In the northern U.S., winter and hiking don’t often get paired in the same sentence.
An exception lies in the Pacific Northwest, where a good assortment of attractive lowland landscapes remain snow-free, usually, year-round.
More than a handful offer destinations with above-average scenic appeal that merit full-day excursions—even when temperatures are cool and daylight hours scarce.
Craig Romano, a New England native who has supplanted the late Harvey Manning as author emeritus of Washington State trail guides, tracked down 50 such day trips and in 2009 released Winter Hikes of Western Washington, 1 of 9 trail guides he has published with The Mountaineers Books of Seattle.
The format used for Winter Hikes is unconventional and nicely utilitarian. Romano’s 50 hikes are printed what resemble recipe cards, 6 x 4.5 inches, with a trail description on one side and a map on the other.
A trail travels above bluffs at Ebey's Landing. (Photos courtesy of Craig Romano)
The trips are contained in a pop-top card holder, like a throwback recipe box, and you can just pick the card of your choice, drop it in your pack and tote it for the day.
For today’s Guidebook Getaway, a regular feature in The REI Blog, we’re featuring one of Romano’s top Washington hikes for any season, and one that’s especially easy to appreciate in winter when the region’s typically heavy snowpack has decreed the high country to be a no-hiker zone.
The destination: 17,400-acre Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, on Whidbey Island northwest of Seattle. Romano’s description guides hikers along an easy-to-moderate 5.6-mile route that travels on beaches and coastal bluffs while accompanied by the sound of crashing surf.
“It’s one of my favorite hikes,” Craig tells me. “It’s in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, so it is a great choice to hike this time of year. Perego's Lagoon is a great spot for seeing wintering shorebirds, too.”
Other factors Romano likes:
Long stretches of undeveloped coastline.
Rare Puget Sound prairies.
Abundant bird life and wildlife habitat.
Historic farms, sites and structures from the 1850s.