Best Winter Hikes in Washington: 18 Magical Trails

Hiking season never ends in the Evergreen State! Use this guide to find the perfect winter trail for you, no matter what the weather’s doing.

Megan Large Avatar
Last Update:

Washington is known for being a hiker’s paradise. Even in the winter months, the Evergreen State is alive with crashing waterfalls, enchanted forests, and astounding mountaintop views. Hiking in Washington in summer is great, but at this time of year, it is – dare we say it – even better.

This guide has something for everyone. We’ve included everything from expert rock scrambles to winter wonderland loops for the whole family. Read on to find your next winter hike.

1. Franklin Falls

Frozen Franklin Falls, Washington
A more daring winter adventure.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 6.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

In the winter, the cascading water at Franklin Falls turns into dramatic ice pillars. And what is usually an easy summer hike turns into a daring – but fun – adventure. In the summer, the Franklin Falls Trail is only 2 miles. However, in the winter, road access to the trailhead closes, adding several miles to the hike.

For winter access, park at the Asahel Curtis Sno-park and hike on the road for approximately 2.5 miles until you reach the trailhead. Continue another mile to the waterfall. The 2.5 miles of forest service road hiking might be clear and easy to navigate, but don’t be fooled. The trail itself can be slick and icy. We recommend microspikes for this one.

With the added miles, Franklin Falls can turn into an all-day hike, but the waterfall is worth it. Have extra layers at the top and be prepared for hiking in cold weather

2. Artist Point, Mount Baker National Forest

Artist Point, Mount Baker National Forest, Washington
Hike Artist Point on a clear day for spectacular views.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 4.0 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Plan your Artist Point hike for a clear day, and you will be rewarded with some of the best views in the state. But, you have to work for them. Mount Baker National Forest is one of the snowiest places in the country, so you will need snowshoes for this hike.

Use the last parking area on Mount Baker Highway as your starting point. There may be many tracks from the parking lot, but trail-finding gets easier after a half mile. From here, the snowshoe tracks converge and follow a well-marked ski area boundary.

The last mile involves a bit of climbing, but the views are spectacular! Artist Point looks out over American Border Peak, White Chuck Mountain, Sloan Peak, Mount Larabee, the Cascades, and of course, dominating the skyline, Mount Baker.

Be aware of potential avalanche danger in this area. Check forecasts and read recent trip reports, and do not venture out on days when avalanche risk is ‘considerable’ or higher.

3. Gold Creek Pond, Snoqualmie Pass

Gold Creek Pond, Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
A winter wonderland snowshoe hike for all ages and abilities.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 2.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Gold Creek Pond is a winter wonderland that everyone can enjoy. This flat trail winds through a wide valley with fantastic mountain scenery and quiet forests. Less than an hour from Seattle, this is a popular area. Get there early to avoid crowds, even for winter hiking.

The route loops around Gold Creek Pond on a paved trail and well-maintained boardwalks. Depending on snow levels and foot traffic, you may need snowshoes or microspikes. Check conditions before heading out.

For a longer winter hike, take a small trail off the loop on the east side of the lake. This trail leads into Lower Gold Creek Pond Basin. Hike as far back as you like. The trail eventually crosses an avalanche chute, which makes a good turnaround point. 

4. Mount Storm King, Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, Washington
A serious challenge even in the summer.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 4.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Even in summer conditions, Mount Storm King is a heck of a hike. Add cold winter weather and precipitation, and you’re in for a serious challenge. Think twice before attempting this trail, especially if you’re afraid of heights. Contact the Storm King Ranger Station if in doubt.

Start on the Marymere Falls Trail. Enjoy this wide, flat path while it lasts. At the half-mile mark, the climb begins. Switch back your way through tall pine forests that give way to cedar, manzanita, and madronas trees. 

After 1.5 miles, the hike turns into a steep rock scramble with set ropes. While the ropes are helpful, they are not maintained. Trust them at your own risk. The higher you hike, the better the views. The summit provides breathtaking vistas of Lake Crescent and the Juan de Fuca Strait.

5. Wallace Falls via Woody Trail

Wallace Falls, Wallace Falls State Park, Washington
One of the best Washington winter hikes for waterfall lovers.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 4.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Wallace Falls State Park is one of the most popular hiking attractions in Washington. The best way to avoid crowds is by going in the winter months. The trail may be muddy but will be less busy as you hike to nine different waterfalls. 

The good news is the most difficult part of the hike occurs between the Middle Falls and Upper Falls. Families and beginners can take advantage of 2.5 miles of beautiful trails on the way.

No matter how far you go, the trail is gorgeous throughout as it follows trickling creeks through a lush old-growth forest. And don’t forget about the Middle Wallace Falls Overlook, where the trees break enough to see the Olympic Mountains in the distance. 

6. Quinault Loop, Olympic Peninsula

Quinault Loop, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Explore a Pacific Northwest forest, but bring your rain gear.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 3.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Discover the rainforest on the Quinault Loop Trail. Yes, a rainforest! The Olympic Peninsula gets more than 140 inches of rain a year. In other words, bring your waterproof hiking boots and rain gear for this winter hike. 

Despite the rain, this trail is ideal for families. Interpretive signs along the way teach hikers about the life cycle of the area’s massive trees and the wildlife you might encounter on the peninsula. 

Hikers of all ages will delight in the abundance of fungi near the trail and the views of Willaby Creek. If you’re having too much fun and want to extend your day, this Quinault Loop connects to a larger trail network. There are map displays throughout the area that will point you in the right direction. 

7. Panorama Point, Mount Rainier National Park

Panorama Point, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
A Mount Rainier National Park favorite.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 5 miles 
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The landscape visible from Panorama Point in Mount Rainier National Park is all the more stunning under blankets of snow. There are several ways to get to Panorama Point, but for winter hiking, we recommend Skyline Trail. Trails and signs will be covered by snow, so bring a map and stick to the already tracked areas.

The hike consists of two steep sections. Luckily, there’s a handy bench in the middle. At the bench, head left. The safest way up the second climb is across Edith Creek and up a ridge. Most winter hikers and snowshoers take this path, making it easy to follow.

Panorama Point is at the top of the ridge. Your push for the end will be rewarded. The bold Tatoosh Range, as well as Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams, create an unforgettable sight.

8. Lake Wenatchee South Snowshoe Trail, Lake Wenatchee State Park

Lake Wenatchee South Snowshoe Trail, Lake Wenatchee State Park, Washington
Winter hikers love this easy but scenic hike.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 3.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

The name of this winter hike can be deceiving. Most of the winter, the trail is compact enough for hiking in boots or shoes. Microspikes and trekking poles can be helpful but not necessary. The trail is level, with a gradual descent at the beginning.

The hike begins at the boat launch and follows a series of interpretive displays detailing the journey salmon take up the Wenatchee River. Then the trail passes through a vine maple, cedar, and pine tree forest. The snow-covered woods offer hikers a peaceful escape.

Lake Wenatchee State Park is home to other snowshoe hikes you can use to explore more of this picturesque area. The park also maintains a number of groomed cross-country ski trails. However, hiking and snowshoeing are not allowed on groomed trails.

9. Heather Lake Trail, Mountain Loop Highway

Heather Lake Trail, Mountain Loop Highway
A gem in the North Cascades.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 5.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Heather Lake Trail is a gem of the North Cascades and is hands-down one of Washington’s top wintertime hikes. This moderate hike requires microspikes most of the winter. But, to be honest, the drive to the trailhead is worse than the hike. Be prepared for unavoidable, crater-sized potholes or park further down the road and add a few miles to your hike.

From the parking lot, you’ll immediately ascend a series of switchbacks. Don’t worry, the climb ends shortly, and the towering moss-covered second-growth forest will distract you from your burning legs. 

On the final leg of the journey, look for a fork in the trail. Follow this if you want to circumnavigate the lake. Whether or not you go around the lake, you can appreciate snow-capped Mount Pilchuck in the background. 

10. Oyster Dome

Oyster Dome, Bellingham, Washington
Experience snow-free winter hiking.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 4.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Oyster Dome is a rock outcropping that juts out over Samish Bay. Its proximity to the ocean keeps the trail snow-free almost all year, making it perfect for winter hiking. There might not be snow, but rain is always likely in Washington. Dress accordingly in proper winter hiking clothing.

The main route up to the Oyster Dome starts from the Samish Overlook Parking Area. After a short descent, you’ll climb steeply through dense Douglas firs, cedars, and alder trees. You’ll cross a few creeks, a few more switchbacks, and then arrive at Oyster Dome, where you’ll enjoy awesome views of Samish Bay, Lummi and Orcas Islands, and the Skagit River Flats.

For more experienced hikers, the Oyster Dome Trail offers the same terminus via a much more grueling route. The 7.3-mile trail starts along Highway 11 and includes nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain. 

11. Palouse Falls, Palouse Falls State Park

Palouse Falls, Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
Easy hiking, even in winter.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 1.0 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy

At 200 feet tall, Palouse Falls is a sight to behold. The best part is the overlook is a short hike appropriate for hikers of all ability levels. The leveled gravel trail makes for easy hiking, even in the winter.

Take the trail from the parking lot through grassland to a precipitous overlook of Palouse Falls and its deep canyon. Interpretive displays at the overlook explain the formation of the falls and the area’s fascinating geology. 

Many hikers plan their Palouse Falls visit around sunrise. If you can manage the early start and the cold, the morning light in the canyon is worth it. There are social trails leading to the base of the falls. Following several accidents and injuries, these trails are no longer open to the public. Stick to the state park trails.

12. Nisqually Vista Loop

Views of Mt. Rainier from Nisqually Vista Loop, Washington
Great for kids!
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 1.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

For those looking for a short, kid-friendly winter hike, try the Nisqually Vista Loop near Mount Rainier. Except right after a snowfall, the trail is compact enough not to require snowshoes. Double-check conditions before you head out.

The loop portion of the hike starts after a 0.2-mile gradual descent. You can hike the loop in either direction. Save the best viewpoint for last by hiking counterclockwise. You’ll know when you’ve arrived by striking views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier. There is an information display at the viewpoint, but in snowy years it’s buried. 

After you’ve snapped some photos, head back the way you came or continue the loop. It’s the same distance either way. During winter, the Washington Trail Association places bright orange flags and poles for easy navigation.

13. Rattlesnake Ledge, North Bend

Rattlesnake Ledge, North Bend, Washington
An incredible landscape…if you’re willing to share the trail. (Photo by Peter Stevens / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 5.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The landscapes visible from Rattlesnake Ledge are well-known and attract 300,000 visitors yearly. You might have to share the trail, even if you’re winter hiking. An early start can help beat the crowds, but make sure you’re layered correctly for a winter morning.

From the parking lot, you can see Rattlesnake Ledge high above you. It looks further than it is. The first section switchbacks through a charming second-growth forest and past massive moss-covered boulders. The trail is well-maintained, but microspikes are helpful on icy days.

A couple of miles later, you’ll arrive at the ledge and some of the best views in the Seattle area. Be aware it is a ledge. Keep pets and children away from the drop-off, especially in icy conditions.

To escape the crowds, take the offshoot trail to Middle and Upper Ledges, just a few miles further. From these overlooks, you’ll enjoy a different perspective of Rattlesnake Lake and the surrounding scenery.

14. Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
A quintessential Washington hike all year round!
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

A quintessential Washington hike, Sol Duc Falls is as captivating and accessible in the winter as in the summer. Most of the season, you won’t even need microspikes and can enjoy a snow-free hike. But you will need your camera, not just for the waterfalls; the entire hike is exquisite. 

Starting from the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort, this short trail enters a forest. See how many different shades of green you can discover in the trees and high canopy. Next, the trail crosses a bridge over a stream. You will arrive at the waterfalls less than a mile from the trailhead. 

There are many ways to appreciate the falls, including vantage points up and downstream of the cascade. There is also a bridge across the river that provides the best view. Expect to share the falls and don’t hog one vantage point for too long. 

15. Hole in the Wall, Olympic National Park

Hole in the Wall, Olympic National Park, Washington
A sublime beach hike to a rock arch. (Photo by DJANDYW.COM AKA NOBODY / CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 3.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Washington has amazing snow-capped mountains and forests, but it also has sublime beaches. Rialto Beach on the Olympic Coast is home to mesmerizing tide pools, unique wildlife, and some of the best winter hiking in the state. Hole in the Wall is a rocky arch formed by the surging tides on the Washington coast, and you can hike to it all year round.

The beach is the trail. It is level, but walking through sand adds to the challenge. As you head north on the beach, look west for views of James and Little James Islands and Gunsight Rock. If you’re lucky, you might also spot whales, sea lions, and otters offshore.

The last part of the trail and how you get to the Hole in the Wall depends on the tide. At high tide, the path leaves the beach for an overland trail that passes above the arch. If you want to walk through the rock arch, plan to go at low tide. 

16. Bowl and Pitcher Loop, Riverside State Park

Spokane River, Riverside State Park, Washington
Perfect for the whole family.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 2.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Less than 10 minutes from Spokane, Washington, Riverside State Park is a hiker’s paradise. The state park has 200,000 feet of river shoreline and statuesque ponderosa pine forests. There are many hikes to choose from, but our favorite for winter hiking is the Bowl and Pitcher Loop.

At 2.1 miles, this easy loop is perfect for the whole family. Start by crossing a swinging bridge over the Spokane River and then decide which way to walk the loop. Either way, you’ll get to see remarkable basalt formations and surging river rapids as you go. 

There are a few ups and downs along the loop, and microspikes might be necessary. Check conditions before heading out. 

17. Heybrook Lookout, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Heybrook Lookout, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
A must-do hike, no matter the season.
  • Type: Out and back
  • Length: 1.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Central Cascades get epic amounts of snow, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great winter hikes in the area. Heybrook Lookout is a must-do hike, no matter the season. This short but moderate trail is great if you’re short on time or a beginner hiker looking for a challenge.

The trailhead is located on Highway 2 in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Parking is limited to the shoulder, and you’ll want to get there early to get a space. There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, so plan accordingly.

The hike heads east along the highway for 0.1 miles before entering an evergreen forest teeming with ferns and moss. The trail switchbacks through the woods before opening up to a viewing area complete with a lookout tower. 

Climb the 89 stairs to the top of the wooden tower for incredible views. To the west, look for Mount Persis and Bridal Veil Falls plummeting down Mount Index. To the east and south, see if you can spot Baring Mountain in the Wild Sky Wilderness. If you’re queasy with heights, the views from the picnic tables at the tower’s base are still pretty spectacular.

18. Staircase Rapids, Olympic National Park

Staircase Rapids, Olympic National Park, Washington
You don’t need microspikes for this beautiful Washington winter hike.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 2.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Staircase Rapids Loop on the Olympic Peninsula is one of few potentially snow-free hikes in the state. However, in the winter season, the road to the trailhead is closed. Luckily, this only adds one mile of easy hiking.

The trail itself begins at the Ranger Station, where it enters an impressive old-growth forest. The massive trees are covered in moss and create a quiet atmosphere and a place to reconnect with nature. Eventually, the trail forks. If you’re looking for a more rugged hike, you can take the left fork and hike the Four Stream Trail.

To continue the Staircase Rapid Loop, take the left fork across a suspension bridge. Pause here to admire the powerful rapids and bright blue water before following the trail downstream back to your car.

Other Washington Winter Hikes We Recommend

  • Skyline Lake, Stevens Pass Ski Area (Moderate)
  • Mount Si, North Bend (Challenging)
  • Moulton Falls Bridge, East Fork Lewis River (Easy)
  • Granite Creek Trail, Snoqualmie Pass (Moderate)
  • Big Four Ice Caves, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Easy)
Mount Si, North Bend, Washington
Why not take on the challenging Mount Si?

Best Winter Hikes in Washington!

Washington is full of bucket list hikes, so you can’t let a little winter weather stop you from getting out there. When you brave the elements, you are rewarded with stunning views, frozen waterfalls, and extraordinary rainforests.

We hope our guide to the best winter hikes in Washington inspires you to unpack your hiking boots and take on one of these top-rated trails!

Did we miss a trail? Where are your favorite Washington winter hikes? Let us know in the comments box below, and don’t forget to share this article with your hiking partners.

Last update on 2023-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Megan Large Avatar

Megan hails from southwest Colorado, where she grew up hiking and camping. Since then, she has been on the road, working as an outdoor guide. She's guided hiking trips in British Columbia, whitewater in Washington and Idaho, and taught skiing across Colorado.

Megan has spent over 100 days camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and is currently bagging Colorado's 14ers with her Border Collie, Alli. When she's not getting lost on the trail, you can find Megan wherever there's WIFI sharing her outdoor experience so that others may learn from her mistakes.

Email - Linkedin - Facebook

Leave a Comment