Fun & “Mysterious” Winter Hikes in the Evergreen State
Although many might believe that the grand state of Washington is buried under snow this time of year, hikers will be glad to learn that there are perfect lower-level loops that will allow you to get outside and enjoy breathing in some fresh air without having to tackle monumental snowdrifts or ice-covered paths. Another fun thing about choosing a “loop” to hike is the fact that you never have to double-back; with each step forward, you get to enjoy something new, which keeps your adventurer’s soul extremely happy.
We begin with the Lower Lake Trail found in Battle Ground State Park. Elevating just 120 feet, this is only a one-mile hike, roundtrip. The town of Battle Ground is located about 11 miles northeast of Vancouver and 32 miles southwest of Mount St. Helens. When visiting this great town and enjoying the park’s scenery, this trail takes you around a little lake with a historical and slightly eerie background. Once a volcano that blew its top, it formed a small crater that now rests within the 280-acre park. It is stated that this trail circles a lake that is “mysterious” and allows access to its secrets. What secret is that, you ask? It appears all the locals can agree on the fact that the existence of a beast haunts the lake, with park rangers backing them up by affirming that they’ve seen the mysterious creature surface over the years. Not only will this geologic wonder be fun to gander at, but other activities, including more hiking trails, riding, fishing, and camping, call out to everyone.
If heading to Central Washington, check out the Snow Mountain Ranch and its’ seven-mile roundtrip hike, Cowiche Mountain Trail. Located just outside Yakima, the famous Ranch offers year-round activities and walks for everyone. Not only do you get to view the relics of an old cattle ranch, but you also catch glimpses of some tremendous wildlife that call Washington home. Hiking through the riparian areas can lead you to spot a great horned owl while walking through the lowland fields can offer up picture opportunities of red-tailed hawks and northern harriers during a hunt. In addition to those soaring above, there’s a resident population of elk wandering in and out of the area at all times. In fact, at the top of Cowiche Mountain, you will view Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, and a large elk feeding station run by the state’s Department of Fishing and Wildlife. By taking this loop, you never quite know what you’ll see, but it is assured that the sweeping views are absolutely breathtaking.
Those who wish to experience a slightly moderate loop, but wish to avoid the crowds that head to the popular Old Mount Si Trail in Snoqualmie, a city located 28 miles east of Seattle, choose the Boulder-Garden Loop. Running 2.5 miles roundtrip, your hike begins at the foot of Mount Si and travels through a magnificent forest that houses giant, moss-covered boulders. By taking this loop, you can explore this unique scenery on a less-traveled path – even though it’s close to two of the busiest hiking thoroughfares in the region. Just know, for the tons of visitors ascending either the Little Si or the Old Mount Si trails, the Boulder-Garden Loop provides some of the more interesting scenery along the way.
As always, make sure to pack the warm clothing needed to have fun—from gloves to hardshell/waterproof pants and jackets to warm socks and solid hiking boots. Because no matter what area of the state you’re visiting, there’s a menu of legendary, mysterious, exciting trails to be hiked that will have you returning for many winter seasons to come.