Contributed by Mitch Luftig
A few years ago, my wife, Stephanie, and I were skiing the North Loop out of Ray Benson Sno-park. We brought along a snack of tangerines and string cheese, which we looked forward to consuming once we reached the Blowout Shelter, designated for day use. However, when we arrived, a large group was overnighting at the shelter, with backpacks and camping equipment strewn along the wooden benches and hammocks strung like spider webs from the walls and ceiling, leaving no room for us to get out of the cold and enjoy our snack.
The good news. According to the National Forest Service, there are two Santiam Pass Area Shelters appropriate for skiers and snowshoers to use for an overnight stay.
Mountain View Shelter can be accessed from the Maxwell Sno-Park. It is open for both day use and overnight stays. A maximum capacity of 15 persons are allowed to overnight.
Described by Hike Oregon as spacious, fully enclosed shelter with lots of windows and a big wood stove. The shelter is usually stocked with fire wood, although if you are going late in the season, it is best to bring your own just in case the supply at the shelter has run out. There is an outhouse close by for convenience.
Views from the shelter area include Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters (to the south) and Three-Finger Jack and Mt. Jefferson (to the north).
South Maxwell Snow Shelter can also be accessed from the Maxwell Snow-park. The shelter is open for day use and overnight stays, with a maximum overnight capacity of four persons. South Maxwell has a wood stove, no door, and a gravel floor.
Forest Service Shelter Regulations:
1. Shelters cannot be reserved and exclusive use by individuals and groups is prohibited.
2. Overnight stays are permitted from November 15 to April 30.
3. Maximum stay limit is 3 nights.
4. Shelters must be shared with whomever would like to use the shelter.
5. All shelters are backcountry sites – all garbage and human waste (if there is no restroom facility) along with extra food and supplies should be packed out. Follow Leave No Trace principles as you enjoy your winter outing.
6. Candles are not allowed. Please bring your own lights.
7. Firewood (if provided) is to be used in woodstoves only.
Directions: Maxwell Sno-Park is located 3.5 miles west of Santiam Junction on state Highway 22.
According to GAIA GPS, one-way distance from the snow park to the shelter is 4.7 miles, taking approximately 2 hours, 33 minutes to complete. There is 676 ft of elevation gain.
Amy Brown of Outdoor Project says the easiest route to shelters heads north from Maxwell Sno-park on the Flat Loop Trail and then northeast along the Mountain View Loop. All of the trails lead through the thick Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar, and generally the trails are very well marked with blazes and signs at junctions; note, however, that abundant fresh snow may make route finding a bit of a challenge, so be sure to travel with a map.