Backpacking in the Cascades is a breathtaking experience that most people enjoy during a brief four month window—between June and September. During the other eight months, the Cascades are considered by some the snowiest place in earth, a paradise for snowboarders and skiers.

But for the rest of us? Snow camping.

Just like the alpine hiking you know from summer, snow camping includes the thrill of being up among the peaks. But since you’ll most likely be in the fresh snow of the backcountry, it requires more gear—snowshoes or cross-country skis to travel with ease. Without them you’ll sink deep into the snow with each step. Though the reward of being in a pristine wonderland makes any physical challenges worth taking on.

While some may choose to sleep in tents, you do have options. Snow makes for a great shelter because it can insulate well, is easily moldable with only a shovel. There is a sort of thrill when you’re building your shelter for the night out of the same material that you need to shelter from.

There are several different types of snow shelters to choose from: snow caves, quinzees, igloos, or the simplest of all—a snow trench. Artist point and Heather Meadows are great places for first timers since there is a nearby ski resort should an emergency arise.

When you go, check with the National Park Service to see if a permit is required for backpacking in the area you choose to explore.

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