Snoqualmie, Washington, is an easy 45-minute drive from Seattle going due east on I-90 toward the heart of the Pacific Northwest -- or PNW as the locals say. This small town, named for the Native American tribe that originated there, sits at the base of the Cascade mountains in the midst of a logging region.
In the winter it gets a little bit colder than temperate Seattle, hovering around 45 degrees. But it also gets cold enough for inches of snow on occasion, so pack your boots! The kitsch of the area is contributed to by its many Twin Peaks television-show locations, including the paper mill (Salish Lodge), the falls (Snoqualmie Falls), and the Twin Peaks Diner (Twedes Cafe). Snoqualmie is worth a visit for a day, a long weekend, or even a main getaway destination. Here are eight wonderful things to do in the town in winter.
1. See Snoqualmie Falls
The falls are nestled in an amazing area of tall pines that are as fragrant as they are beautiful. It is a star tourist attraction that gets bonus points because there is no strenuous hiking required to see it! The 270-foot falls is brilliant in the winter when fog and mist rise off the water, creating an otherworldly experience and beauty.
The roar of the falls can be heard when you park for free in the ample visitor lot and walk across the pedestrian footbridge to the free observation area. There are many great vantage points for viewing, so don’t worry about having to queue up for a view or strain to see the main attraction. While the parking lot closes at dusk, you can still view the falls from adjacent Salish Lodge. Night views are spectacular with flood lights illuminating the area. The falls is a natural source of energy that powers the Snoqualmie Valley.
2. Stay At Salish Lodge
Travelers have been coming to this iconic alpine lodge since 1916 for its rooms with views of the falls, fine dining, and excellent location between Seattle and skiing at Snoqualmie Pass. Today it is owned by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
The Salish Lodge is situated atop a cliff adjacent to the magnificent falls, providing stunning views. You’ll fall asleep listening to the sound of the water falling, and sleep comes easily after you’ve had a fun day sightseeing or skiing, soaking in your in-room whirlpool bath or soaking tub, and having a great meal. Some rooms have fireplaces. What could be more PNW than that?
3. Get Your Fill Of Trains, Trains, And More Trains
The Northwest Railway Museum is an homage to the roots of Snoqualmie and is a must-see for visitors. The Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern (SLS and E) railroad was essential to logging in the area and to the development of Washington state. The Northwest Railway Museum includes the Train Shed and History Center ($10 admission) and is located on the eastern edge of Snoqualmie
In the center of town is the old Snoqualmie Depot, which is free to visit and filled with memorabilia, souvenirs, and books on railroad history. Snoqualmie fills up on weekends when the museum offers rides in restored rail cars between Snoqualmie and North Bend driven by a steam engine locomotive. You’ll step back in time and enjoy the scenery for the five-mile trip. Get off at the Train Shed for a deeper dive into rail memorabilia. Train tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for seniors.
In December there is a special Santa train every weekend and the final train ride of the month is decorated for a Victorian Christmas. The museum has a walking area just a few blocks from the depot where you can see real rail cars awaiting refurbishment. Information panels tell the history of rail car development as you view the cars up close. The depot is a short walk from downtown Snoqualmie or less than five minutes by car from Salish Lodge.
4. Enjoy Holiday Twinkles
The railroad station is the heart of Snoqualmie, and holiday lights fill the area in December. From the depot and adjoining park, down to City Hall, and across the tracks to downtown, the city celebrates in style. Snow is possible during the winter, so you might imagine you’re in a Currier and Ives picture as you meander the streets enjoying the holiday glow. Even the giant tree trunk cross-section exhibits are lit, reminding you of the logging history of the area.
5. Spend A Day In Breathtaking Snoqualmie Pass
Just 30 minutes from Snoqualmie is a winter sports paradise, starting at The Summit at Snoqualmie and encompassing Snoqualmie Pass. How do black diamond ski runs sound? The pass chairlifts will take you to elevations of more than 4,000 feet to start your descent. If you’re not that kind of skier, don’t worry. There are dozens of easy and moderate runs at slightly lower elevations in the area.
Snowboarding is also popular on the slopes and there are cross country skiing and snowshoe trails, sledding hills, and even a tubing area inviting visitors to enjoy the winter sports of their choice. Various ski parks in the area offer lessons -- and equipment rentals -- plus there are plenty of indoor eating and relaxation spots for you to recover from your mountain runs or just take in the stunning mountain scenery.
Snoqualmie Pass is worth the trip even for those who are not hitting the slopes. Hot toddies for everyone!
6. Slip Into Spa Heaven
After a day of winter outdoor activity, you’ll want to unwind. The Spa at Salish Lodge is the perfect spot to end the day or get your pampering on. All the traditional spa services are available, and the best part is you’ll get to have all this attention with views of the falls and beckoning forests in the background. What better place to relax, recharge, and enjoy a cozy hearth than in one of the most beautiful natural spots in the PNW?
7. Dine On Cuisine Made For The Epicurious
Once you’ve relaxed after a day of sightseeing, train riding, and skiing, you’ll need to refuel. Dining options abound in Snoqualmie. Perhaps you’ll want to enjoy a gourmet meal at Salish Lodge, which is well known for serving Northwest cuisine with a view of the falls. There are great finds in town as well. Have a fantastic steak at the Woodman Lodge, located just behind the railroad depot, or the more casual Snoqualmie Falls Brewery and Taproom in the heart of downtown.
You can also head five miles down the road to North Bend and experience my favorite dining opportunity in the area: a quintessential Italian meal at Il Paesano Ristorante Italiano. Or dine with the locals at the North Bend Bar and Grill, which is filled with Valley memorabilia. Twin Peaks fans will want to sample the cherry pie at Twedes Cafe and recognize the neon sign made famous on the silver screen. For fun and eats, head over to the Snoqualmie Casino, run by the Snoqualmie Tribe.
8. Witness Bugling Elks And Hike Mount Si
The central vista in Snoqualmie is the beloved Mount Si. The hike to the top involves climbing to 3,100 feet that ascend over four miles of forested and open areas. The reward? Beautiful views to the east and south, including the incomparable Mount Rainier on clear days. Mount Si can be hiked in the winter as the trail is open year-round.
Mount Si does get a snow cover, but it’s manageable for well-prepared hikers. You can’t miss the mountain, as it stands proudly at the base of the Cascades, rising up from the valley floor. The trailhead and parking (a $10 Washington Discover Pass is required) are in North Bend.
In Snoqualmie, you’ll also be able to experience the valley’s own managed elk herd. They live at the base of Mount Si and roam the valley floor in Snoqualmie, enjoying the various creeks and the Snoqualmie River, plus the open fields that run along Highway 202, the main road to North Bend. In winter the elk may not be seen as frequently as in the summer, when they lounge lazily in the fields, but you can hear their bugling up in the hills, especially in the fall rutting season and wintertime, which makes for memorable Snoqualmie moments.
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