Maxwell Sno-Park: Mountain View Shelter Loop

Looking back on my tracks
It's finally the time of year when the snowboard and ski addicts are getting excited. The lodges are opening and the highways are building up a nice layer of pumice. This is one of my favorites times of the year, I'm not much of a skier or snowboarder, but I love to snowshoe. My first time snowshoeing was in Sequoia National Park in December of 2010. At this time I had just been discharged from the Marine Corps and was taking a road trip from San Diego to Eugene. We had planned on stopping at Sequoia National Park, but because of the recent heavy rain and snow when we got there the road was closed. Somehow we got passed the guys working on the road and made it in to the park. After renting some snowshoes we set out for our first time, it was absolutely incredible. Fast forward two years and I've now been quite a few times. My first trip of 2012 was to the Maxwell Sno-Park near Santiam Junction.
Part of the trail was still a creek

Fairly steep section in a regrowing clear-cut
The Sno-Parks that are near the junction of Highway 20 and Highway 22 are little used in comparison with those near Bend or Mount Hood. Though on a weekend you're likely to still see a few people on the easier trails. During the week is a different story, you'll likely have the place to yourself. Which is wonderful, but can be difficult if you're breaking fresh powder all day. Just enough snow has fallen that snowshoes are needed for the open areas, but under some of the trees it was only a few inches deep. My plan for the day was to string together a loop that went by the Mountain View Shelter based on the map provided by the Forest Service.

Map of Maxwell Sno-Park

Sno-Park direction marker on an large Douglas-fir
I'm not quite sure how they designated the number system, but for each of those on the map there is a large blue pole that will have the corresponding number. Some of the poles have maps, but they are often hard to read, so I suggest printing one before you head out. There is nothing quite like the first snowshoe trip of the season, regardless of how much your fitness level, you will still be sore. It works your muscles in a different way and you burn a lot more calories than running or hiking. That being said it's even more important to layer properly and bring food that will sustain you. The Maxwell Sno-Park travels through some native forest, but much of it is an area that was clear-cut. There are trees growing back in these areas, though slowly because of the limited growing season.
One of the many blue poles

The sun barely peaking through
The aptly named Mountain View shelter sits a top a ridge that provides awesome vistas in all directions. The building is fully inclosed, can sleep 15 people and has a wood stove, with wood. It was hard not to stay the night once I reached the Mountain View shelter. I've read that it can be fairly busy, but if you go midweek you likely wouldn't be sharing it.

Mountain View Shelter, Maxwell Sno-Park
Small fire at the Mountain View Shelter
 After letting my fire burn out I packed up my bag and headed back out into the snow. The sun had came out partially which made for a beautiful scene. The majority of my trek back was through a previously harvested area, though there were some impressive Douglas-firs along the route. Maxwell Sno-Park would have spectacular views if it was a clear day. Overall the Mountain View shelter makes it a worthy destination for the day or more.   

Blue sky above a Noble fir

Large Douglas-firs that were spared during the previous harvest
The trail near the parking lot of Maxwell Sno-Park
The route I used according to the numbering system is as follows: 1, 15, 14, 13, 16, 17, 18, 24, 9, 8.

Directions from Eugene:
Follow Highway 126 east for 71 miles, turn left onto Highway 22 follow for 2.5 miles. Trailhead is on the right, there is a sign, but snow might obstruct it.

Trailhead Elevation:
Approximately 3,650

Distance: 6.8 miles according to my Garmin Oregon 550 GPS 

Route Type: Loop 

Elevation Gain: Approximately 600 feet

Light, didn't see anyone   

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

Fees: 3 dollar day use pass or 20 dollar year Sno-Park Pass

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