The next time you go on a hike, take it at a snail’s pace. (Dan Bates/Herald file)

The next time you go on a hike, take it at a snail’s pace. (Dan Bates/Herald file)

Slow trails: What you can learn from a snail when on a hike

Here’s a list of tricks to turn your hike into a wander and help you find joy right here, right now.

  • By Loren Drummond • Washington Trails Association
  • Sunday, April 28, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

By Loren Drummond / Washington Trails Association

When you live in Washington, you come to accept the reality of shifted seasons. The winter solstice comes before real winter, and summer doesn’t really start until July. But by March, the longing for longer days has set its hooks. It’s an ache in your chest, a restlessness that has you thumbing through photos and trip reports for alpine valleys that won’t be melted out for four months.

While the rain and snow fall outside, you can almost smell the summer meadows buzzing with bees. You crave big hiking days like they are food or water. But you’re stuck in the here and now, in this sodden shoulder season with mucky trails and short days.

If you’ve got the cash to burn, you can find longer days with a rushed road trip or a flight. But there’s an easier way to silence the longing and still your itchy feet. Just find the closest trail and go … slow.

No. Like, really, really slow.

To hike slowly is to gain a new perspective on familiar trails. It’s an artform requiring discipline and whimsy, focus and distraction. The slow hiker is a student of contradictions. Speed gets plenty of glory.

It helps us burn off steam, strengthen our legs and set the outer limits of human achievement. But if you’re seeking to deepen your connection with nature during this difficult season, then slow is the next big thing.

For the best slow hikes, look no farther than your own city parks or close-to-town favorites. Hit a nearby trail before work and plan to go a mile — or much less! See how slowly you can go. Some of us are born snails. We saunter with ease. But for many hikers — and the majority of my fellow Washington Trails Association staffers — the art of the dawdle is hard.

So, I give you a list of tricks to turn your hike into a wander, your run into a ramble, and help you find fresh joy right here, right now.

Stand in one place with your eyes closed. (It will feel weird. Do it anyway.) Listen until you hear a bird call out, and then hear that call returned.

Get down on your belly with your camera. Snap a photo of any ol’ fern, mossor bit of interesting lichen that catches your eye. If you’ve got an imagination (or a kid to entertain) imagine it as the landscape of a far-off planet.

Pack an over-the-top picnic. Make it a feast. (You have, after all, saved yourself all that money by not going to the tropics.) Walk a half-mile at your slowest possible pace, and then celebrate like you’ve just finished the Wonderland Trail in a day.

Go “plogging.” A terrible word for a terrific idea out of Sweden: Pick up trash while you hike.

Let the kids take the lead. If you have toddlers who are easily sidetracked, ask them to lead and set the pace.

Bring your puppy. Leash-training is a great way to wear out your dog in short distances. Pack lots of training treats and work her brain teaching her to be a hiking dog with perfect manners.

Breathe. Take three full breaths between every single step. You might look like you’re caught in slo-mo mode, but who cares? You’re outside in nature!

There is no right or wrong way to hike slow. No matter how you do it, a good springtime wander will soothe your soul and still the gnawing need for speed.

Washington Trails Association promotes hiking as a way to inspire people to protect Washington’s natural places. Learn how you can help protect trails at

Talk to us

More in Life

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives are slated to perfom June 13 at Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Associated Press)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Country star Marty Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, are performing in Edmonds on June 13.

People begin parading down First Street with a giant balloon “PRIDE” during Snohomish’s inaugural Pride celebration on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in downtown Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Your guide to Pride in Snohomish County

Mark your calendars; Pride Month is upon us.

Twin sisters Lyndsay Lamb (left) and Leslie Davis (right), co-hosts of HGTV's Unsellable Houses. (Photo provided)
Meet and greet HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twin sister stars in Snohomish on Friday

Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis have made Lamb & Co. a #twinwin home-selling, home-goods brand.

Bern’s famous clock tower, part of the original wall around the city, looms at the head of Marktgasse street.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bern, Switzerland’s classy yet fun capital

This easygoing riverside city gives travelers a good reason. to descend from the Swiss Alps.

Teaching children the value of money in a digital age

Today’s increasingly cashless society makes it harder for kids to understand money.

2023 Lexus 500 AWD F Sport (Lexus)
2023 Lexus 500 AWD F Sport

Truly a driver’s car, the LS 500 benefits from an adaptive variable suspension with balanced spring and damper rates.

Michelle LeFevre and her Bernese mountain dog Kona sit in the shade in front of Kona’s Pond outside their home Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Camano, Washington. LeFevre, a retired teacher, wrote the children’s book “On Kona’s Pond” which centers on her pup and the other creatures that call the pond home. LeFevre’s sister, Susan Cousineau McGough, illustrated the book with watercolor renditions of Kona and the pond. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Life ain’t so ruff ‘On Kona’s Pond’

A retired Camano Island teacher’s new children’s book, “On Kona’s Pond,” tells the story of her dog and his wild friends.

Icelandair changed her flights. Can she get a refund for her tour?

When Icelandair changes Patricia Boyle’s flights from Baltimore to Washington Dulles International Airport, she asks for a refund from her tour operator, Icelandair Holidays. So, why isn’t it responding?

Peonies and irises in full bloom in Steve’s yard. (Steve Smith)
June is the perfect time to peruse perennials and get them planted

Penstemons, echinaceas, rudbeckias, euphorbias, crocosmias, astilbes, hostas and so on and so forth — the choices seem to be endless.

Most Read