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Winter Dayhikes – Five Easy Places to Hike in Oregon and Washington

Winter Dayhikes – Five Easy Places to Hike in Oregon and Washington

bridgeeagle-creek-resizedWinter is here. As we still lag from the holiday cheer, and get back into our new year goals, diets, workouts, etc, it’s still hard to be as active in the winter. After all, “It’s cold”, “It’s wet!” Hey, I get it. I don’t like going out in the cold and wet either!

Someone asked me are you gonna keep hiking in the wintertime when it’s cold?  I said, I don’t see why not.  Just bring a coat.

Who made this rule that you hike in summer and sit on the couch in winter, because it’s “off-season”?  Personally I enjoy cooler air when going uphill.

You might not backpack or camp overnight, but there are plenty of opportunities for dayhiking, which is a blast.

The cool thing about hiking is it’s not just being active, it’s an experience. It’s fun. Young and old, athletic and non-athletic alike can participate. The difference between hiking and going to the gymn is it’s not as hard to motivate yourself when you really enjoy it.

Mountain roads can be treacherous so be careful.  Carry chains, shovel, etc. But if you don’t want to drive in snow or slip in icy trails, there are still great places you can visit which are close to the city.

As for the rain? Who cares? Rainy, foggy days are great for photos.  All the photos in this post were taken in “off-season” fall and winter.

Around here usually it rains, then it lightens up later. You don’t have to wait to get “special gear” to walk in rain. (Though you eventually might want to get some merino wool clothing, because it’s just awesome.)  A basic poncho in your pack works great though.

I do suggest protecting your phone and electronics deep inside your backpack wrapped in plastic.  I once almost ruined my phone on a rainy hike by having it in a side pocket of my pack.  Don’t learn the hard way!  You can keep your camera under your coat or poncho or get one of those handy waterproof cameras.

So now that we’re ready for hiking let’s check out some great dayhiking sites!multomahfalls-resized

Multnomah Falls

People come from all over to appreciate the beauty of these falls. Word of advice, don’t come on a sunny Saturday. You’ll have trouble finding parking and crowds are everywhere. I’d suggest some of the other falls around the area, though they will often be crowded as well. Elowah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Bridal Veil are all great short hikes and fun trips for the family, even for beginners.

Waterfalls are all over the Columbia Gorge, so just take I-84 East, follow the signs and pick a waterfall adventure.

cape-horn-sign-viewpointCape Horn

Cape Horn is another great Gorge hike just outside Vancouver/Camas on the Washington side. The entire loop is seven miles, and it gets difficult when you come to the rocks and bridge. However two or three miles and back is a good hike and you’ll get a great workout going uphill. Check out some of the amazing colors on this trail on my Cape Horn Adventure last fall.

Note: The lower part of the loop is closed February 1 to July 15 to protect
nesting peregrine falcon. The upper part of the loop, down to the Gorge
viewpoint is open all year.

Cape Horn Loop

Just take Highway 14 East and it will take you right there!

Silver FallsSilver Falls

With ten beautiful waterfalls, this is one of the gems of Oregon.  This can be as long or short as you want. The entire loop hike is 8 miles with smooth trails most of the way, steady uphills and downhills. But it’s great for short hikes as well. Pick a waterfall and drive there. This makes it fun for everyone if you’re not ready for longer hikes.

North Falls, South Falls, and Winter Falls are the main sites with parking lots you can drive to. South Falls is the main center with a lodge, nature store, etc. There’s also camping, cabins, and bike trails.

Enjoy a hot cup of coffee by the fire at the lodge after your hike.

There’s sometimes a bit of snow, so check the weather first. You can call the ranger’s office and ask about it, if you’re concerned. The workers there love their job and are glad to help however they can.

Directions: Take 205 to Mt. Angel and Silverton, then take OR-214 S to Silver Falls.  Silverton is sometimes tricky, keep following the signs.  More detailed directions on
Google Maps.

Silver Falls State Park


Flowers at Smith RockSmith Rock

This is right near Redmond, a small town near Bend, Or. I like to say this is like a tiny Utah canyon. This is one of the top rock-climbing destinations in the US. You’ll see often them climbing on your hike. I personally find it inspiring. But you don’t have to rockclimb to enjoy this place. It’s wonderful rock and desert, especially if you’re used to green near the city. Take a photo anywhere.

You can even camp out in the bivouac area, though I warn you there’s not much seclusion. But rockclimbers are great people to hang with. They do like to party, but they’re not too bad.

Directions: Just take Highway 97 North from Redmond to the town of Terrebone and follow signs to Smith Rock.  The road is called Smith Rock Way.



If you’re around the Seattle area, there’s some great places to hike around the city, which is surrounded by nature and phenomenal views of the Puget Sounds, Olympic mountains, and Mount Rainier. Further away from the city is Snoqualmie Falls, Little Si, and Twin Falls (trail is closed close to a mile in so you can only see the falls from far away).

Within the city Discovery Park is great for hiking or jogging. Also Golden Gardens park is a great beach. Catch it at sunset sometime. Yes, expect cold and wind near the Sound.

Special thanks to my Facebook group
Hiking in the Pacific Northwest for lots of great information about these sites and winter conditions.

Know some other great adventure hikes?  Whether in the Northwest, across the country or across the world, please share! Let’s exchange adventure stories on
Twitter and Instagram.  Just follow me @OutbackTales.