In some parts of the country, hiking season ends when the temperature starts to drop and the snow begins to fall. Here in the Northwest, our comparatively mild winter days let us keep on trekking all year long. Add in some forests for a natural umbrella, and there’s no reason not to hit the trail as much in the winter as you do in the summer.
Here are a few fun hikes that offer enticing scenery, cascading waterfalls and lofty forests that should help keep you a little more sheltered from the storm this winter.
Salmon River (Mount Hood National Forest)
Length: 8 miles
Home to true, giant old-growth cedars and firs that will amaze you and keep you dry, this meandering trail parallels the pristine Salmon River for the first couple miles. You’ll then start to head up gradually for expansive views of the canyon below. Out and back, the trail is about 8 miles, and it’s a great one for kids.
Neahkahnie Mountain (North Oregon Coast)
Length: 3-7 miles
Head to the Oregon Coast in the winter to escape the rain? Not quite. But this 3- to 7-mile hike stays under soaring old growth western hemlocks and Douglas firs most of the way, shielding you from the elements. Don’t worry, the trees part at places along the trail and at the top, opening up expansive views of the entire coastline.
Triple Falls (Columbia River Gorge)
Length: 3.2 miles
One of the many classic wintertime (or anytime) hikes of the Gorge, this 3.2-mile round-trip hike starts and ends with impressive waterfalls. The trailhead begins at Horsetail Falls and a good turnaround comes at Triple Falls. In between, you also walk behind Ponytail Falls. With a nice canopy overhead, you’re more likely to get wet from waterfall mist than rain.
Boulder River (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest)
Length: 8.6 miles
Towering trees, crystalline waters and the occasional cascading waterfall give you plenty to gawk at on this 8.6-mile (or less, if you turn around early) hike. There’s not much elevation gain, so it’s good for kids. However, the area has been known to get some snow, so check conditions before you head out.
Coal Creek Falls (Issaquah Alps-Cougar Mountain)
Length: 2.5 miles
These quiet little falls pretty much dry up in the summer. During the wet winter months, however, they come back to life in an impressive way. The trail is a short 2.5-miles round-trip, but it’s really all you need for a little natural refresher just 16 miles outside of downtown Seattle.
Siouxon Creek (Gifford Pinchot National Forest)
Length: 4.5 miles
Green forests and emerald pools color this hidden hike, which also has a few breathtaking waterfalls. The forest canopy helps keep the rain at bay, while the scenery and easy grade will keep you smiling over the 4.5-mile round-trip to Horseshoe Falls and back.