Hut-to-Hut Skiing in the Shadow of Mount Rainier
Skiers get a workout in the more challenging South District. With logged slopes for telemarkers and steep inclines for serious backcountry skiers, this area suits intermediate and expert skill levels best. South District skiers give up views for a web of meandering, wooded trails and up-and-down terrain. Navigation is generally more difficult here—bring a map and compass for backcountry skiing. However, with more huts and 15 miles of groomed trails (20 miles are ungroomed), skiers can actually travel "hut to hut."
How to get there: Heading east on SR 706, continue a half mile past the 92 Road Access entry. Look for the brown South District Access Road sign, and take the next right onto 1 Road (unmarked). At the T-intersection (Mile 2.8), turn left at the brown sign pointing toward 1 Road. Veer left at the fork at Mile 4.1. The first Snow Park is located at Mile 6.4. Continue to the second Snow Park, staying left at the fork at Mile 6.7 (follow the sign toward the Outer Loop Trail). The second Snow Park is at Mile 7.2.
High Hut, elevation 4,760 feet
Skiing to the hut: High Hut is the most difficult hut to reach. The all-up route is best for experts. The trail begins as a wide logging road with some moderate slopes. Halfway up, the trail makes a 90-degree turn right. The last 500 yards include a tough hump up a steep, exposed ridge—even tougher when the wind blasts through at 75 miles an hour. Skiers may want to sidestep or herringbone up this last section. One-way to the hut is three miles, with an elevation gain of about 2,300 feet.
The hut: The sweaty grunt up to this hut is worth it. From its cliffside perch, High Hut offers the best views of the Cascades' big-time peaks: Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. At night, guests can see planes taking off from SeaTac Airport, 60 miles away. High Hut sleeps eight and is the most rustic hut, with cushioned church benches instead of couches.
Skiing near the hut: Trail touring is mostly limited to the route to the hut. Experienced backcountry skiers can explore tough, ungroomed trails nearby after descending in the steep way.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication