6 Amazing Winter Hikes Within Two Hours Of Seattle

Get outside and explore all winter long.

By: Jason Horstman

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Winter can often be thought of as a time to stay indoors, drink hot chocolate, and hibernate. The opposite couldn't be more true. When you explore in the winter, not only do you get to see landscapes in an entirely different way, but you also get to enjoy a little more solitude that you typically don't get in the summer months (and nobody’s stopping you from drinking that hot chocolate).

The hikes listed below were chosen based on their proximity to Seattle as well as their "wow" factor. Each of them also depends on snowpack and should only be done when the conditions are right (primarily when snowpack is lower and roads are clear, such as early/late winter or during lower snowpack seasons). Most of these hikes are summertime favorites that are equally as stunning in the winter. If you're one of those winter hibernators mentioned above, I promise you'll have a completely new perspective and appreciation for winter after completing any one of these hikes.

1. Hike to Franklin Falls

Photo: Jason Horstman

This hike is one the easiest and most popular of all the hikes listed but can also be the most difficult to drive to. The 4 mile roundtrip hike can easily turn into an 8 mile roundtrip hike depending how much snowfall is covering the forest road that leads to the trailhead. The alternative is to take the exit for the Snow Lake trailhead and walk the part of the forest road that lies northeast of the falls. Snowshoes or traction devices may also be required depending on the amount of snowfall, especially on the slope leading down to the falls as it tends to get slippery. Once at the falls though, it's easy to see why this place is so popular. It's a frozen paradise that drastically differs from the summertime. This one is sure to impress anyone who has never experienced a waterfall during wintertime before. Learn more.

2. Hike to Lake 22

Photo: Jason Horstman

With relatively easy access and stunning views, this popular summer hike is equally as popular in the winter. Don't forget to bring a little traction and waterproof gear, as the trail typically tends to be wet and slippery. Be sure to keep your eyes open for Three Fingers and Liberty Mountain off in the distance. If you're lucky enough, you might even get to witness a number of small avalanches on the steep mountain chutes that surround the backdrop of the lake. Learn more.

3. Hike to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls

Photo: Jason Horstman

Lake Serene is a very popular summer destination, for obvious reasons. There's much to be said for its appearance during the winter though. Seeing the surrounding mountains covered in snow on the way up is impressive alone. If that doesn't awe you, surely the snow covered Lake Serene and towering Mt Index will. Far off in the distance, one can even see the natural ice caves that form across the lake as well. Don't forget to walk across the lake bridge and up the stairs to the spot that overlooks the falls below, as well as the snow covered mountains off in the distance. Learn more.

4. Winter Hike to Gothic Basin

Photo: Jason Horstman

Gothic Basin is a challenging, yet stunning hike in the summer. This applies ten fold in the winter. This hike should only be done during lower snowfalls with proper equipment (microspikes are a must), and can also depend on winter road closures. On your way up, you're rewarded with unobstructed views of nearby snow covered peaks, including the razor sharp Silvertip Peak. If conditions are right, you'll be able to take almost the entire summer route up to the basin. Otherwise, a more direct approach near Del Campo peak/Foggy Lake might be required. Once at the lake, this is one of the most stunning winter landscapes you'll ever see. Seeing both Gothic and Del Campo peaks smoothly covered in snow is nothing short of jaw-dropping. If conditions have been cold enough, you might even be able to enjoy your lunch on the frozen lake. Plan to stay awhile, as this will be a trip you'll never want to end. Learn more.

5. Sunrise Hike to Mount Dickerman

Photo: Jason Horstman

You may wonder why you chose this hike as you make your way up several switchbacks through old growth forest when starting out, but once the views open up, any such thoughts will immediately dissipate. With early views of the snow covered Big Four Mountain and other sizable peaks once you reach the flattened meadows, this is surely to become an instant favorite. But it doesn't stop there, as you ascend upward on a snowfield before you reach your final destination. Here lies a view of just about every peak imaginable (with Sloan and Glacier Peak dominating the skyline). This is truly one of the best views in the Mountain Loop Highway area. Enjoy your lunch at the top, and don't miss your chance to partake in a little glissading down that snowfield you had to sludge through on the way up. Be sure to pack traction devices and check road closures as conditions often warrant it. You'll also want to make sure you pack the camera for this one, as there are views in every direction. Learn more.

6. Snowshoe to Mount Pilchuck

Photo: Jason Horstman

Mt Pilchuck is a classic Washington hike and is equally as stunning with its winter coat. If snowfall is low enough and you are able to drive the nearly 7 miles up the forest road to the trailhead, this hike is a must. Typically done in either snowshoes or traction devices, the route is usually easy to follow with all the traffic this trail receives, even in the winter. Once the views open up, you'll never be able to turn back. The views are impressive enough in the summer, but it takes on a whole new form in the winter, with all the notable peaks completely covered in snow. If you're willing to brave the cold, you can even stay the night in the lookout, and witness both a sunset and sunrise, which are nothing short of life changing with unobstructed views in every direction. Learn more.

Cover photo: Jason Horstman

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Get the gear you need for your winter adventures:

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.