by Cheyenne Harding
Whether it is snowing or raining, winter is upon us in the Northwest, but the outdoor fun doesn’t have to stop just because it’s cold. There are numerous opportunities throughout the Northwest to enjoy the magnificent outdoor scenery and wildlife. If you enjoy family-friendly guided tours or being a lone wolf, there is an activity for everyone no matter the comfort level.
ALASKA: Guided Northern Lights Tour in Fairbanks
In Fairbanks, you can view the spectacular northern lights. For best results, take a guided tour with Alaska Tours. There are numerous tours available both day and night. Tours can last as little as a few hours to as long as nine days.
The most popular package is two nights and three days. In the daytime, you would be guided around Fairbanks and shown the town. Each night is spent observing the northern lights in various spots around the city.
With most tours, you have round trip transportations and hot beverages. There are add-ons available with the tours including experiencing Chena Hot Springs and a scenic route on the Alaska Railroad.
For more information, visit alaskatours.com. Learn more about planning a stay in Fairbanks at explorefairbanks.com.
British Columbia: Surfing on Vancouver Island
Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island is Canada’s surf capital. Surfing is such an integrated part of the culture in the area that approximately 50 percent of the population surfs year-round.
Pacific Surf School offers surf lessons (both private and group) and has a professional photographer that can snap that perfect shot of you in the Ocean. Classes are offered for all levels of experience and can be adapted to support all mobility needs. All equipment is provided.
If you’re staying for a few days, check out Cox Bay Beach Resort for great access to the beach and a breathtaking view of the sunsets.
For more information, visit pacificsurfschool.com, coxbaybeachresort.com, tourismtofino.com.
Montana: Guided Snowshoe Tours at Glacier National Park
Enjoy a snowshoeing experience for all skill levels at Glacier National Park. There are many options to customize the trip to your preferences.
Tours takes you throughout one of Montana’s most popular national parks. From five hours to an overnight adventure, there is always something to do within the park. All gear is provided.
You can go behind the scenes with the guides and see parts of the park that most tourists don’t get to enjoy.
If snowshoeing is not your style, take a two-hour kayaking tour around Somers Bay through the chain of Juniper Islands on Flathead Lake. You will get a chance to see the magnificent bald eagles and other native birds that inhabit the islands.
For more information, visit tourglacier.com. Plan your trip to Northwestern Montana at glaciermt.com.
Idaho: Guided Snowmobile Tours from Driggs
Learn how the caldera area at Yellowstone National Park was formed while touring Old Faithful or the park’s Grand Canyon—the method of transportation: a snowmobile. Most tours begin in Driggs, with various ending points.
Yellowstone National Park tours are typically 60 or 80 miles with opportunities to see amazing scenery. Tours last the entire day and allow opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife, including bison, moose, elk, bear, bobcats and even the elusive wolf.
Caribou-Grand Targhee National Forest Tours include visits to Cave Falls, Mesa Falls and Big Hole.
Private tours are available upon request. Tours operate from mid-December to end of March. If you want to explore on your own, snowmobile rentals are offered.
For more information, visit tetonvalleyadventures.com. Plan your trip to Eastern Idaho at yellowstoneteton.org.
Oregon: Cosmic Tubing on Mount Hood
Nightlife on the mountains of Oregon isn’t exactly something that is unheard of. Starting around 5:00 p.m. at Ski Bowl on Mount Hood, there is a light show with over 600,000 LED lights including black lights, laser lights and colored lights that display on the mountain as you slide down on an inner tube. Jam out to music and make the mountain your dance floor.
There are 12 grooved lanes so you don’t have to worry about the hills being too steep. All equipment is provided. Cosmic Tubing only operates on weekends and select holidays.
If tubing isn’t your style, take the Upper Bowl Scenic Sky Chair to get a bird’s eye view of the mountain at a starting elevation of 3,600 feet.
Once you reach the top, you will be able to see the neighboring peaks: Mt. Jefferson, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.
For more information, visit skibowl.com. Plan your trip to Mt. Hood at mthoodterritory.com.
Washington: Bald Eagle Watching on the Nooksack River
Every winter, bald eagles congregate along the rivers of Northwest Washington to feast on the salmon runs. The Skagit and Nooksack Rivers are popular spots for eagle watching, with the Nooksack drawing fewer birders but no fewer eagles than the Skagit.
You can take a guided raft trip with Pacific NW Float Trips to see how many eagles you can spot in the trees along the riverbanks. It’s not uncommon to see dozens of eagles perched in a single tree.
Bring your camera for some exciting wildlife photo ops while you enjoy drifting downstream with the current in scenic Whatcom County.
Sign up for a rafting trip at pacificnwfloattrips.com. Plan your visit to Bellingham and Whatcom County at bellingham.org.