Winters in Western Washington are no reason to stay indoors, we rarely have freezing temperatures, the winter weather is the perfectly temperate to get out and enjoy the crisp clean air.
Explore parks and trails close to work or home in order to take advantage of the waning daylight. No matter where you live there will be more than enough options, you might have to shorten your walk a bit, to enjoy the outdoors without getting caught out in the dark, but you won’t regret getting out.
- Discovery Park, is 534 acres of pure bliss, it’s one of the most beautiful parks ever created and will have you thanking yourself for moving to Seattle. Discovery covers a small peninsula that juts out on a cliff top into the Puget Sound. Hike down the cliff side to a misty rock beach with a quintessential lighthouse sitting on the bank. Miles of trails wind through the park covering wide open meadows with sweeping views of Elliot Bay and Mount Rainier on a clear day.
- The Lighthouse Loop trail is a quick 3.5 miles around and is a favorite of Seattleites, for good reason, the wide open meadow and cliff top views bring serenity after a long day at work.
East Side Parks and Trails
- Cougar Mountain Regional Park, on the East side neighboring Newcastle and Issaquah has 3,100 acres of forested park land with over 20 hiking trails. Be prepared with a map, cell service is spotty and these trails twist, turn and cross each other on multiple occasions. It’s essentially a mishmash of dozens of tiny trails that all run into each other, you can make them as short or as long as you’d like. They have signage, but it can get a little bit confusing with all the switch arounds. There’s plenty of space to get your feet muddy during short winter days.
- North Fork Falls Loop is one popular trail on Cougar Mountain, an easy 2.6 mile loop that’ll take you along a stream bed through moss covered forests with soft brown leaves underfoot and a babbling brook to keep you company and your dog happy.
- Squak Mountain State Park with over 2,500 acres and Tiger Mountain State Park with more than 13,700 areas are both just East of Cougar Mountain, the three together make up a corridor of wilderness and trail systems in an area called the Issaquah Alps. It’s no surprise I’m sure that the three of these parks will keep you busy for weeks exploring all the trails they have to offer.
- Tradition Lake Loop in Tiger Mountain, this trail could be made to be much longer if you wish, an entire system of interconnected trails loop around the lake. A flat, child friendly and popular 3.1-mile trail loops through the woods with lake views.
Other Parks and Trails on the East Side
- Rattle Snake Ledge Trail this one’s a favorite, it can be accessed from any city on the Eastside in 20 – 40 minutes from Seattle without traffic. It’s a moderate to difficult 2 mile hike, covering 1160 feet of elevation gain. It’s great for a work out on a brisk day with incredible pay outs at the top. From there you have the option of hiking another 8.3 miles to Snoqualmie Point Park. Towards the top of the hike you come to a fork, veer right for sweeping views of the lake and mountain peaks in the distance. Be careful with kids and dogs on this hike, there are lots of places to fall with steep drops and cliffs especially at the look out. It’s pretty busy at the peak, if you’d like to get away from the crowds hike a little further up to the middle or upper ledge, there are equally impressive look out spots for more space to stretch your toes.
- Saint Edward State Park located northwest of Kirkland this park is made up of 316 acres of undeveloped property hugging the shores of Lake Washington. Hike through old growth forest on one of many quick little trails. For a longer jaunt take the North Trail combined with the Beach Trail, together they create a lovely three-mile loop.
- Twin Falls, located just 30 minutes east of downtown this serene, moderate, 3.6 mile hike through a rain forest has views of a giant twin waterfall that will have you doubting your proximity to the city.
- Cedar River Trail, the trailhead starts at South Lake Washington and runs right through the City of Renton extending on for 17.4 miles in each direction. The wide, smooth trail can also be accessed by bicycles and strollers and runs right along the Cedar river. This is a nice after work trail and can be accessed at multiple points along the way. Lower areas on the trail are sometimes closed during the winter due to rising river water levels.
- Evans Creek Preserve, just north of Sammamish a 179-acre wildlife preserve with 4.2 miles of gentle, flat trails weave their way through wetlands, meadows and forest. The Washington Trails Association has built bridges and wooden walkways creating an smooth, wheel chair accessible path over the wetland. It’s recommended to bring bear bells or make noise on the trail to avoid black bears. This might be a good excuse to go during the winter when they’re more likely to be hibernating. The top of the ridge gives a nice view of the park below
- Soaring Eagle Regional Park, is located just east of Sammamish, this 600-acre wood has 12 miles of trail systems. the pipeline trail runs through the center and is wide and flat enough for baby strollers. Come for a mix of forest, wetland and wildlife, through this fabulous habitat. Take your pick of any of the interconnecting trails making your walk as short or long as you like.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the trails or parks. No matter where you live in the Seattle area there is definitely a trail close to you, so don’t forget to utilize those clear, crisp days. Walk off your holiday meals and relish in what makes the Pacific Northwest so magical.