With winter upon us in the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to start thinking about winter hikes that are nice even if it’s raining or even staying active indoors. But there’s another option for a great winter experience that doesn’t necessarily have to involve rain, snow or the indoors: head east.
Thanks to the rain shadow effect, which wrings moisture from the air on the west side of the Cascades and leaves drier skies to the east, the sunrise side of the mountains offers a refreshingly bright respite from the greater region’s wintry doldrums. Here are a few great winter hikes on the drier side of the mountains for the months ahead.
4 Northwest Winter Hikes
Catherine Creek (Washington)
Renowned for wildflowers in the spring, the Catherine Creek area can be a beautiful and sunny stroll all year long thanks to its location east of the Cascades in the Columbia River Gorge. The area is home to at least four hikes that range from easy to moderate and includes views of the gorge, old homesteads and, along one, a unique rock arch.
Rowena Plateau (Oregon)
This scenic hike east of Hood River on the Oregon side of the Gorge is short — just a mile or so — but it’s a looker. This easy stroll offers up views of the river and the surrounding hills, and thanks to its location, you’re more likely to stay dry — and need your shades.
Horan Natural Area (Washington)
Lovely Wenatchee boasts that it gets just 65 fully overcast days a year, so in the winter, you’re almost guaranteed to catch some rays out here. The Horan Natural Area, with its wending trail, river views and wildlife makes for a refreshing recharge to do just that.
Located about 16 miles east of sunny Bend in Central Oregon, the Oregon Central Badlands Wilderness may occasionally get a light dusting of snow, but it can still be a hiker’s wintertime paradise. Multiple trails course among gnarled juniper trees, and impressive rock and lava formations reveal plenty about the area’s volcanic past.
Catherine Creek image courtesy of Gary Windust via Flickr.