Best winter hikes in Washington: frozen cascades, snowy peaks and rugged beaches
11 of the best winter hikes in Washington showcase the Pacific Northwest's natural beauty with misty rainforests, frozen cascades, snowy peaks and rugged coastline
We've hand picked 11 of the best winter hikes in Washington here that take you to frozen cascades, snowy outlooks and rugged coastline to admire the incredible landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
With a cornucopia of lush temperate rainforest, high mountain ranges, rugged coastline and islands, Washington is undoubtedly one of the best states for anyone who loves an adventure. While hiking trails in other outdoorsy states are often off-limits come winter, with its temperate climate – highs in January rarely fall below about 38F – you can get out on the trails in Washington year-round.
Most of these hikes are located inside Washington’s many beautiful State and National Parks so check ahead for details on fees and permits. For all of the best winter hikes in Washington, you’ll want to wear your best hiking boots and carry hiking poles. If you’re hiking on packed snow, consider bringing Yaktrax or Microspikes and for deeper powder, you’ll definitely want snowshoes. If you are venturing out into steeper terrain in the backcountry, take a look at our guide to avalanche safety and make sure you go prepared.
You may also be interested in our guide to the best National Parks to visit in winter.
Best winter hikes in Washington: near Seattle
Distance: 2 miles
Franklin Falls is popular in part due to a paved trail and its proximity to Seattle, however don’t let that put you off. The towering falls are framed by two tall viaducts and the three tiers have a total drop of 135ft, the last 70ft drop can be admired from the hiking trail. They are often frozen in the depths of winter offering a magnificent frosty effect and deliver a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience. Parking is at the Franklin Falls trailhead off I-90 however be aware that the road to the lot can close during snowy conditions which will mean you’ll park sooner and take a longer walk.
Distance: 5 miles
Wallace Falls State Park is on the western side of the Cascades just north of Gold Bar and is accessible year-round. Wallace Falls is actually a set of nine different cataract waterfalls. This hike to the breathtaking cascades begins on a scenic, wooded trail along the Wallace River. For the first couple of miles, you can enjoy a gentle walk through lush vegetation while the steeper climbing only begins once you reach the falls. There are three main falls – lower, middle and upper – and you can turn back at any point if you become tired.
Gold Creek Pond
Distance: 1.2 miles
This trail is a short and easy but stunning loop around an alpine pond atop Snoqualmie Pass. The pond is framed by mountains that are snow capped in the winter months. Park at the Gold Creek Pond parking lot off 90 near Hyak and meander around the pond as many times as you like, breathing in the crisp air and gorgeous views of the Gold Creek Valley and Chikamin Peak.
Best winter hikes in Washington: Olympic National Park
Mount Storm King
Distance: 5.3 miles
For such a highly photographed spot, Mount Storm King is not easy to get to, but hikers tackle the steep climb there for the incredible views over Lake Crescent from a rocky outcropping. Rarely snow-covered, this trail is steep but accessible throughout the winter. Park at Mount Storm King Ranger Station, and pick up the trail through a lush, green forest with atmospheric mist. To reach the highest rock outcropping, there is a little technical scrambling towards the end of the climb, but there are several other great viewpoints before then if you want to turn back when you reach the sign signalling the end of the maintained trail.
Distance: 1.7 miles
This hike also begins at the Storm King Ranger Station and winds through lush, old growth forest and ferns alongside Barnes Creek before arriving at the spectacular 90-foot falls over mossy rocks. The trail is typically open year-round but the steps near the falls can become icy in winter so wear Yaktrax as needed and take care.
Distance: 2.1 miles
With it’s plentitude of lush temperate rainforest, it’s easy to forget about Washington’s stunning coastline, but Second Beach is here to make sure you take a jaunt to the water’s edge. Second Beach offers one of the best sunsets in the country from a rugged expanse of coastline and is much quieter in the winter months. Park at the trailhead on La Push Road on the Quileute Indian Reservation and enjoy a short wooded stroll before descending down into the beach to admire the fabulous sea stacks, rock arch and outcroppings.
Best winter hikes in Washington: Eastern Washington
Distance: 1.4 miles
Palouse Falls in Palouse Falls State Park was carved by ice more than 13,000 years ago and is one of the last remaining waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path. It was named Washington State’s Waterfall in 2014 and with a dramatic 200ft drop over granite cliffs it is certainly one of the most picturesque. The waterfall is largely frozen in winter, making it even more spectacular, and it is beautiful at sunset. There isn’t an official trail but a gravel road along the rim offers great views.
Quartz Mountain Lookout Trail
Distance: 4.5 miles
Located in Mount Spokane State Park, 23 miles northeast of Spokane, Quartz Mountain fire lookout sits at 5,129ft and offers sweeping views of the valley. In the winter, the area is sparkly and it is a terrific place to catch the sunset. There are different routes so you can choose your own adventure, but navigate to the parking lot at the Selkirk Lodge inside the park and then you can use the trail markers for your adventure.
Best winter hikes in Washington: Mount Rainier National Park
Nisqually Vista Loop
Distance: 2.1 miles
At 14,411ft, Mount Rainier is a large active stratovolcano in the Cascades and might not be your first thought when it comes to winter hiking, however there are trails that offer accessible terrain and great views in the colder months. The Nisqually Vista Loop makes for an enchanting snowshoe adventure with breathtaking views of Mount Rainier. Park at the Paradise Area of the park to access the trail.
Best winter hikes in Washington: Mount Baker National Forest
Distance: 3.9 miles
If it’s deep, powdery snow you’re after, Artist Point is your destination. Grab your snowshoes and head to Mount Baker Ski Area where you’ll find an incredibly scenic snowshoe tour with views of Mount Shuksan, Goat Mountain, Mount Larrabee, and American Border Peak. Be aware that this hike is in avalanche territory and you’ll want to check the conditions before you go.
Best winter hikes in Washington: North Cascades National Park
Distance: 3.3 miles
This scenic stroll provides fabulous views of Diablo Lake, actually a reservoir at 1200ft. From State Route 20 at milepost 130, follow signs for Colonial Creek Campground Park and walk through the campground to reach the trail which begins with several creek crossings. In the winter the water is low and the bridges are taken down. Once you’ve crossed the the creek several times, you’ll find yourself on a thick, mossy carpet through lodgepole pine forest before climbing to views of Colonial Peak on the way to Thunder Knob where you'll be treated to views of the turquoise waters of Diablo Lake, a man made reservoir that was formerly home to the highest dam in the world. Enjoy views of Sourdough Mountain and Davis Peak from the summit.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.