Lower Big Quilcene Trail offers a nice day hike in the winter, or a backpacking option for those who want a bit more adventure. Just check trail conditions by looking up trip reports at wta.org or by calling the local ranger station. (Jessi Loerch)

Lower Big Quilcene Trail offers a nice day hike in the winter, or a backpacking option for those who want a bit more adventure. Just check trail conditions by looking up trip reports at wta.org or by calling the local ranger station. (Jessi Loerch)

6 ideas for making holiday traditions that take you outdoors

Celebrate New Year’s Day — also known as First Hike Day — by visiting a Washington State Park.

  • Sunday, December 20, 2020 7:21am
  • Life

The holidays — and how we plan on spending them — are on the minds of many of us right now. A lot of our tried-and-true holiday traditions may not be possible in 2020, so we’re looking out for new ways to enjoy our favorite holidays … on trail!

Spending the holidays outdoors is an annual tradition for a number of Washington Trails Association trip reporters. And we want to take a page out of their playbooks this year. There are so many ways to infuse holiday cheer into your hikes, and these ideas will hopefully inspire you to get out there and start new traditions of your own.

If you’re not up for a Christmas or Kwanzaa hike, then celebrate New Year’s Day — also known as First Hike Day — by trekking outdoors. Bonus: You don’t need a Discovery Pass to visit a Washington State Park on Jan. 1. It’s free!

Cook up a backcountry feast

Longtime WTA trip reporter Joe Hendricks has been spending Thanksgiving on trail for years. During these (oft solo) treks, Hendricks packs out all the creature comforts of a typical celebration: a comfy chair, a warm jacket and some straight-up delicious food. Past meals include: Cornish hen with mushrooms, escargot with a side of hasselback potatoes and gourmet turkey rolls.

Jessi Loerch and Jerry Weatherhogg enjoy a Christmas Eve backpacking trip in 2019. It didn’t even rain! (Jessi Loerch)

Jessi Loerch and Jerry Weatherhogg enjoy a Christmas Eve backpacking trip in 2019. It didn’t even rain! (Jessi Loerch)

Spend a night outside

A few years back, Washington Trails editor Jessi Loerch made a goal to backpack once a month over the course of a year. To celebrate her final trip of the year and the completion of her goal, she wanted to wake up on Christmas Eve in a tent — and she did!

If you’d like to do the same, the WTA has some recommendations for year-round backpacking trips. Or if you’re not a fan of backpacking, we also have tips for how to stay cozy and warm during a winter car camping trip, too. Go to www.wta.org for more.

Bring on the holiday cheer

Don’t let your favorite “ugly” holiday sweater collect dust this year! Throw on that bad boy and take it for a hike. Better yet, you could pair it with a holiday-themed mask (might we suggest this joyous Santa’s beard version?) Bring along some battery powered twinkle lights or a few ornaments, and you’ve got yourself an excellent photo op. Just don’t forget the most important part — if you pack it in, then pack it out.

The Skyline Lake Trail near Stevens Pass is a great place for a winter-wonderland snowshoe hike. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

The Skyline Lake Trail near Stevens Pass is a great place for a winter-wonderland snowshoe hike. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Find snow

If you live at a low elevation in Washington, you know how rare it is to wake up to a winter wonderland during the holidays. But, thankfully, snow is never too hard to find this time of year. Head up to the mountains and create your own snowy solstice. The holidays are a great time to enjoy a peaceful snowshoe trip. Or to skip the hike entirely and stick to socially-distanced snowball fights and snowmen building. Check out trip reports from years’ past to find inspiration.

Document your adventure

During your holiday excursion, try to record a few minutes of video from the beautiful sights you see (even if it’s just on your phone). You can then share these videos with any loved ones who you are unable to meet with in person this year. Or if you prefer more hands-on art, try documenting your adventure in the form of a postcard that you can later mail to your friends or family. Pack along a small set of watercolors or colored pencils during your hike, and pull them out during your summit break.

Share your expertise

Do you love planning hikes? Do you have friends and family in Washington who are looking for a new way to spend the holidays? Use your hiking know-how and build them a personal hiking plan. Use WTA’s Hike Finder Map to find hikes close to them — then use our advanced search options to account for their skill level and interests. Want to go above-and-beyond? Mail them a care package of hiking treats to accompany them on their hike.

If your take your holiday celebrations out on trail this year, share your story (and the latest conditions) in a trip report and help inspire the rest of the hiking community.

Keep these ideas in mind for the next holiday season, and you’ll have the makings of a new tradition. In fact, if you start planning in November, you’ll have lots of hiking holidays. There’s Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa — not to mention Autumn Day is on Nov. 26. That’s another free day to visit Washington State Parks without a Discover Pass.

Washington Trails Association promotes hiking as a way to inspire a people to protect Washington’s natural places. Get inspired to go hiking and learn how you can help protect trails at www.wta.org.

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