The Blue Mountains have been capped with snow.

Outdoor enthusiasts will be looking to grab their cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area awaits them.

This dedicated area in the Umatilla National Forest was first created in the 1980s.

Motorized vehicles, such as snow machines, are not allowed.

It contains approximately 10 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails.

Last year the Blue Mountain Land Trust (BMLT) Blues Crew signed a partnership agreement with the forest service to maintain the trails in the area.

Since then, more than 40 Blues Crew volunteers spent hundreds of hours clearing trails of brush and obstacles. Scrambling up ladders, they placed new blue diamond markers high on trees so paths can be more easily followed.

Trail intersection posts have been upgraded with new directional signs and a map showing “You are here!” placed high for visibility in the deepest winter snows.

A major map upgrade provides color-coded trail identifiers with difficulty levels. A new informational kiosk greets visitors as they enter from the Andies Prairie Sno-Park. The kiosk’s map contains a QR Code that will allow skiers to load the map directly onto their phones.

The trails at Horseshoe Prairie provide a range of experiences in terrain and snow landscapes.

  • The Tamarack Trail is a 2.5-mile loop that will be groomed regularly. It is a great option for those new to the sport.
  • The Hoot & Holler Trail offers a short traverse between groomed sections for those wishing to try an ungroomed trail.
  • The Viewpoint Trail will take one out to an overlook of the spectacular canyon of the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness.
  • The Wandering Wolf Trail west of Junction Marker E is a corridor bounded by tall pine and fir trees and users may see tracks of the area’s wildlife on freshly fallen snow. After about 2 miles, it connects with Prairie Loop Trail.
  • The southern part of the Prairie Loop Trail courses over a vast open slope.
  • Umatilla Rim Trail segment will provide the ultimate challenge for the back-country skier. Starting near Marker A, it dips and climbs through the forest ultimately connecting at the Viewpoint Trail.

The Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area is located off Oregon Highway 204, approximately 26 miles east of Weston, and 14 miles west of Elgin. Parking is available across Highway 204 at the Andies Prairie Sno-Park.

More information is available on the Umatilla National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/umatilla/recarea/?recid=56961 or the Blue Mountain Land Trust website at https://bmlt.org/horseshoe-prairie.