Nordic Skiing, Snowmobiling and Snowshoeing: This Central Cascade Town Has It All

By Hilary Meyerson

December 10, 2018

Around a tiny town on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, it’s all about the snow

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Seattle Magazine.


This article appears in print in the December 2018 issue, as part of the Best Winter Getaways cover story. Click here to subscribe.

I hit the throttle a little harder, giving my snowmobile just a bit more oomph to push it over the crest of the hill. My group slows down and comes to a stop, and snowmobile headlights are turned off. We experience the blue glow of the moon on the snow around us and the full moon reflected off Lake Wenatchee down below us. Our guide lets us take in the view, then asks, “Who is ready for cookies?” We are all in.

Our nighttime adventure took place near Plain, which is located approximately halfway between Stevens Pass and the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth. It’s not a resort destination, but it’s an ideal outdoor winter playground. The area is one of the premier snowmobiling destinations in the state; with more than 300 inches of snow a year and more than 200 miles of trails, there are hours of fun to be had. If you’re new to snowmobiling and the area, it’s a good idea to take a guided tour offered by Mountain Springs Lodge; once you’re confident on the machines and trails, you can rent a snowmobile and go on your own—Leavenworth Snowmobile Rentals will drop off and pick up a snowmobile at your accommodations.

Gathering for hot cider at the barn at Mountain Springs Lodge. Photo courtesy of Springs Lodge

The family-owned Mountain Springs Lodge in Plain is a perfect base camp for your adventures, offering a variety of accommodations and a restaurant on-site. The lodge-owned snowmobiles, used for guided tours, are easy on first-timers; hand warmers are built in, and even the throttle has a warmer so your thumb doesn’t get cold. A two-hour tour offers great views of Lake Wenatchee and Dirtyface Peak. The trails are easy to handle, but offer twists and turns and lots of varied vistas, from snowy forests to ridgeline views of lakes and the valley below. (All gear is provided, from one-piece snowsuits to helmets, gloves and boots.)

Cross-country skiers on a trail near Plain. Photo courtesy of Icicle TV

Nordic Skiing
The cross-country trail system in Plain is stellar, and you can rent your equipment at Plain Hardware, a store offering more than its name indicates, serving coffee, chili, supplies and friendly conversation. Purchase a trail pass, and if you need more than coffee to fuel your day, stop for a hearty breakfast at Old Mill Cafe in Plain. Then head outside, where you’ll find 15 miles of groomed trails for all abilities. You can ski up to the Clear Creek Lodge (part of the Plain trail system) or take your equipment and drive there, then glide through the trees while the snow falls. Prefer walking to gliding? You can rent snowshoes at Plain Hardware, too—there are trails just for this sport.

A cozy room at Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort. Photo courtesy of Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort

There is more to explore: Nearby Lake Wenatchee State Park (don’t miss the burgers at the 59er Diner by the Lake Wenatchee turnoff) has groomed trails for skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, and you can stretch your outdoor adventure even further by connecting with the trails at nearby Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort, which offers another base-camp option: The resort has condos for rent. “You can ski right out your door,” says Karen Bauder, general manager. “The peacefulness and the views are amazing, but it’s the quiet that I love; you can hear everything.” You can also enjoy a meal at the resort’s Wildflour Restaurant.

Old-fashioned fun on a horse-drawn sleigh ride leaving from Mountain Springs Lodge. Photo courtesy of Springs Lodge

More Snow Fun
Looking for activities that are a little less strenuous? You can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride, leaving from the Mountain Springs Lodge. Or head to the lodge’s barn for a short tour and spiced cider in front of a campfire. You’ll enjoy too-good-to-be-true vistas and have an experience that seems only to be real on Instagram.

Still not tired? Anyone with energy at the end of the day can strap on skates and try out the ice rink at Kahler Glen; its driving range is flooded in the winter to make the rink, which is maintained by volunteers. A little shed is set up containing ice skates, hockey sticks and pucks to borrow, all gratis and at your own risk, but it’s insanely fun. 

After a day in the flakes, you’ll appreciate a jetted tub and a roaring fire, and maybe a locally brewed beer or something from one of the many nearby local wineries. It’s all part of Plain winter fun. 

Getting there

Plain is on the eastern slopes of the central Cascades, about a two-hour drive east of Seattle.

(Note, many mailing addresses indicate Leavenworth, but locations are actually in Plain or near Lake Wenatchee.)
Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort, Leavenworth, 20700 Clubhouse Drive; 509.763.4025; condos from $175
Leavenworth Snowmobile Rentals, Leavenworth, 15361 U.S. Highway 2; 509.763.0333
Mountain Springs Lodge, Plain, 19115 Chiwawa Loop Road; 509.763.2713; rooms from $295
Old Mill Cafe, Leavenworth, 18640 Beaver Valley Road; 509.888.5102
Plain Hardware (ski rentals and trail passes), Plain, 18636 Beaver Valley Road; 509.763.3836
Wildflour Restaurant, Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort, Leavenworth, 20700 Clubhouse Drive; 509.888.2737
59er Diner, Leavenworth, 15361 U.S. Highway 2; 509.763.2267
Trail maps for skiing: