5 Low-Elevation Hikes to Do Year-Round

Just because the days have gotten shorter and cooler doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your hiking boots for the year.

In fact, the Seattle area is home to miles and miles of low-elevation trails that can be hiked all year long. From meandering river strolls to waterfall favorites and island getaways, here are five great year-round hikes near Seattle.

Baker Lake

Distance: Up to 8 miles roundtrip

Views of a snow-capped peak? Old growth forests? A pretty alpine lake? The Baker Lake hike has all that and then some. And because the high point hits just 1,000 feet, you’re almost bound to be snow-free all year long.

Boulder River

Distance: Up to 8.5 miles roundtrip

If a meandering stroll along a crystalline Northwest river is what you’re looking for, search no more. The trail along the Boulder River offers lovely views of not only the river but more than a few classic waterfalls.

Old Sauk River Trail

Distance: Up to 6 miles roundtrip

Bundle up the kids and hit this pleasant stroll of a hike, which wanders along the Sauk River, a National Wild and Scenic River that eventually joins the Skagit River. Popular with anglers, the river is home to migrating steelhead, which draw eagles, ospreys and other wildlife.

Iceberg Point

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip

For a little more off-season adventure, take a day trip out to Lopez Island and hike Iceberg Point. It’s an easy walk that’s packed with incredible island vistas, lovely trees, views of the Olympic Mountains on clear days and, if  you’re lucky, maybe a seal or two.

Discovery Park

Distance: Varies

Seattleites don’t have to go far to scratch their hiking itch in the winter. The famed Discovery Park is laced with nearly 12 miles of trails that can take you to everything from a lighthouse and beaches to natural wetlands.

Getting there: These days, everyone relies on smartphones, GPS and other technologies to get around. While these can be critical tools, they’re not the only ones to rely on. Dead batteries, poor cell coverage and other hiccups can hamper technology’s effectiveness. Thoroughly research your trailhead destination in advance; bring a map, and check with the Forest Service — or any other applicable agency — to get the latest on road and trail conditions. It’s also helpful to check out recent trip reports on sites like the Washington Trails Association to see what other hikers are encountering.

What to know about winter hiking: Hiking low-elevation trails in the Pacific Northwest in the winter can be just as enjoyable as it is in the summer. There are, however, a few considerations to keep in mind for hitting the trails this time of year:

  • Time flies: Be sure to get an earlier start on your trek than you would in the summer. Sunset comes early in the Northwest, so hit the trail nice and early so you don’t end up in darkness.
  • Weather wise: It’s always smart to check the weather before any hike, but doubly so in the winter to avoid any heavy storms or frigid temps that could be on the way.
  • Gear up: Be sure to wear layers and bring appropriate outer gear, including a rain coat, gaiters, hats and gloves. And don’t forget a headlamp or flashlight should you find yourself on the trail later in the day than expected.

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Image of Mount Blum and Baker Lake by PapaBear

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Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."