The Snowiest Places in the U.S.
The Snowiest Places in the U.S.

There is something special about a landscape blanketed in snow. White-fringed trees, frozen ponds, and icicles all sparkle in the sunlight, creating a fantastical wonderland. For those who embrace the cold, it’s like a dream, while the more adventurous seek opportunities to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, sled, or have an old-fashioned snowball fight.

If the thought of that dazzling scene, the soft crunch beneath your boots and the fresh, crisp winter air, gets your heart pounding, you’ll want to visit one of the snowiest places in the U.S., including these enchanting spots.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Snowy landscape and Cascade Mountains in Mount Rainier National Park.
Credit: John T Callery/ Shutterstock

According to the National Park Service, the Paradise area at Mount Rainier National Park gets over 640 inches of snowfall annually. The 1971-1972 season set a world record with 1,122 inches or a whopping 93.5 feet. If you visit during the chilliest months of the year, you’re pretty much guaranteed a magical winter wonderland blanketed with deep, powdery snow. It’s an endless sea of white, except for the little tracks left by snowshoe hare and white-tailed ptarmigan.

During weekends from late December through March in the Paradise snow play area, ranger-led snowshoe walks, skiing, boarding and tubing are all available. Keep an eye out for the bighorn sheep and elk that like to feed here in the winter too. While it’s possible to visit on a day trip from Seattle, Tacoma, and other cities throughout the Puget Sound region, winter camping is available along with rooms at National Park Inn, open year-round.

Mount Hood, Oregon

Alpine skier on Mount Hood.
Credit: CSNafzger/ Shutterstock

The Timberline Lodge Ski Area near the top of Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak at over 11,240 feet, boasts the longest ski season in North America. It’s open 10 months of the year and sees 551 inches of snowfall annually. During the peak of winter, Timberline Lodge, which sits about midway to the summit of the mountain, is usually buried in snow, which means guests have to access it through a snow tunnel. Dating back to 1936, the hotel is a National Historic Landmark that’s not only an ideal place for skiers to stay, but also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.

The timber and stone lodge is an architectural gem that was constructed entirely by hand by unemployed craftspeople who were hired during the Great Depression as part of the Federal Works Progress Administration. If you recognize it, it might be because it was featured in the opening scene of 1980's The Shining.

Alta, Utah

Skier going downhill in Alta, Utah.
Credit: CSNafzger/ Shutterstock

Alta is a small town in the Wasatch Mountain Range, nestled in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s one of the country’s snowiest places, receiving an average of 538 inches of snow every year. The tiny community has a population of less than 400 people and is best known for its ski area, with the Alta Ski Area one of the first to open in the country back in 1938. One of the rare skiers-only mountains in the U.S., it sits at the end of the canyon offering a wide variety of terrain for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Emerald Bay, South Lake Tahoe in winter.
Credit: Fritzie Brady/ Shutterstock

Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and played host to the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. Visitors will find a stunning snowy wonderland during the season that makes it one of the world’s top destinations for winter adventures. It’s renowned for skiing and snowboarding, but just about every snow sport imaginable can be enjoyed here. Heavenly Mountain is especially ideal for sledding and tubing, while the scenic trails that wind through the forest are perfect for snowshoeing in the winter.

The town of Lake Tahoe on the California side offers pampering spas and a wide range of dining and shopping venues, while the Nevada side is known for its big-name concerts and gambling opportunities.

Leadville, Colorado

Mine headframe in snow in Leadville, Colorado.
Credit: PhotoTrippingAmerica/ Shutterstock

Aspen may be world-famous for its skiing that attracts countless celebrities, but it’s Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the country at 10,151 feet, that gets the most snow. Technically it’s the former mining village of Climax nearby which sits at 11,360 feet along the Continental Divide, but the only thing that remains here are a few mining buildings that were left to crumble. Over 273 inches of snowfall dumps on this area each year, highlighting the beauty of the Victorian architecture along the 70 square blocks of Leadville’s downtown area that are designated as a National Historic Landmark. Just 10 miles from Leadville is Ski-Cooper, known for its lack of long lines, budget-priced lift tickets, and deep powder.

Valdez, Alaska

Valdez, Alaska at night.
Credit: Olga Lyubochkina/ Shutterstock

Surrounded by the Chugach Mountains near the head of a deep fjord in Prince William Sound, the town of Valdez receives an average of 326 inches of snow each year, but that’s right at sea level. Thompson Pass nearby, the snowiest place in Alaska, sees on average 551.1 inches, and during some winters more than 100 inches can fall every month for five consecutive months. Of course, you won’t miss out on the white stuff if you stick to Valdez where you can enjoy watching the northern lights, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, cross-country skiing, helicopter skiing, and ice climbing.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Two hikers on snow covered Mount Washington.
Credit: David Boutin/ Shutterstock

America’s West doesn’t get all the snow of course. In the Northeast, Mount Washington sees about 97 inches a year. One of the top destinations in the region for outdoor adventurers, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and sleigh rides can all be enjoyed here. The famous Cog Railway is open in the winter for rides on its historic train that provide sweeping vistas of the snowy skyline. Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods is a popular base, built in 1902 with a red roof silhouetted against the snow-covered mountains. Skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and more can all be enjoyed right on-site.

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