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Five Reasons to Take a Winter Hike Next Door

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Feb 24, 2023 01:45 PM |

Winter hikes close to home offer new perspectives during the colder months.

Winter is my favorite season to hike. I know, I know, it’s a bold statement especially when fall (a close runner-up) offers so much amazing color and beauty. Arguably winter is when we, as a hiking collective, tend to retreat to our homes and wait for warmer temperatures and the allure of spring. But there are a few reasons to reconsider the joys of a good winter hike. In fact, I have five of them, and I hope they will motivate you to check out a trail or park close to home before the season changes.

Water droplets on leaves
Small things catch my eye in winter, like these rain drops in the Woodland Park Rose Garden. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

  1. Big views

    When the deciduous trees shed their leaves, they open up entirely new views you might not have had during other times of the year. I love exploring trails that I know well just to see how different things lookin the winter. Discovery Park in Seattle is one of my favorites to wander, especially along the loop that overlooks the bluffs and water. With the leaves gone, you get expansive views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. But not all views have to be expansive, even smaller ones within the park you like visiting can make for an interesting study.

  2. Fresh perspectives

    New views are only one aspect of winter hiking that makes this season unique. When’s the last time you admired how frost clings to logs or plant life, or how snow drapes over branches and leaves to create an entirely new landscape? Even wildlife behavior and variety can change drastically this time of year, making it a fun time to see things through an entirely different lens. The quiet time spent on trails in the winter is also great for mental refreshment and finding a little slice of peace.

  3. More time to explore

    Let’s face it, the worst part about winter (at least in my opinion) is that the days are short and light is a limited resource. That means that hikes after work are pretty tough to squeeze in, and even on the weekends our window of daylight is somewhat narrow. But, with parks and trails close to home we can get a quick hike or nature break in wherever we need it. That’s the beauty of trails close to home. They offer different experiences than frontcountry or backcountry hikes can. And their proximity to my house means I’m way more likely to actually hike rather than curling up in a blanket and longingly staring out the window.

  4. An excuse to get muddy

    I’ll preface this one by saying that we don’t have to get muddy if we don't want to. In fact, a lot of nice neighborhood parks and trails are paved, but if you’re like me, it’s kind of fun to get some mud on my boots and tromp around in a puddle or two. Also, my kid loves it, and in turn it makes me feel like a kid again too. Hiking should be fun and joyful and every once in a while I get an urge to see just how much mud might squelch up around my boot when I step in it. 

  5. An Excuse to be Together

    Winter is often a time of seclusion. I know I spend more time watching my favorite shows and playing games in the winter than any other time of year. I also see my friends less during the winter given the holidays and lack of motivation to weather the elements. But I’ve also found that spending time outdoors at a local park with a friend is a great way to catch up with them. It’s the excuse I often need to motivate myself to uncurl from the couch and stretch my legs. And best of all, a post-hike coffee or treat at a cafe tastes a lot better when shared with good company when it’s rainy or cold. Now I have far fewer excuses not to head to my local parks. 

So there you have it. Five reasons to see your local park in a totally different way this winter, and maybe this comes just in time given how cold it is outside currently! By the way, there are only a few days left to enter our #LoveLocalTrails giveaway! To enter all you have to do is hike an urban trail, write a trip report with the tag #LoveLocalTrails in it and tell us why you love hiking there and you'll be entered to win a $100 gift card from REI. We hope to see your trip report before the end of February!