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20 Winter Hikes to Flee the Frenzy and Find Bliss

Find a path into the backcountry on any of these awesome winter hikes around the state.

A short hike, a trail run or an off-season camping trip can be a great way to escape from the winter blues or the pressures of the holidays and create new traditions. And we picked out some hikes where you likely won't need to tromp through snowdrifts to find fresh air and explore Washington's waterfalls, rivers, desert bluffs or mossy forests.

Bundle up, review our winter safety tips and use one of the hikes below to go make some memories outdoors!

Central Washington

Crab Creek Wildlife Area

Location: Central Washington -- Tri-Cities
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Crab Creek. Photo by mytho-man.jpeg
 Snowy hillsides in the Columbia Wildlife Refuge. Photo (c) David Hagen.

Broad, rolling sand dunes, emerald-green lakes, a wide, gurgling blue creek, and towering mountains await you in the 17,000 acres of the Crab Creek Wildlife Area. The longest creek in Washington, this area is home to a variety of protected wildlife, and in winter, a respite from the snowy slopes west of the Cascades. Note: you may be sharing the area with hunters.

> Plan your visit to Crab Creek Wildlife Area using WTA's Hiking Guide

White Bluffs - North Slope

Location: Central Washington -- Tri-Cities
Mileage: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

White Bluffs. Photo by mytho-man.jpeg
The stunning colors of a fading day at White Bluffs - North Slope. Photo (c) David Hagen.

If the sun is shining, this Tri-Cities-area hike is the perfect place to find some solitude and bird watch. As you hike among the dunes and enjoy the beauty of big open skies, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife tracks in the sand.

> Plan your visit to White Bluffs-North Slope using WTA's Hiking Guide

Snow Mountain Ranch

Location: Central Washington -- Yakima
9.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1140 feet

Snow Mountain Ranch. Photo by AllOfUs.jpeg
A hiker gazing out on the Wildflower Trail on Snow Mountain Ranch. Photo by trip reporter AllOfUs.

For a flat riparian ramble or a great workout to a scenic summit under wide blue skies, Snow Mountain Ranch is a walking wonderland just outside of Yakima. Our friends at Cowiche Canyon Conservancy steward this former ranch, which has a little something for everyone. Keep your eyes peeled for some recent trail work by WTA volunteers, who worked on a section of trail here.

> Plan your visit to Snow Mountain Ranch using WTA's Hiking Guide

Northrup Canyon

Location: Central Washington -- Grand Coulee
Mileage: 3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 384 feet

Northrup Canyon after a fresh snow. Photo by InsaneCouleeExpeditions.

Located in the Grand Coulee, Northrup Canyon will delight in the silvery sagebrush, golden grasses and scarlet red osier. It's also a winter oasis for some 200 bald eagles. Throw in a picturesque canyon and a cool old cabin and you have a great little hike.

Steamboat Rock State Park isn't far from Northrup Canyon and features several great bonus hikes where you can explore the incredible geology of Ice Age floods. In the park, the Dune and Bay campgrounds are open on a first-come first-served basis during winter. Water at individual campsites is shut off in winter.

> Plan your visit to Northrup Canyon using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastern Washington

Hog Lake

Location: Eastern Washington -- Spokane
5.4 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 670 feet

Hog Canyon by combs.mariah.jpeg
Hog Lake in early October. Photo by trip reporter combs.mariah

In late winter and spring, Hog Lake is thriving with songbirds, waterfowl and wildflowers. Hike the 1.3 mile loop above the lake, through stands of ponderosa pine, and then drop down a steep trail to the lake itself. Bring a fishing pole along and spend a quiet afternoon gazing out on the reflective lake.

> Plan your visit to Hog Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Hauser Lake Conservation Area

Location: Eastern Washington -- Spokane Area
Mileage: 5.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600 feet

A large rock rests on an open patch of ground, surrounded by pine trees. There are blue skies and very faint patches of snow.
Photo by trip reporter ATuck.

The Hauser Lake Conservation Area consists of 192-acres with a short trail loop that leads to Washington Department of Natural Resources land to the west. Stick to the conservation area for a short hike through a dense forest landscape, or extend the hike onto the adjacent Department of Natural Resources (DNR) logging roads for additional mileage.

> Plan your visit to Hauser Lake Conservation Area using WTA's Hiking Guide

Southwest Washington

Klickitat Rail Trail

Location: South Cascades -- Columbia Gorge
Mileage: 10.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Klickitat Rail Trail. Photo by nicolekristek..jpegA January view of the river along the Klickitat Rail Trail. Photo by trip reporter nicolekristek.

The Klickitat Trail runs 31 miles, with multiple access points placed in unique areas, from grass plains and the rugged Swale Canyon along the Wild and Scenic Klickitat River, to oak-filled valleys dropping down to Lyle and the Klickitat’s mouth at the Columbia River. Bring your sense of adventure on this former railroad, as you’ll cross old railroad trestles, encounter some very large cows, and stumble across a strange mixture of artifacts, from discarded equipment and railroad spikes to bleached white animal skulls.

> Plan your visit to Klickitat Rail Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Area

Location: Southwest Washington -- Vancouver Area
2.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

A nutria munches on a small plant while standing partially submerged in a lake.
A nutria enjoys a snack in the wildlife area. Photo by ehiker.

This wildlife refuge is the perfect get-away without a long drive. The refuge includes mixed wetlands and pastures with riparian strips lined with cottonwoods and white oak trees. More than 200 species of waterfowl and songbirds have been recorded here, making it the perfect place to slow down and enjoy nature.

> Plan your visit to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Area using WTA's Hiking Guide

Lower Siouxon Creek

Location: South Cascades -- Indian Heaven / Trapper Creek
Mileage: 13.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 635 feet

Racing through the forest at Lower Siouxon Creek. Photo by Steve Jones.

This easy-going South Cascades trail takes you through mossy forests with dappled sunlight and past little tumbling cascades. Hike it, run it, or sneak in a last minute backpacking trip; this trail is a great fall hike for beginner and expert hikers alike. One tip: the road to it isn't in great shape, so take it slow.

> Plan your visit to Lower Siouxon Creek using WTA's Hiking Guide

Moulton Falls

Location: Southwest Washington -- Vancouver Area
Mileage: 4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 90 feet

The falls in fall. Photo by BeaverDawg.

Waterfalls, small side adventures and more are to be found on this peaceful stroll along the Lewis River within a short drive from Vancouver. Whether you're looking for a great spot to take visiting family or just need to stretch your legs, Moulton falls is a local gem.

> Plan your visit to Moulton Falls using WTA's Hiking Guide

Dune Forest Loop - Leadbetter Point State Park

Location: Southwest Washington -- Long Beach Area
Mileage: 2.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 60 feet

A chilly December day on the Dune Forest Loop. Photo by mountainmama.

Hike, play on the beach and spot wildlife at Leadbetter Point State Park. Located on the northern end of the Long Beach Peninsula, this spot is a bird-watcher's paradise, especially in the spring and fall when more than 200 species of migrating birds fly over. This is also the best place to access the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge for bird-watching and photography.

The park has several miles of maintained trails. One of the best excursions in March is the Dune Forest Loop, a three-mile hike through sand dunes, shoreline and pine that captures the unique ecosystem of the area.

> Plan your visit to Dune Forest Loop-Leadbetter Point State Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Puget Sound and Islands

Kirkland Watershed Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 1.6 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: varies

A small, shallow creek flows on the righthand side. Large ferns and some trees are on the shore to either side and the ground is covered in a thick layer of fallen leaves.
Kirkland Watershed Park under a layer of fallen fall leaves. Photo by trip reporter artisberry.

Explore the upland forest areas and hiking trails with interpretive signs at the 73.37-acre Kirkland Watershed Park. There are a few hiking options to choose from Check out the Cochran Springs Creek trail or take a hike to the old reservoir. From the reservoir near the top of the park, there are two more loop options to explore.

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

Tolt-MacDonald Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 12 miles of trails
Elevation Gain: varies

Tolt-MacDonald Park. Photo by Luffles..jpegA slight dusting at Tolt-MacDonald Park. Photo by trip reporter Luffles.

Tolt-MacDonald Park is an outdoor recreation treasure for all King County residents! You can enjoy wildlife encounters here, from great blue heron that play in the lake to frogs cheeping in the marshes. Many of our favorite photos from our Northwest Exposure photo contest have come from this lovely park!

> Plan your visit to Tolt-Macdonald Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Fort Ebey State Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Whidbey Island
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 520 feet

The Bluff Trail at Fort Ebey State Park. Photo by JJ Hikers.

Whidbey Island's Fort Ebey State Park may be better known as a camping park, but it features 28 miles of trails to skip, dash and sprint over all year round. Try the Bluff Trail, which features panoramic views of the Puget Sound and Olympics.

> Plan your visit to Fort Ebey State Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Olympic Peninsula

McCormick Forest Park

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Kitsap Peninsula
Mileage: 3.0 miles, rountrip 
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

A creek in McCormick Forest Park. Photo by sharon.

Just outside of Gig Harbor, this lovely network of trails is within easy reach of Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle and Port Orchard. There's enough variety to the trail system that you can take a walk in the park, or push yourself a little. Trails can get muddy, but are largely very well maintained.

Tip: If you're working on training your trail dog, you can burn off some of your pup's energy before leashing up for a hike at the fenced dog park in the park.

> Plan your visit to Mccormick Forest Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

      Lower South Fork Skokomish River

      Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Olympia 
      Mileage: 8.5 miles, roundtrip
      Elevation Gain: 800 feet

      Lower South Fork Skokomish. Photo by Wendy W..jpeg
       Snow sprinkles along he Lower South Fork Skokomish River trail. Photo by trip reporter Wendy W.

      The river is impressive, but the ancient forest is really the star of the show along the Lower South Fork Skokomish River. Mossy maples, mushrooms and some amazing new bridges to keep your feet dry, this is a wonderful hike rain or shine.

      The river is usually in view, but not always reachable. That's probably a good thing, because flooding in 2007 took out a section of trail that strayed too close to the water near Camp Comfort. WTA crews have spent a good amount of time working on a reroute here.

      > Plan your visit to Lower South Fork Skokomish River using WTA's Hiking Guide

      North Cascades

      East Bank Baker Lake

      Location: North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
      Mileage: 10.6 miles, roundtrip
      Elevation Gain: 500 feet

      A snow free December on the East Bank of Baker Lake. Photo by Kristinleclair.

      This easy-going trail alongside scenic Baker Lake winds over cool bridges and through old growth forest. A great early-season backpacking destination, you can try for one of the camps at Noisey Creek. Or just take a day hike and enjoy your relative solitude.

      > Plan your visit to East Bank Baker Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

      Thunder Creek

      Location: North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway -- Hwy 20
      up to 10 miles round trip
      Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

      The waters at Thunder Creek stay a magnificnet blue all year long. Photo by trspanache.

      Even after snows close the North Cascade Highway, Thunder Creek's trailhead at the Colonial Creek Campground remains open. Hike as far as you like on this flat, quiet trail, which guides you along lakes and creeks while offering glimpses of the surrounding mountains through gaps in the forest's thick canopy.

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

      Rockport State Park

      Location: North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
      Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
      Elevation Gain: 250 feet

      A sturdy wooden bridge crosses over a small, rushing creek. The bridge is surrounded by thick sword ferns and mossy logs.
      Photo by trip reporter kmeyer02.

      The family friendly trails of 670-acre Rockport State Park explore an ancient forest where dappled sunlight illuminates mossy trees and lush ferns -- perfect for a winter stroll. Take advantage of one of the many benches to rest and contemplate the variety of dense flora surrounding you. You just may feel as if you've been transported to a primeval forest due to the limited sunlight streaming down through the forest canopy above.

      > Plan your visit to Rockport State Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

      Icicle Gorge Loop

      Location: Central Cascades -- Leavenworth
      Mileage: 4 miles, roundtrip
      Elevation Gain: 150 feet
      Note: May be inaccessible once snow accumulates

      Icicle Gorge Nature Loop. Photo by Bestebahn..jpegA sunny day along Icicle Gorge. Photo by Bestebahn.

      A sweet little loop that takes you into narrow Icicle Gorge and along Icicle River. A relatively flat hike that's worth a visit in early winter (though once the snow really starts falling, it may be inaccessible). The nearby campground makes a great picnic spot, especially if the sun is out.

      > Plan your visit to Icicle Gorge Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide