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Mather Memorial (snowshoe)

Difficulty: moderate

10.8 miles

Elevation gain: 1050'

Max elevation: 3790'

Camps: none

First hiked by me: 2023

I'd driven up the Mather Memorial Parkway (aka WA 410) a gazillion times on my way to higher altitude summertime delights before I finally got around to visiting here during the off-season. During the months when the road is closed to cars at the National Park boundary, you can snowshoe, ski, or snowmobile up it (winter) or walk/cycle (spring).

Park in the Silver Springs sno-park (turn left onto Crystal Mountain Boulevard, then immediately right: it's not in quite the same place as the Silver Springs campground!) and make sure you have a sno-park permit if coming here in winter.

It's a road rather than a trail, but by slowing down to walk it you will notice views over the White River (at first by your side, then sprawled below you after the road gains some altitude), of Crystal Peak ahead, Sunrise Ridge to your right, and occasional tantalizing could-that-be-the-summit through the trees. I also enjoyed many streams and small waterfalls, some of them frozen, much elk poop, and one pile of cougar scat.

Sharing the road is important here. During winter, snowshoers should keep to the sides and avoid walking over ski tracks, because snowshoe indentations are at best a nuisance and at worst dangerous if a skier were to hit them at speed. In spring, other hikers are unlikely but you'll probably be overtaken by vehicles carrying park staff who are busy preparing for the season to come.

When you reach the Crystal Lakes trailhead after 4.5 miles, you're nearly there. Another half mile takes you to where the Sunrise Road turns off to the right. Skiers and intrepid winter campers may wish to follow this to further adventure, but for most snowshoers the distance has probably already been sufficient. Following 410 another 0.4 miles leads to an opening where on a clear day you will enjoy a stunning view up the White River valley to the summit, but this comes with a major caution:

Avalanches. Notice how there are big view-blocking trees to either side of this viewpoint, but only small shrubs growing on the slopes immediately above and below it. Wonder why? Yup, this is an old avalanche chute. What slid once, could again. Be wary here if you lack avalanche knowledge or if the risk is high that day. And definitely don't go any further when there is snow on the slopes above, as higher sections of this road are extremely avalanche-prone.

Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service, serving from 1917 to 1929.

Driving under the National Park entrance arches always makes me happy, but it's even more fun to walk under them while the road is closed!

White River in front of Crystal Peak

Icicles by the side of the road

Sign by the turnoff from 410 to Sunrise Road

View from my turnaround spot