Tawna Fenske and her dog, Bindi, snowshoeing in Shevlin Park on Christmas Eve day.
Tawna Fenske and her dog, Bindi, snowshoeing in Shevlin Park on Christmas Eve day.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: “Hiking” is just a fancy way of saying “walking.”

And here’s another secret: Snowshoeing is pretty much the same as hiking or walking, but with tennis racquets strapped to your feet.

I might be oversimplifying just a tad, but not much. It’s the pure simplicity of these activities that I love most, and now’s a great time for snowshoeing in particular.

Here are three great ways to get your snowshoe on in Bend, even if you’ve never done it before.

Get some hand-holding with an organized tour

If you’re new to snowshoeing, the idea of tracking down rental gear and finding the best trails might seem daunting at first. If you prefer a little extra hand-holding, book a snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours.

A standard half-day snowshoe tour  is just $55, or step it up a notch for $65 with a Shoes, Brews, and Views tour offering craft beers from the Bend Ale Trail. You can also opt for a nighttime outing with the Bonfire on the Snow trip for $65. All snowshoe tours include snowshoes, instruction, transportation, and cocoa (plus adult beverages if you choose one of the latter options).

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Jeff Gartzke, a naturalist guide with Wanderlust Tours, talks with a tour group about area wildlife.

Notice I mentioned instruction? They don’t take this lightly at Wanderlust. Their naturalist guides don’t just help you lace up your snowshoes and pat you on the butt. They also offer awesome techniques and tricks, plus incredible insights about local geology, wildlife, and nature. The outings are even good for kids 8 and up, and you can rent snow pants ($5) or boots ($7) if you forgot yours at home.

Set out on your own (or with Fido by your side!)

If you don’t have your own gear, you’ll want to swing by Powder House, Mountain Supply, Pine Mountain Sports, or REI to rent a pair of snowshoes.

While you’re there, get your hands on a trail map and a SnoPark permit (purchase yours at the Bend Visitor Center in downtown). All five sno-parks along or near Century Drive allow snowshoeing, and not far from Bend, and that’s a great place to start whether you’re a beginner or an old-timer.

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Tawna’s dog, Bindi, ponders whether to take the snowshoe trail or the Nordic ski trail at Wanoga SnoPark.

Virginia Meissner SnoPark is one of the first areas you’ll come to as you head toward Mt. Bachelor on Century drive. The trails are well-groomed and well-marked, and you get the bonus of beautiful scenery and toasty warming huts where you can enjoy a picnic lunch.

Personally, I love snowshoeing in the company of my trusty canine companion, Bindi. The good folks at DogPAC work hard to keep the trails at Wanoga SnoPark groomed and fully accessible for dogs and their snowshoeing owners. You can even walk the snowshoe loop sans snowshoes, or head out on the Nordic trails if you brought your skis. Just be sure to pick up after rover using the handy doggie bags available everywhere along the trail.

Get ultimate bragging rights at the Snowshoe National Championships (even if you’ve never snowshoed before!)

There’s been a lot of buzz about the fact that Bend was picked to host the Snowshoe National Championships March 15-17, but you know what? The race isn’t just for elite athletes or awestruck spectators.

Even if you’ve never snowshoed in your life, there’s a special component to this weekend’s event that promises to give you the best bragging rights EVAH.

The Citizens’ 5k Fun Run/Walk will take place on the Snowshoe National Championships course at Virginia Meissner SnoPark at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 16. To participate, you need a pulse. That’s pretty much it.

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This awesome T-shirt is one of the many cool items you’ll find in your schwag bag when you take part in the Citizens’ Race at the Snowshoe National Championships this Saturday.

Dion Snowshoes and Atlas Snowshoes will have free demo gear you can use, and your $40 registration fee earns you an awesome schwag bag that includes a commemorative Silipint and a T-shirt proving you took part  in the Snowshoe National Championships.

Go here to register, or show up the morning of the race to take advantage of on-site registration right before show-time.

Even if you decide not to compete, hang out on the sidelines to watch more than 200 of the country’s most skilled winter endurance athletes as they compete for the national title. For a complete schedule of the different races and age divisions go here.

No matter how you choose to tackle your snowshoeing adventures, have fun out there this weekend. See you on the hiking walking snowshoe trails!

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