Winter in the Northwest is undeniably challenging. Day after day, the forecast is the same: gray, rainy and in the low- to mid-40s.
During the week, I compensate for the dreariness by drinking a healthy quantity of coffee. On the weekends, though, I find a better solution is to put on a few extra layers and go outside.
For maximum mood-boosting benefit, it’s best to find somewhere in the woods. Happily, there are some really great options around here.
Here are four hikes that you can do pretty much year-round. Even better, you can bring your kids along. Just pack a change of clothes for when they invariably splash in a mud puddle.
Distance: 7 miles or less, round trip.
Where:> 22221 Waite-Mill Road, Granite Falls
This is a pleasant, mostly flat hike that takes you past an old kiln that was used many years ago to cook limestone.
The kiln is fascinating to look at, and older kids — not to mention history-buff adults — will enjoy learning about the history of the area.
The kiln itself is about 2.6 miles from the start. They trail continues on past that, and you’ll find interesting bits of history littering the area, including huge, rusting saw blades.
Take photos, but otherwise leave these bits of history for others to enjoy.
In some areas, this trail has steep drop-offs. Do not let kids run ahead.
Distance: Up to 5.5 miles round trip, 1,200 feet of gain.
Where:Wallace Falls State Park; Discover Pass needed to park
Many a hiker uses Wallace Falls to test their fitness. The final section of the trail has a progression of seemingly never-ending stairs.
However, you don’t need to go all the way to the top to enjoy the Wallace Falls trip. You’ll reach the lower falls at about a mile and a half.
This is a great turnaround point. If you want to go on, though, the Middle Falls are the best and worth the extra climb.
You’ll reach them at about 2.2 miles from the start. From there on, the trail is a definite workout.
If you’re trying to keep in shape over the winter, this is a great trip. If you’re out for a relaxing ramble, head back now.
Please keep in mind that the river here can be extremely dangerous: All that rain that makes for stunning waterfalls also makes for treacherous waters.
Keep kids on the trail, and you’ll be fine.
Lord Hill Park
Where: 12921 150th St. SE, Snohomish
Lord Hill Regional Park is perfect for wandering when you need a quick hit of outdoor air.
There are more than six miles of designated trails and more wandering paths. The area is also sometimes used by equestrians.
Since it’s so close, it’s a perfect location to run off some steam, for both adults and kids. Runners can also make use of the trails.
Where: North end of Whidbey Island on Highway 20.
A trip to Deception Pass is a special treat, especially on those rare sunny, winter days.
For most people, the trip requires a full day. I prefer to ride the ferry from Mukilteo and drive up Whidbey Island to the park.
On the way home, I like to cross over the bridge and come home via Highway 20.
Deception Pass is another hike that’s great for a wander. Show up, and then decide where you want to go.
You can enjoy saltwater views, lake views or high, wide-open views from the hills on the eastern side of the park.
The park has hikes to accommodate nearly any age, and it’s accessible year-round.