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Best winter hikes in Washington: frozen cascades, snowy peaks and rugged beaches

A hiker looks at the snowy mountains from the back of her car
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 (Image credit: Cavan Images)

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 

Franklin Falls 

Franklin Falls in winter

The towering falls are framed by two tall viaducts and the three tiers have a total drop of 135ft (Image credit: Attila Adam)

Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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.

Wallace Falls 

Wallace falls in winter

Wallace Falls is actually a set of nine different cataract waterfalls (Image credit: Randall J Hodges / 500px)

Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

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 

Gold Creek Pond in winter

This trail is a short and easy but stunning loop around an alpine pond atop Snoqualmie Pass (Image credit: SaevichMikalai)

Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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 

A hiker looks at lake crescent from Mount Storm King

For such a highly photographed spot, Mount Storm King is not easy to get to (Image credit: Ricky Kresslein)

Distance: 5.3 miles
Difficulty: Challenging

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.

Marymere Falls  

Marymere Falls in winter

The trail is typically open year-round but can become icy in winter so wear Yaktrax as needed and take care (Image credit: Dendron)

Distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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.

Second Beach 

Second Beach at sunset

Second Beach is here to make sure you take a jaunt to the water’s edge (Image credit: Christian Petrone)

Distance: 2.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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 

Palouse Falls 

A hiker in Palouse Falls State Park

Palouse Falls in Paulouse Falls State Park was carved by ice more than 13,000 years ago (Image credit: Christopher Kimmel)

Distance: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: Challenging

Palouse Falls in Paulouse 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 

A view of the spokane valley in washington

Quartz Mountain fire lookout sits at 5,129ft and offers sweeping views of Spokane Valley (Image credit: Yuliia Balanenko / EyeEm)

Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

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 

Trails in the snow in the paradise area of mount rainier

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 (Image credit: Marshall Pittman)

Distance: 2.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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 

Artist Point 

Mount Baker in the snow

If it’s deep, powdery snow you’re after, Artist Point is your destination (Image credit: Zoya Yuzvak)

Distance: 3.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

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 

Thunder Knob 

Diablo Lake from Northern Cascades National Park in winter

This scenic stroll provides fabulous views of Diablo Lake, actually a reservoir at 1200ft (Image credit: Joel Alvarez)

Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

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. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com. She is an author, mountain enthusiast and yoga teacher who loves heading uphill on foot, ski, bike and belay. She recently returned to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland after 20 years living in the USA, 11 of which were spent in the rocky mountains of Vail, Colorado where she owned a boutique yoga studio and explored the west's famous peaks and rivers. She is a champion for enjoying the outdoors sustainably as well as maintaining balance through rest and meditation, which she explores in her book Restorative Yoga for Beginners, a beginner's path to healing with deep relaxation. She enjoys writing about the outdoors, yoga, wellness and travel. In her previous lives, she has also been a radio presenter, music promoter, university teacher and winemaker.