Last updated: November 20, 2023
I hike year-round because I can. Because it’s important to have hobbies that don’t include your credit card, especially during the winter. Because I don’t support the idea of getting into “summer shape.” And because winter hiking near Seattle is fantastic for those willing to embrace the seasonal challenges.
Seattle’s relatively mild winters make it more accessible for hikers, offering endless opportunities to explore under clear, crisp skies or, more realistically, rather angry gray skies.
If you, like me, are always looking for those epic mountain views that Washington is known for, you might need to look elsewhere in winter. Or you can be highly flexible with your schedule and wait for the rare sunny day.
Alternatively, you can embrace the season’s beauty and find different things to enjoy. Cleansing rain, every shade of green imaginable, fierce clouds, and a lot of mud – one of the better exfoliants if you ask me.
Top Winter Hikes
Easy: Nisqually Vista Trail
Moderate: Lewis River Falls Trail
Difficult: Oyster Dome
Winter Hiking Near Seattle
Thanks to its diverse landscapes, Washington winters offer the outdoor lover plenty of options. Here are some of the best winter hikes in Washington State, in my very biased opinion.
Mount Rainier National Park Hikes in Winter
While snowshoes are often necessary for many trails, a few lower-elevation ones at Mount Rainier may be hiked without snowshoes during milder winter conditions. Check trip reports for a solid understanding of current conditions.
1. Nisqually Vista Trail
This short, 1.2-mile loop trail starts at the Paradise area and offers stunning views of Mount Rainier. It’s a popular winter hike because it’s relatively low in elevation and may not require snowshoes in mild conditions.
It’s one of the easier Washington winter hikes, so the trail is more likely to be compacted if you wait a few days after a heavy snowfall.
2. Carter and Madcap Falls
These waterfalls make for a rather grand hike in winter and are accessible from the Longmire area, approximately 2 miles round trip. Depending on snow levels, the trail is lower in elevation and can sometimes be hiked without snowshoes. Earlier or later in the season is your best bet.
3. Silver Falls
Also located in the Longmire area and one of Washington’s more charming winter waterfall hikes, the Silver Falls trail is about a 3-mile round trip and takes you to the delightful Silver Falls. Depending on conditions, it’s a relatively low-elevation trail that may be hikeable without snowshoes.
4. Trail of the Shadows
This is one of the best easy winter hikes Washington has to offer. It’s a 0.7-mile loop trail located near the Longmire area and is often accessible without snowshoes.
Always exercise caution and be prepared for changing conditions when hiking in the winter at Mount Rainier. Carry the necessary gear, including warm clothing, traction devices for your boots, a map, and emergency supplies.
Check trail reports and talk with the park rangers for the most up-to-date information on trail conditions and closures before heading out on any hike.
Olympic National Park
The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State offers some stunning winter hiking opportunities, with diverse ecosystems ranging from coastal beaches to temperate rainforests.
While many trails can be enjoyed year-round, preparing for cold, wet, and potentially snowy conditions is essential. And even possibly, sunshine, so bring your sunscreen too because it is Washington. Here are some of the best winter hikes in Olympic National Park.
5. Hole-in-the-Wall from Rialto Beach
This coastal hike near La Push is a marvelous place to explore in winter. The driftwood-strewn shoreline and sea stacks are particularly dramatic this time of year.
Keep an eye out for storm-watching opportunities and an ear out for the ever-so-satisfying sound of waves crashing violently, but be cautious of sneaker waves.
Also, plan around the tide schedule.
6. Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is enchanting in winter, with lush moss-covered trees and the serene Hoh River. The Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trails are short hikes that can be enjoyed even during the rainiest months. Just be prepared for muddy conditions.
7. Sol Duc Falls
The world needs more waterfalls like this, one of the best snow-free hikes in Washington. Most of the time. The trail to Sol Duc Falls is a short, family-friendly hike that leads to a splendid waterfall. The surrounding forest is magical in the winter, with the possibility of snow only adding more charm to the scenery.
8. Ozette Loop Trail
This 9.4-mile coastal loop trail is a bit longer but provides a unique opportunity to explore the forest and shoreline. The ocean vistas can be especially dramatic during winter storms. It’s windier and colder, too.
9. Lake Crescent
While the Lake Crescent area can be chilly in winter, the solitude and the pristine lake surrounded by snow-dusted peaks make for quite the picturesque setting.
Various trails around the lake can be explored, including Marymere Falls, Crescent Lake Nature Trail, and Mount Storm King. The latter would require more experience and traction devices, especially as you reach higher elevations.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park in Washington State offers some stunning winter hiking opportunities, but it’s essential to be well-prepared for cold and snowy conditions.
While many of the trails in the park are snow-covered during the winter, some lower-elevation trails may be hikeable without snowshoes in milder conditions at the beginning or end of the season.
Here are some of the best winter hikes in North Cascades National Park that don’t necessarily require snowshoes.
10. East Bank Baker Lake
The East Bank Trail at Baker Lake in Washington is east of Bellingham, near Concrete. It’s a 10-mile, moderate out-and-back hike, although you can surely do only a portion if you want something shorter.
The East Bank Trail takes you through a beautiful old-growth forest with towering Douglas fir and Western red cedar trees. The best part of this hike is the excellent bridges you’ll cross.
Methow Valley Trails
The Methow Valley is an absolute wonderland for winter hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, offering a variety of trails that cater to different skill levels and preferences.
11. Sun Mountain Loop
This is a popular trail network with various loops suitable for all levels. The Sun Mountain Lodge offers trail maps, a great starting point, and the most beautiful place to stay and dine. The views of the valley and surrounding mountains are stunning.
12. Big Valley Trail
This trail, near Winthrop, is a moderate hike that offers fantastic winter views of the surrounding hills and valleys. It’s an excellent option for those looking for a challenge.
Remember to consider your skill level, choose trails that match your abilities, and always let someone know your plans before venturing into the backcountry.
Always check the current trail conditions, weather forecasts, and park alerts before embarking on a winter hike in North Cascades National Park.
And I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but… Remember that trail conditions can change rapidly in winter, so exercise caution and use your best judgment when deciding whether to hike.
North of Seattle
There are some sweet hikes between Seattle and Bellingham as well.
13. Oyster Dome Trail
Oyster Dome is a popular hiking destination near Bellingham and Chuckanut Drive. One of the main attractions of Oyster Dome is its panoramic views of Samish Bay and the surrounding area. So it is best to go on a clear day. And, my personal favorite, at sunset!
The 6-mile trail to Oyster Dome can be muddy and slippery in the winter due to rain and snowmelt. It’s essential to wear sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good traction. Trekking poles can also be helpful for stability.
14. Deception Pass State Park
Deception Pass State Park is known for its stunning coastal scenery, including rugged cliffs, lush forests, and grand views of Deception Pass and the surrounding islands.
Winter can provide a unique and dramatic backdrop, with waves crashing against the rocky shores and possibly snow-capped peaks in the distance.
The park offers a variety of trails suitable for all skill levels. Some routes may be less crowded in the winter than during the peak summer season, providing a quieter and more serene hiking experience.
The park’s diverse trails range from short, easy walks to longer, more challenging hikes, allowing you to choose the level of difficulty that suits your preferences.
Winter can be an excellent time for wildlife viewing in Deception Pass State Park. You may have the opportunity to spot wintering birds, including bald eagles, waterfowl, and shorebirds. Additionally, the park’s forests are home to various active wildlife species year-round.
15. Padilla Bay Trail
The Skagit Valley Padilla Bay Trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding Skagit Valley and Padilla Bay. It’s more of a walk, with only 36 feet of elevation gain in 4.4 miles out and back.
In the winter, you may have the opportunity to see migratory birds, including waterfowl and raptors, which can add to the scenic beauty of the area.
Winter is an excellent time for birdwatching and photography, as many migratory birds visit the area during this season. Bird lovers will find the trail particularly appealing, with opportunities to spot various species.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers a variety of winter hiking possibilities suitable for beginners.
16. Ape Cave
Ape Cave is a lava tube that provides an unforgettable and unique hiking experience in any season. The cave’s interior is cold and icy in winter, creating a surreal atmosphere. You’ll need appropriate clothing, including layers and a good light source.
The lower cave is usually open year-round, but the upper cave may be closed due to icy conditions. Plus, the road to the trail is closed to traffic, adding a mile to your adventure. Trust me, it’s worth it!
17. Toutle River Greenway Trail
This lower-elevation trail provides a more accessible winter hiking option. It follows the Toutle River and offers views of the surrounding hills and the volcano. You can hike a section of this trail for a shorter outing or explore more for a more extended day.
18. Lewis River Falls Trail
Located near Cougar, Washington, this easy 7.8-mile round-trip hike takes you along the Lewis River, passing by several fantastic waterfalls. The trail is often accessible in winter, offering a serene, snow-covered landscape. Be prepared for potentially icy conditions on the trail and on the road.
19. Lower Falls Creek Falls
This is a relatively short, easy, and fabulous hike to Lower Falls Creek Falls, near Carson. The trail is approximately 1.5 miles round trip and leads to a picturesque and popular waterfall that can be even more enchanting and less crowded when frozen in winter.
20. Beacon Rock State Park
While not technically part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Beacon Rock State Park is nearby and offers excellent winter hiking options. The Beacon Rock Trail is a short, well-maintained trail with switchbacks leading to the summit for panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Pro tip: Consider hiking with a friend for safety and enjoyment!
Snoqualmie Pass Area
Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State offers some great winter hiking opportunities for beginners. While snowshoeing is popular in the area, several trails can be hiked without snowshoes in milder winter conditions.
21. Franklin Falls Trail
This sometimes short, 2-mile round-trip hike is an excellent option for beginners. It’s sometimes long as well, as they will close the road to it once the snow builds up, and you’ll need to walk the extra miles to and fro.
Otherwise, the trailhead is easily accessible from Snoqualmie Pass and leads to a sometimes frozen waterfall in the winter.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve been here during the winter and it’s worth it every. single. time.
22. Gold Creek Pond Loop
This easy loop trail is only about 1.2 miles long and is suitable for all skill levels. It circles around Gold Creek Pond and offers picturesque views of the surrounding mountains. This is another one with extra miles during the winter due to snow accumulation and road closures.
Franklin Falls and Gold Creek Pond can be a great hike through well-packed snow, but snowshoes may be necessary if there’s been recent snow activity and/or few people on the trail. Check trip reports!
23. Granite Creek Loop Trail
Located near the Denny Creek Campground, this 2.5-mile loop trail is usually accessible in winter without snowshoes in much of the winter. It provides a tranquil winter forest experience.
24. Snoqualmie Falls
Short, usually very crowded, and multiple options on where to go and what to see. It’s a captivating natural wonder that draws visitors year-round. Bring traction devices, such as these, in case of icy conditions.
The hike to the main viewing area of Snoqualmie Falls is relatively short, covering less than half a mile round trip. This makes it a manageable winter outing, ideal for those seeking a quick and enjoyable nature excursion.
Additionally, winter can provide unique photography opportunities with snow and ice around the falls, creating a distinct and picturesque atmosphere.
25. Twin falls
Twin Falls, located near North Bend, is a beautiful hiking experience throughout the year, including winter. Winter hiking to Twin Falls can be quite rewarding, but there are a few considerations to remember.
The trail to Twin Falls is approximately 2.6 miles round trip and is relatively well-maintained, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels. During the winter months, the trail may be less crowded than the peak of summer, providing a more serene and peaceful experience.
One of the highlights of winter hiking at Twin Falls is the scenic beauty of the trail covered in snow and ice, which can create a magical ambiance. The falls themselves can be particularly striking when partially frozen.
However, it’s an excellent idea to be prepared for winter conditions. The trail can become extremely icy and slippery, so wearing appropriate footwear with good traction is essential.
Additionally, dressing in layers and carrying essential gear like microspikes or trekking poles for stability can enhance your safety and comfort.
26. Middlfork Trail
The Middle Fork Trail, near North Bend, is a popular hiking destination throughout the year. Whether it’s a good winter hike depends on your preferences and preparedness.
Winter hiking on the Middle Fork Trail can provide a serene and peaceful experience, with the surrounding forest and river covered in snow. It’s one of my favorite winter hikes because it can be anything you want, long or short, depending on your mood and time.
It’s an excellent opportunity for solitude and wildlife spotting. However, the trail can be icy and slippery in places.
I sometimes hike down this same road just to stop and see the handsome wooden bridge at the start of the Middlefork trail. Truly charming character, even in the winter.
27. Garfield Ledges
This sweet little 1.8 hike gives you a sweeping view of the Snoqualmie Valley at the top. A simple trail of switchbacks, it can be pretty muddy in the winter. Especially following a day of solid rain. But it makes for a good hike with an even better view, especially at sunset.
If you’re going through North Bend, consider stopping for some bread heaven on your way out or your way in. The North Bend Bakery opens at 7 and closes on Mondays. Not sponsored, just thankful.
28. Rattlesnake Ledge
The ever-popular sunrise hike, made even easier because you can sleep in a bit longer. This is another one that I will never get tired of. Just over 5 miles and moderate in difficulty, the trail is well-maintained and has a fantastic view from the top.
29. Mount Si
This is one of those hikes people either love or hate. It is often crowded and is essentially one switchback after another. I love it, especially in the winter. It’s an 8 mile trail with a difficult rating, and a lovely training hike if you want to stay in shape over the winter.
Tiger Mountain State Forest
Tiger Mountain State Forest has a range of hiking trails suitable for beginnerish hikers. These trails provide an opportunity to explore lush Pacific Northwest forests and enjoy lovely views of the surrounding area.
30. Tiger Mountain Adventure Trail
This is a 2.3 miles out-and-back moderate trail with only 600 feet elevation gain. There’s not much of a view here, but it’s not busy either, and it’s good hiking, one of the best winter hikes near Seattle. Because it’s not crowded. It can get pretty muddy, though.
31. West Tiger 3 Trail
This trail leads to West Tiger 3 summit, and it’s an excellent choice for experienced hikers looking to gain some elevation and enjoy scenic views. It’s about a 5-mile round trip with a very steep ascent.
On clear days, the summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including Mount Rainier.
32. Tradition Lake Loop Trail
This 3.6-mile loop trail circles Tradition Lake, offering a pleasant, family-friendly hike. The trail is relatively flat, refreshingly original, and provides birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities.
33. Talus Rocks Trail
This 2.4-mile gorgeous loop trail features exciting rock formations, including a talus cave. It’s a shorter, family-friendly hike with educational interpretive signs. Prepare for a muddy adventure, especially during the winter.
34. Section Line, Nook, and Bus Trail
This 5-mile trail provides a relatively moderate and scenic hike through the forest. It’s an excellent option for those seeking a quieter walk near the city. It’s also fun and different to check out the rusted bus along the way.
Before heading out to Tiger Mountain State Park, check trail conditions and any park alerts.
35. Chirico Trail to Poo Point
While this one is rated hard by AllTrails, it’s a super convenient hike in Issaquah. It’s beautiful even if you don’t reach the summit and will give you something to aim for if you want to progress over the winter.
The paragliders are an added bonus, should you do reach the top! But you’ll need to go on a clear day to see them.
Top Safety Tips, Winter Hiking Washington
Winter hiking in Washington can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but it also comes with challenges and safety concerns. Many trails can be more slippery than usual due to all the rain.
Check out my complete guide on winter hiking and review these top ten safety tips for winter hiking in Washington.
Check Trip Reports
If you’re not already on a first-name basis with AllTrails and WTA, winter is your opportunity to become better friends with both, if possible. Review recent trip reports on both so that you have a better idea of what the trail will be like when you arrive.
Check Weather Conditions
Always check the weather forecast before heading out. Be prepared for rapidly changing weather, and postpone your hike if a major storm is predicted.
Dress in Layers
Wear moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Remember a warm hat, gloves, and insulated, waterproof boots with good traction.
Let someone know your hiking plans, route, and expected return time. Carry a map, compass, and GPS device, and familiarize yourself with the trail.
Use Proper Equipment
Equip yourself with gear suitable for winter conditions, including micro-spikes and trekking poles. Make sure they are in good condition and know how to use them.
Pack the Ten Essentials, which include navigation tools, a headlamp/flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothing, fire-starting materials, a first aid kit, a multi-tool, sunglasses, sunblock, and a repair kit.
Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Dehydration and hypothermia can set in quickly in cold conditions. Carry a thermos of hot liquid and high-energy snacks to stay warm and fueled.
Be Cautious of Avalanches
Research avalanche conditions for your chosen trail. Consider taking an avalanche safety course and carrying necessary avalanche safety gear, such as a beacon, probe, and shovel.
Know Your Limits
Winter hiking can be physically demanding. Refrain from pushing yourself too hard, and be prepared to turn back if conditions become too challenging or dangerous.
Stay on Marked Trails
Stick to well-marked and well-traveled trails during winter hikes. Venturing off-trail can lead to getting lost and increase the risk of accidents. Also, it’s not at all good for the environment.
Be Mindful of Shorter Daylight Hours
Days are shorter in the winter, so plan your hike accordingly to ensure you finish before dark. Carry a headlamp or flashlight in case you’re caught out after sunset.
FAQs, Winter Hike Washington
Yes, you can hike near Seattle in the winter. The region offers various winter hiking opportunities in nearby mountains like the Cascades and Olympic Peninsula. However, be prepared for snow, icy conditions, and rapidly changing weather, and follow safety guidelines for winter hiking.
You can hike year-round in several lowland areas with minimal snow in Seattle. Popular options include Discovery Park, Carkeek Park, Green Lake Park, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. These locations provide accessible and snow-free hiking opportunities within the city limits.
During winter in Washington, several lowland trails typically remain snow-free. Some options include the Columbia River Gorge, Olympic National Park’s coastal paths, Deception Pass State Park, and areas around Puget Sound. Check current trail conditions and weather forecasts, as requirements vary throughout the state.
Yes, you can hike year-round in Washington. The state offers many hiking opportunities, from lowland trails in coastal and urban areas with milder winters to snowshoeing and winter hiking in the mountains. Hiking options are available throughout the seasons, but conditions vary depending on location and elevation.
Final Thoughts, Winter Hikes Washington
Lots of options, don’t you think? These are primarily easier-to-moderate hikes to get you started. They each have their own beauty and charm, and it’s nice to have a variety to choose from, depending on your mood and time constraints.
Whichever hikes you choose, I hope you get outside this winter. Be safe and have fun!