

The kids loved seeing the snowmobiles on the trail. I liked seeing the signs marking distances to towns and services along the snowmobile trails as this was reminiscent of winter in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have a snowmobile, this may be one place to check out!

2. The terrain is perfect for beginner cross country skiers.

I am not talking about the kids here, they have picked it up just fine. My cross country skiing skills are marginal at best, however! These trails were perfect. We skiied on the groomed trails and in through the woods. I got tangled up a few times but nothing too serious. The kids progressed from beginners to experts as they provided me with tutorials about every kind of homemade nordic ski technique you can imagine.

3. The lake is a short distance from the parking lot.

The lake is a short 1/2 mile from the parking lot if you access it through the campground entrance. The kids spent a fair amount of time chopping ice chunks from the shore and toss into the lake. I warned them about breaking through the ice and ending up with wet socks. In the end, I was the only one with wet socks. They stayed dry and had tons of fun!

The boat ramp is also adjacent to the Crescent Lake Resort, which appeared to be closed for the season but still accessible to vehicles and a somewhat popular way to access the lake in the winter.

4. The other nearby sno-parks have thier own personalities and the Pacific Crest Trail is right there in the middle of it all!

Approximately 2 miles before Crescent Lake parking, there is Junction sno-park. It has an unbelievably huge parking lot, which happened to be mostly empty. I think it may be a hot spot of snowmobile parking but am not really sure.
Gold Lake was packed with cross country skiers and snow-shoers. The parking lot was much larger than Crescent Lake but was narrow and completely full. Don’t worry if you start into the parking lot and it feels narrow. Once you get to the end of the lot, there is a no-parking section that is labled “bus turn-around”. It worked great for us on this busy day!

Waldo Lake has a relatively small parking lot that I assume gets rather crowded. We stopped there to make dinner on our way out. It was dusk and there was only one other car but it was obvious that it is a popular spot during the day. The trail was wide and well packed from use. The kids grabbed the snow tubes and found some amazing sledding while I cooked soup in the van. Once it got dark, I pulled the van around to shine the headlights on the trail for them. They explored snow caves and hit some serious sledding jumps! I think Waldo Lake may be our next place to check out for a day but we may try to go early, late, or on a non-holiday weekday to avoid crowds.

The Pacific Crest Trail is right there for all of the PCT section hikers out there! My husband thru hiked the trail in 2004 and remembers Willamette Pass as one of his favorite sections! The trail was well marked but there was not any winter parking with direct trail access from the road.

These days of playing in the snow are keeping me going for sure! Remember to get your sno-park pass before you head out! You can learn more here!

Please follow our adventures~

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A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.

Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.

There is tons of parking, remarkable views, and easy access to the trails.

1. Try out your new cross country skis!

Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!

The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.

2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.

I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.

3. Join the gang of sledders.

We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!

We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!

Even though the picture doesn’t do Oregon sno-parks justice, this is an intense sledding hill, complete with an icy sink hole at the bottom!

4. Set up for tailgating.

What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.

Our first trip in the new Sprinter 4 x 4. We sat on boxes and spent the morning putting paneling back in for the trip but it was a success!

5. Come prepared to stay all day.

An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!

Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!

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