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Originally published Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Need a white Christmas? Try snowshoeing

Guided snowshoe walks at Mount Rainier daily through Jan. 2, then weekends through March, and other guided snowshoe walks.

Seattle Times staff

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If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, we have the best of both worlds around Puget Sound; it seldom happens where most of us live, yet it isn't far away. Low-cost, guided snowshoe walks through a winter wonderland of snow at Mount Rainier National Park are available daily, including Christmas Day, through Jan. 2.

The walks then continue weekends through March. Newcomers are welcome and snowshoes are provided. It's a moderately strenuous activity open to ages 8 and older.

Sign up at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center starting an hour before each walk; sturdy boots are required and dressing in layers is recommended. Check the mountain weather before heading out; all vehicles entering the park are required to carry chains to be ready for driving on ice and snow. Updates on conditions, gate opening and closing times and snow pack are posted on the park's Twitter newsfeed and online at www.twitter.com/MountRainierNPSand on the park's main information number, 360-569-2211.

Mount Rainier isn't the only place for guided snowshoe walks. U.S. Forest Service-led outings start Jan. 8 at Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. Reservations are available now for the popular walks, which often fill in advance. Reservations are also available for winter photography outings and extended snowshoe hikes starting Jan. 21 at Snoqualmie.

Winter recreation at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park includes snowshoe walks Friday and Saturday this holiday weekend, then Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays (including Jan. 1) and Monday holidays (including Jan. 2) through March. Vehicles are required to carry chains, and drivers should expect changeable road conditions; check before heading out to be sure the road to the ridge is open.

Guided snowshoe walks

Mount Rainier: Moderately strenuous 1.5-mile snowshoe walks for ages 8 and older, snowshoes provided or bring your own, 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 2, then Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through March 25; sign up one hour before each walk; Mount Rainier Visitor Center, Paradise; $15/park entry fee; $4 donation suggested for snowshoes; all vehicles required to carry tire chains (360-569-2211 or www.nps.gov/mora/).

Hurricane Ridge: One-mile walks, snowshoes included, 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday; regular schedule 2 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays including Jan. 1, and Monday holidays including Jan. 2, through March 25; register 30 minutes before, space limited, $5/person donation suggested; all vehicles entering the park required to carry chains; Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center, Olympic National Park; $15/vehicle park entrance fee (360-565-3131/road conditions; 360-565-3130/visitor center or www.nps.gov/olym/).

Snoqualmie Pass: 90-minute walks to learn about winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety, 10 and 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays Jan. 8 through March 31; by reservation; $10/suggested donation (509-852-1062 before Jan. 5; then 425-434-6111 or www.fs.usda.gov/mbs).

Stevens Pass: Introduction to snowshoeing, local history, ecosystem and wildlife, snowshoes provided, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Jan. 8 through Feb. 26; by reservation; $10 donation suggested (360-677-2414 or www.fs.usda.gov/mbs).

Madeline McKenzie: 206-464-8245 or mmckenzie@seattletimes.com

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