The Virginia Meissner Sno-Park is one of the most popular Sno-Parks in Central Oregon, and for good reason. The area has over 25 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, several different dedicated snowshoe loops, and 5 different back-country warming shelters scattered between here and Swampy Lakes. If you are looking for a spot to trek through the woods in a well- developed setting, with awesome spots to take a break and enjoy our surroundings, this is the place for you.
The Virginia Meissner Sno-Park was named in honor of Virginia Meissner in the 1970s. She was instrumental in developing young skiers and outdoor enthusiasts in Central Oregon, and was also a big advocate for keeping the areas west of Century Drive classified as non-motorized.
If you don’t have a ton of time and want a relatively short trek to a warming shelter, taking the Nordeen Shelter Tie trail up to Nordeen Shelter is the way to go. But don’t expect an easy trek out of it. Nordeen Shelter wits on top a ridgeline, 250 above the sno-park. The trail doesn’t mess around with niceties like switchbacks or traversing the hillside. So strap in and hope your snowshoes have a heel lift as you get ready for some fun.
I find the trail, head to the west from the main gathering area of the sno-park along the front of the parking area. Once you reach about the same level as the road that entered the sno-park, look for a sign directing you to the Nordeen Shelter Tie Trail. This is where you want to go.
The trail begins by wandering through the flats just west of the sno-park. You will cross over 3 different groomed, cross country ski trails, so keep your eyes peeled for speeding skiers as you cross. About a quarter mile in, you will cross the final ski trail and your path will begin to climb. It will just be a little at first as you weave your way through some nice, Ponderosa Pines, but more is coming.
The trail gradually increases in steepness for the next tenth of a mile as you approach the ridge. Then, it will take a sharp turn to your left and climb straight up that bad boy. Here, you will gain about 150 feet in only 500. (That’s a rate of about 1500 feet a mile for you math nerds). On a normal hike, this would just be a short, steep pitch. But on snowshoes, it is much more difficult. If the trail is icy, your snowshoes may start to slip. Also, your calves will start to ache from having to stay on your toes pretty much the whole up. On the way down, your best bet may be to travel along the side of the trail on the unpacked snow, rather than risk slipping and falling on the main trail.
Once up, you will travel along the edge of the edge of the ridge for the next 0.2 miles on your way to Nordeen Shelter. The views are to the east, so they won’t contain the Cascades, but notable peaks include Paulina Peak and Kiwa Butte. The shelter itself is one of the cooler ones in the area and is perched right near the edge of the ridge. There is a firewood shelter packed with wood near it and a fireplace to burn that wood inside.
If you feel that was too short, the Nordeen Shelter Tie Trail continues on form here as it heads towards the Swampy Long Loop. The trail travels through mostly open woods at a gradual uphill for the next 0.75 miles until it intersects with the Long Loop. From there, the choices are yours.
To reach the Virginia Meissner Sno-Park, just head west of Bend on Century Drive towards Mt Bachelor. The Sno-Park will be on the right 11 miles from the round-about at the intersection of Mt Washington, Reed Market, and Century Drive.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Are not allowed at this Sno-Park.
Open Season: There will usually be snow cover from Thanksgiving into April some time.