People often ask me for hike recommendations. After enjoying my two first “warm weather” (i.e., no jacket required) hikes of the year this past week, I figured it was time to get this list down.
Summer hiking in Washington is the best, and last summer was the best yet. However, I also like to get out in the winter and spring when all my favorite hikes are still buried in snow – in part to get outside and in part to burn enough calories so I don’t feel too bad about eating a huge meal every now and then. Plus, if you love moss, winter/spring hiking is for you! I have a short list of go to off-season hikes, and all are within an hour’s drive of Seattle. For me, a hike needs some elevation gain, so that’s all there is here. I will do these rain or shine, but of course I prefer the shine.
Before launching into the list, I want to note the best source I’ve found about hikes in Washington is the Washington Trails Association website (wta.org). Hikers’ trail reports give helpful information about current conditions, which is particularly important in the off-season. The site also has directions to each hike and tells you what pass you need to park at the trailhead (almost all hikes require either a Discoverer or a Northwest Forest Pass, with Poo Poo Point and Rattlesnake Ledge listed below being two rare exceptions).
Little Si (North Bend) – I don’t like Mount Si (too steep with no real payoff), but I really like this hike. It’s relatively short but you still feel like you get a good workout, and it’s interesting most of the way up. When a friend got to the middle part by the rock climbing walls (yes, you can rock climb there if you are so inclined), she said it looked like where Yoda lived – and I realized she was right. This gets crowded quickly if the weather is even remotely nice, so I always get there early. Side bonus, the winter morning light sometimes gives you a view like this:
Poo Poo Point (Issaquah) – Yes, it’s really called this. This hike is so close, but I just did it for the first time last summer. It’s super steep but mercifully short. It’s a lot more interesting on a clear summer evening when you have expansive views of Lake Washington and beyond and can watch the paragliders jump off the top, but I also like to do it as a winter workout hike. This one is steep enough I bring a hiking pole to help me on the way down. Note there is a longer and flatter version that starts near Issaquah High School, but I take the Chirico Trail, which starts at the paragliding landing field.
Rattlesnake Ledge (North Bend) – If I’m going to drive all the way to North Bend, I prefer Little Si, but this is also a good one, and it’s a little shorter than Little Si. The hike up isn’t as interesting as Little Si, but the views from the top are much better, plus there’s a lake at the bottom. This one is also pretty crowded though. I took a long lunch and did this one on our first 70 degree day last week, and it felt like everyone who was on spring break in the Issaquah School District was there – I passed scores of people on the way up, and there were about 50 people at the top when I got there.
Twin Falls (North Bend) – I’ve only done this one once, but I remember it being nice and definitely hikable in the winter. It was a friend’s go to winter hike when she lived here.
Wallace Falls (Gold Bar) – I try to do this hike every New Year’s Day. There is a lot to see along the trail, and you don’t have to hike even half the trail to get to the first big waterfall. There is also allegedly a lake you can get to via a side trail off the main trail although I’ve never been – one of these days… Right before you head into the woods, the view of the mountains to the east is amazing on a clear morning. Just try to ignore the buzzing power lines above you as you take in that view.
West Tiger 3 (Issaquah) – Things I like about Tiger: it’s close, it’s quick, it’s a good workout and the trail is wide in most places. Things I don’t like about Tiger: it’s crowded and it’s boring, which is probably why I don’t have any pictures of it. Oh, one more thing I like – I regularly see women carrying pocket dogs in their backpacks on this trail.
These final two hikes are not consistently good winter hikes, but most years they are good once we get well into spring. With the late snow year, I was able to do both this January, and I just did Lake Serene again today.
Lake 22 (Mountain Loop Highway) – This is a nice hike with a waterfall and a lake. I enjoy it more in the summer when it’s easy to walk around the lake, but it’s a good winter/spring hike that’s not too crowded, so you really feel like you’re getting away. Plus, you get some good climbing in, but the trail never feels too tough. Hiking poles for snow at the top are a necessity (for me at least); traction devices would help too.
Lake Serene (Index) – This is one of my favorite summer hikes because it ends at a deep blue lake surrounded by mountains – it’s breathtaking on clear day. However, if you don’t mind slipping and sliding along a snow and/or ice covered top ridge, seeing the lake in all of its winter glory is pretty nice too. After falling a few times and having to crawl across some icy rocks a few others, today I finally decided I needed to get some good microspikes for doing hikes like this before the snow melts. Fair warning about getting to the lake in any season – the middle part of this hike is steep and has a lot of stairs. I’ve done it enough that I’m used to it and actually enjoy the stairs, but the first couple times I was in pain.
Another thing that’s nice about this hike is you can still get some bang for your buck by taking the much shorter hike to Bridal Veil Falls, which is a half mile side trail about 1.5 miles in. I don’t take this side trip much in the summer, but in the spring I do because the snowmelt helps Bridal Veil Falls put on a nice show.