Winter is in full swing around the country (well…at least west of the Rockies), which means it’s time to get out an enjoy the cool, crisp air, the snow flurries on the ground, and the leave-less wonders. In Washington, get out and about this season with these five fun walks!
Wildside – De Leo Wall Trail, Cougar Mountain
Just a few miles outside of Seattle with history, waterfalls, and views of Mount Rainier, this trail lets you discover your wild side in the winter. A part of the extensive system on Cougar Mountain, the Wildside Trail and De Leo Wall Trail tend to stay snow free and fern-filled for most of the winter. Named after the first pioneer families to settle the area, the wall is an ancient extrusion of andesitic magma that formed a ridge and has resisted the grinding of glaciers and erosion. Grab a trail map at the information kiosk at the trail head to lengthen your day with one of many add-on trails that loop through this lush region close to the city center.
2. Thunder Creek, North Cascades
Even after the North Cascades Highway closes for the winter, this trail remains open. Starting at the Colonial Creek Campground, follow the flat, quiet trail as far as you like. A pale green creek, big old trees, and glimpses of the surrounding mountains greet you around each bend. Take it easy as you may find snow in spots or just pack along the snowshoes to be safe as this trail is about the journey not the destination. Hike two miles or twelve along this North Cascades trail.
3. Icicle Ridge Loop, Leavenworth
Winter and this hike go together like brats and mustard. From the Bavarian town of Leavenworth in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest explore the natural beauty of the Icicle Creek Valley on this 4.2 mile round trip interpretive trail hike. With a gentle grade and scenic views, you’ll spot families, runners, birding enthusiast and hikers along the trail – even on cold winter days. If you want to ramp up the adventure, hike the Fourth of July Trail, which links you to the Ridge. Then head into town and share a brat and beer with your buddies to warm up!
4. Beacon Rock, Columbia Gorge
With breathtaking views of the Columbia River, the Beacon Rock trail is a classic climb in this gorgeous river gorge. Follow the 1.8 mile round trip hike to the top of one of the largest monoliths in North America and a former volcano just on the south-central border of Washington. Gaining 680 feet as the trail zigs and zags up the side of the rock face (barriers protect you from the edge), steal glaces over the river and imagine what it was like for Lewis and Clark as they floated by in 1805.
5. Bordeaux Ghost Town Hike, Olympic Peninsula
A short, low-level trail, this hike to an abandoned logging town is a great way to spend an afternoon near the Olympic Peninsula this winter. Dive into the history of the region as you wander the abandoned buildings that today are overgrown with branches and debris as the forest reclaims the town of Bordeaux, Washington. In 1900, two owners of the Mason Logging Company, Thomas and Russell Bordeaux, establishment the town for their employees. Several hundred people lived here during the height of the regional logging. The town included a post office, saw mill, hotel, houses, a school and general store. However, as trees became scarce in the area, the mill closed in 1941 and slowly families abandoned the town site in look of work elsewhere.
Bonus Winter Activity
Trade in your boots for a boat this winter and take a scenic Bald Eagle viewing float down the Skagit River. Between December and February, hundreds of birds nest for the winter months along this gorgeous river valley.
What is your favorite winter hike in Washington?