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WTA's Favorite Hikes Close to Home

We help you get outside year round, but we know that can get harder in the winter. Get ideas from WTA staffers on where we go (and why) when we need a close-to-home escape.

Getting outside can be hard to do in the winter. To get that rejuvenating dose of nature and light when it's dark all day, take a page from our playbook and visit a nearby park.

You might already have a favorite local park or greenspace. If not, get started with these recommendations from WTA staff. These are the trails we head to for that moment of calm. They can be midday leg-stretchers or longer weekend rambles.

Some pack many miles of trail into small acreage, so you can create big outings in a little park. Or, you can simply find a quiet spot and sit. Enjoy.

Stimpson Nature Reserve

Closest City: Bellingham
4.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
300 feet

Stimpson Nature Reserve. Photo by twokidsbadknees.
Stimpson Nature Reserve. Photo by twokidsbadknees.

Brimming with old-growth forests and wetlands, this nature reserve is a great escape close to the city of Bellingham. A trail system composed of two interconnected loops offers an option between the longer main loop and the shorter Geneva Pond loop.

> Plan your visit to Stimpson Nature Preserve using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "This is one of my family’s favorites up in Bellingham. Stimpson Nature Reserve is 5 minutes outside of town and is a lovely short loop through old-growth. Another favorite, Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve, is only 5 mins down the road and has a lot of loop options, and is really pretty when the leaves start turning.Jaime Loucky, Chief Impact Officer

Whatcom Falls Park 

Closest City: Bellingham
4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
50 feet

A mossy bridge over a waterfall. Photo by j brink.
Whatcom Falls Park. Photo by j brink.

A lot of variety is packed into this 4-mile network of trails. Visitors here can experience deep forests, open meadows and creeks and waterfalls. And for a one-of-a-kind feature be sure to check out the stone bridge that overlooks the falls--both the falls and the bridge are works of art.

> Plan your visit to Whatcom Falls Park using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Whatcom Falls Park has it all, rushing water, lots of wide interconnecting trails for long or short hikes and a large parking lot.  And, did I mention rushing water?" Barbara Budd, Northwest Regional Trails Coordinator

Raptor Ridge from Arroyo Park

Closest City: Bellingham
8.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
1,500 feet

A bare rock overlooking views of forest and Puget Sound. Photo by OneHundredMilesAYear.
Raptor Ridge. Photo by OneHundredMilesAYear.

Clocking in at 8.0 miles roundtrip, this hike takes visitors through dense forest to a stunning viewpoint.

> Plan your visit to Raptor Ridge from Arroyo Park using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "A nice, forested hike through some of Bellingham’s biggest trees culminates in a spectacular climb through a narrow rock staircase to an exposed overlook of the Cascade Range." — Arlen Bogaards, Northwest Regional Manager

Lowell Riverfront Park Trail  

Closest City: Everett
Mileage: 3.0 miles of trails
Elevation Gain:

Lowell Riverfront Park. Photo by ForTheLoveOfTrails.
Lowell Riverfront Park. Photo by ForTheLoveOfTrails.

In addition to being a multi-use trail that's accessible to a variety of trail users, this trail offers access to the stretch of the Snohomish River just before it empties into Puget Sound. Keep an eye out for birds as well as sea creatures swimming up from the mouth of the river.

> Plan your visit to Lowell Riverfront Park Trail using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "I enjoy Lowell Riverfront Park Trail because it's paved, which means my daughter can ride her bike while I walk. I am also fascinated with the little detour off the main trail that you can take to look at the wetlands, and I love watching the waterfall that falls from the pedestrian bridge into the wetlands. It's nifty to think the wetlands are working to make that water clean. This trail is popular with all sorts of folks. I see families with young kids, teenagers, people walking dogs, folks out for a jog, older hikers. It makes me happy to see so many people out enjoying it." —Jessi Loerch, Washington Trails Editor

Evans Creek Preserve

Closest City: Redmond  
4.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
325 feet

Evans Creek Preserve. Photo by jennekehikes.
Evans Creek Preserve. Photo by jennekehikes.

WTA built the trail system in this nature preserve just east of Lake Sammamish. Check out the handiwork of so many hardworking volunteers who constructed these ADA accessible trails, and take in the scenery of wetlands, meadows and forests.

> Plan your visit to Evans Creek Preserve using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Dropping down the trail from the upper parking lot feels like you’re entering another world. The road noise disappears and you are immediately on this lovely set of trails with tall trees and little bridges over flowing creeks that gurgle down the hillside through the understory ferns. Keep going down and across the puncheon decking and wander through the giant skunk cabbage and rhododendrons. Leave the forest behind and break out onto the old farm fields to soak up the sun and smell the blackberries that line the meadows. I love to sit there for a moment looking south and take in the view of the Snoqualmie valley mountain range before I head back up the hill to my car. It’s a lovely loop hike." — Emily Snyder, WTA Crew Leader

BOeing Creek Park

Closest City: Seattle
4.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
325 feet

boeing creek park_erika haugen goodman.jpeg
Vivid greens at Boeing Creek Park. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

Pair Boeing Creek Park with Shoreview for back-to-back walks just west of Shoreline Community College. On offer: some very tall trees, small creeks, and a network of (mostly) good trails with a few ups and downs. Wildflowers, ferns, moss, birds: they are all here.

> Plan your visit to Boeing Creek Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Boeing Creek is great because once you're in the park, the lushness of the ravine and forest really makes you feel like you're in the frontcountry. You can really relax and unwind in there completely surrounded by nature. The trail options are also great, and the south side of the park has some really great, steeper trails that can give you a good workout." — Erika Haugen-Goodman, Communications Coordinator

Washington Park Arboretum Loop

Closest City: Seattle

Mileage: varies

Elevation Gain: 250 feet

UW stadium from Foster Island boardwalk. Photo by nwroth.

UW Stadium is visible from the boardwalk between Foster and Marsh Islands. Photo by nwroth.

Washington Park has miles of trails, but one of the best things about this park is that it's so close to so many other green spaces. With a little creativity, it's possible to make loops, connect neighborhoods and have a lengthy adventure right in town. 

> Plan your visit to Washington Park Arboretum Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "During the Stay Home order, I walked to Washington Park on a weekly basis, accessing it a variety of ways. My most adventurous trip wound up being about 10 miles. I included the arboretum,  linking up with the trail through Foster and Marsh Island, getting back onto Montlake via the ship canal trail, and then climbing back up towards home via Interlaken and Volunteer Park." — Anna Roth, Hiking Guide Manager

Beaver Lake Preserve

Closest City: Sammamish
1.2 miles, roundtrtip
Elevation Gain:
50 feet

A log bridge crosses a small creek. Photo by whitebark.
Beaver Lake Preserve. Photo by whitebark.

Beaver Lake Preserve immerses visitors in a forests full of native plants and wetlands where frogs are sure to be swimming. 

> Plan your visit to Beaver Lake Preserve using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Beaver Lake Preserve — 76 acres of wooded forest in Sammamish — offers a short network of family-friendly trails and a picnic area with the opportunity to explore further using the connector trails to Hazel Wolf Wetlands and Soaring Eagle Park." — Krista Dooley, Community Partnerships and Leadership Development Director

May Creek Trail  

Closest City: Newcastle
3.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 

A section of trail covered in fall leaves. Photo by noirange.
May Creek Trail. Photo by noirange.

Follow the rushing water of May Creek through this green space that transports you away from the nearby bustle of the city. 

> Plan your visit to May Creek Trail using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "This trail is a ramble in a creek ravine. Even though it’s surrounded by neighborhoods and traffic it seems much farther out. May Creek also has lots of history and connects to more trails in Newcastle and to Cougar Mountain."  — Lezlie Cox, Office Manager

CHief Sealth Trail

Closest City: Seattle
4.3 miles, roundtrtip
Elevation Gain:
800 feet

chief sealth_marley.jpeg
The Chief Sealth trail winds through the hills of south Seattle. Photo by Marley.

This paved route on Beacon Hill is an urban gem! Walk (or bike) four and a half miles of paved trail connecting Jefferson Park with the Kubota Gardens and with expansive views all along the way. You can extend your day by taking a wander around the gardens and marveling at the landscape.

> Plan your visit to Chief Sealth Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "What I love about the Chief Sealth trail is it spans Beacon Hill to Rainier Beach. So you get beautiful views as you walk along the top of Beacon Hill of downtown Seattle, the port of Seattle, the Olympics. The many P-patches along the way are delightful, too, and it's paved for strollers and bikes. Visit Kubota Garden once you get to Rainier Beach!" — Jenica Nordstrom, Graphic Designer

Point Defiance Park

Closest City: Tacoma
5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
200 feet

A paved trail curves around the puget sound waterfront. Photo by Criada.
Point Defiance Park. Photo by Criada.

This grand park sits on the very tip of a peninsula jutting out into Puget Sound and has a variety of landscapes, paths, playgrounds and more to keep visitors coming back to find something new each time.

> Plan your visit to Point Defiance Park using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Point Defiance Park has trails, beaches and views — what’s not to like." — Moleek Busby, Field Operations Senior Manager

Watershed Park 

Closest City: Olympia
1.36 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
150 feet

A boardwalk curves through a lush green forest. Photo by schmerica79.
Watershed Park. Photo by schmerica79.

As the name suggests, this park encapsulates a wet environment. A labyrinthine series of wooden boardwalks and bridges float visitors above the creeks and bogs blooming with skunk cabbage. 

> Plan your visit to Watershed Park using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Watershed Park is my favorite spot for a quick walk (or trail run) in Olympia. It's only a short drive from downtown, but once you start meandering down the quiet loop trail, you'll feel transported to somewhere far outside the city. With multiple entry and exit points, it's easy to access and to venture for as little or as long as you like. Plus, it's great for salmonberry foraging in the springtime!" —Rachel Wendling, Communications Coordinator

Cougar Trails

Closest City: Vancouver
6.0 miles of trails
Elevation Gain:
308 feet

A person walks through a field of golden grass. Photo by BeaverDawg.
Cougar Trails. Photo by BeaverDawg.

These six miles of trails on the Washington State University (WSU) campus in Vancouver are a great place to get some exercise while soaking in forests and fields. 

> Plan your visit to Cougar Trails using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "The riparian restoration work along Mill Creek and the deep-forest feel down there is like a little bit of old-growth primeval forest right on campus." — Ryan Ojerio, Southwest Regional Manager

Whipple Creek Park

Closest City: Vancouver
3.1 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
110 feet

A wide trail of brown dirt leads into the trees. Photo by knchaika.
Whipple Creek. Photo by knchaika.

It's easy to leave the stress of the city behind when you stroll down these inviting paths that wind under towering old-growth. 

Staff Testimonial: "This park feels like a magical old-growth forest in the middle of Vancouver, enough to fully get lost in (I've gone for some runs there that can last well over an hour without even running on the same trails twice), but also accessible enough to take your little kiddo or your elderly dog for a short and magical stroll." — Stasia Honnold, Southwest Regional Trails Coordinator

> Plan your visit to Whipple Creek Park using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Finch Arboretum 

Closest City: Spokane
1.25 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:

A large majestic tree with multiple trunks. Photo by James Hawley.
Finch Arboretum. Photo by James Hawley.

Not far from downtown Spokane, Finch Arboretum is a beautiful place to talk a stroll and learn about the more than 2,000 labeled trees and shrubs that are rooted here.

> Plan your visit to Finch Arboretum using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "Almost all of the trees and shrubs have tags identifying what they are, so visiting is a learning experience. The 'Touch and See Nature Trail' is my favorite part of the park, and the ginkgoes are my favorite trees." — Holly Weiler, Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator

Dishman Hills Natural Area 

Closest City: Spokane Valley 
Loop options vary
Elevation Gain:
Loop options vary

A colorful sky of clouds above a field of golden grass. Photo by TrailKat.
Dishman Hills. Photo by TrailKat.

This natural area is extensive and varied, offering what feels like endless hiking opportunities near Spokane Valley. 

> Plan your visit to Dishman Hills Natural Area using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Staff Testimonial: "With single-track trails, an intact ecosystem with native plants and lots of wildlife you can almost forget you're in an urban area (until you hear the intercom at the car dealership across Appleway)." — Holly Weiler, Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator