With the high country socked in with snow for the next several months, many Washington hikers find themselves with an unmistakable case of the winter blahs. Get out your hiking boots (and an extra warm pair of wool socks) and get ready to chase them away with one of these great winter hikes. Clear alpine lakes and panoramic views might still be months away, but you can keep on hiking right through the winter on these 11 trails.
Sharpe Peak - sares head
Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Bellingham Area
Length: 0.75 miles, roundtrip
Elevation gain: 150 feet
A short walk through old growth firs, madronas, and lichen-shrouded trees takes you to sweeping views of north Puget Sound. Kids will enjoy walking along the trail by a large pond filled with widgeons, mallards, cattails, and red-winged blackbirds, then out to impressive Sares Head, where birdcalls from neighboring islands can be heard on calm days.
Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- San Juan Islands
Length: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation: 50 feet
A short loop hike to rock cliffs, with fantastic views out towards the Olympic Peninsula, and back toward other parts of Lopez. It is suitable for children, dogs on leash, and folks of all ages. Highlights include: some gnarly, contorted trees for climbing; a warning light for ships on the rocks; views from the cliffs out to the Olympics; and some history. Iceberg Point used to be a reef net site, and locals could drive up to the site, and get fish off the boats right off shore.
> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide
Tolmie State Park - four cedars trail
Location: Near Olympia
Length: 1.98 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Enjoy the sights of Nisqually Reach in this state park nestled close to Olympia. Explore the beach, visit an interpretive trail or undertake a slightly longer adventure, perfect for families with new hikers.
Capitol State Forest - Porter Falls
Distance: 2.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Hike along a gentle grade as it climbs along Porter Creek and crosses it, traveling west on the other side, keeping the road you arrived on in view. As you reach the confluence of Porter Creek and the West Fork of Porter Creek, you also reach the waterfall, your destination
Location: Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 3.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation: 900 feet
Kamiak Butte rises out of the rolling Palouse farmland to an elevation of 3641 feet. Forming something of a forested island, it is some of the only hiking opportunities available in an area where agriculture is king. Hikers who venture to the summit are rewarded with a rolling patchwork of green and yellow fields in every direction, and bright blue skies overhead.
LEADBETTER POINT STATE PARK - DUNE FOREST LOOP
Location: Southwest Washington -- Long Beach Area
Length: 2.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation: 60 feet
A walk through the coastal forest and tidal flats of Leadbetter Point State Park, the Dune Forest Loop is a nice way to see this low-lying peninsula, but the conditions on trail are heavily dependent on the tides and recent rainfall. Come prepared to wade through at least a little bit of water, and don’t be surprised to find yourself navigating deeper stuff. Bring a tide table, and try to visit at low tide for the driest conditions.
COYOTE WALL - THE LABYRINTH LOOP
Location: Columbia Gorge area
Length: 7.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
This year-round hike offers great views of the Columbia River Gorge along with enchanting stands of oak, cascading waterfalls, dramatic basalt outcroppings, and profuse wildflowers in the spring. Often sunny here while raining in Vancouver, it is a great place to hike while waiting for snow to melt at higher elevations.
WILLARD SPRINGS TRAIL
Location: Mount Adams Area
Length: 2.0 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: minimal
The Willard Springs Trail is a two-mile loop along the edge of the Conboy Lake marsh and through the pine forest. Beginning at the refuge headquarters, the trail parallels the west shore of the old Conboy Lake lakebed, with views across the lakebed and north to the 12,000-foot Mt. Adams from the Observation Platform, then returns through the forest. Wildlife are abundant on this trail, including sandhill cranes, northern harriers, bald eagles, swifts, swallows, warblers, and juncos, among many other birds.
Sun Lakes - Dry Falls State Park - Umatilla Rock via Monument Coulee
Location: Central Washington -- Grand Coulee
Length: 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation: 100 feet
The hike involves a circumnavigation of Umatilla Rock, a narrow rock blade that passes below Dry Falls. This area lies midway along the 50-mile Grand Coulee—one of the longest and most spectacular chasms carved out by up to 100 gargantuan Ice Age floods. The floods originated from sudden outbursts of ice-dammed Glacial Lake Missoula as recently as 15,000 years ago. The height of the Ice Age floodwaters (800 ft deep), shooting over Dry Falls at perhaps 60-70 mph, was nearly the height of Seattle’s 76-story Columbia Center-Washington State’s tallest building.
rattlesnake slope wildlife area
Location: Central Washington -- Tri-Cities
Length: 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation: 1600 feet
Upland birds love this sprawling desert prairie. The ground-hugging birds sprint among the tufts of plants. Of course, where upland birds (pheasants, quail, and partridge) are found, coyotes are sure to be present. Hike a short distance in any direction and you'll find coyote signs.
Location: Spokane Area
Length: 6.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Hike a six-mile horseshoe loop up through the bluffs and along the north side of Crab Creek. Most people who know this area call it "Goose Butte", named after a big goose spotted on the cliff above the caves back in the 1990s when the Bureau of Land Management acquired the land. The bottomland was once farmed at the turn of the century and there were a number of old homesteads on either side of the creek, but most are not visible now. You might spot an apple tree or two that were are offshoots from the original apple trees planted by the homesteaders.