The snow is piling up in the mountains, but that’s no reason to leave your hiking boots in the closet for the winter.
Craig Romano, a guidebook author and expert on the trails of Washington, recommends five hikes for winter adventures.
These trails should be hikeable all year, except in extreme weather. Romano also shares his tips for making sure you have a safe, fun trip.
Boulder River Trail
Spectacular hike into the Boulder River Wilderness with lots of big old trees and dramatic waterfalls that fall from steep canyon walls. Winter and spring are best for this hike with heavy rains fueling the waterfalls.
Where: Off of Highway 530, turn south on Forest Road 2010 near milepost 41, trailhead is 3.7 miles ahead.
One of the best coastal hikes in the state and it sits in the Olympic rain shadow. You can often dodge the winter rains while enjoying a hike on towering bluffs and along a wild, undeveloped shoreline. Bird watching is exceptional here.
Where: From Coupeville on Whidbey Island, head north on Highway 20, turn left on Sherman Road. Turn right on Cook Road. Trailhead is 0.3 miles ahead.
Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy
Nice family-friendly hike to oxbow ponds on the Snohomish River flood plain. Wonderful place for seeing wintering swans and other migrating birds.
Where: 14913 Connelly Road, Snohomish.
Index Town Wall
A good little workout to high ledges (use extreme caution) with jaw-dropping views of the Forks of the Skykomish River below and the snowy, craggy cloud-probing peaks of the Wild Sky Wilderness across the valley.
Where: From Index, head west on Index Avenue, follow the road as it becomes Second Street. Turn right on Avenue A. Trailhead is 0.6 miles ahead.
Old Sauk Trail
Nice, easy family friendly hike through old growth along the Sauk River. Excellent place to see wintering eagles thanks to winter salmon runs.
Where: On Mountain Loop Highway, 3.5 miles south of junction with Highway 530.
Tips for happy, safe hiking
- Dress properly but don’t over dress. Layers work best so you can add and take off clothing as you warm up and cool down.
- Always pack rain gear and sunglasses; glare can be intense off snow and wet, glistening surfaces.
- Stay hydrated. It is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Be sure to keep taking fluids.
- Plan ahead with the short daylight hours in mind. Get an early start.
- Check weather forecasts and avoid trails in heavy rainfalls and strong winds.
- Check on road and trail conditions before heading out as washouts and windfall are frequent in the winter months.
- Always leave your itinerary with someone back home so if you don’t return, folks know where to look for you.
- Pack extra food just in case your hike takes longer than anticipated.
Craig Romano lives in Skagit County. He has traveled extensively and is an avid hiker, running, kayaker and cyclist. He is the author of many hiking books, including “Day Hiking Central Cascades,” “Day Hiking North Cascades” and “Winter Hikes of Western Washington.” His website is CraigRomano.com.