The Adventure: Early Spring Strolls

Early spring strolls
April 6, 2016

Note from the blog staff: Portions of this blog were originally published November 14, 2013 under the title “The Adventure: Winter Lowland Hikes.”  We have revised, updated and added to that blog for your spring time enjoyment.

Spring  sunshine and burgeoning wildflowers are busting out all over! Washington state parks have some great early spring hikes, just in time for today, National Walking Day!

Prefer having the path mostly (or sometimes completely) to yourself? This is the perfect time of year to hit the trail. So put on your windbreaker, fill up the water bottle and hang your Discover Pass. Let’s go for a walk in the park!
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What are people saying about your trail destination? There’s a quick, easy way to find out: Washington Trails Association’s trip reports are written by trail users just like you. See what hikers are saying about your state park of choice before you hit the road. You might even discover tips or suggestions for making your walk even more fun!
Early spring strolls
Snap a picture of Deep Lake before heading out on your hike at Millersylvania State Park.
Deep, mature forest, a peaceful lake, lots of pretty trails: Millersylvania State Park has it all for an early spring walk. Just 10 miles south of Olympia off Interstate 5 (exit 95), Millersylvania is a forested jewel filled with Civilian Conservation Corps-era buildings.

Start your stroll with a little history: the park’s stone-and-log buildings are classic CCC construction. Walk along the shore of Deep Lake, popular in summer for fishing and boating, and admire the reflection of trees on water. Then head in to the woods. More than eight miles of trails wind through the thick stands of cedars and firs. In a region known for rain, there’s no doubt Millersylvania’s trails can be wet and muddy. Many of the more heavily forested trails offer protection from the rain and lots of absorbent duff to walk on. 

Rainbow Falls State Park

Early spring strolls
This mini-waterfall is the icing on the cake when it comes to hiking at Rainbow Falls State Park. Photo by Mark Schult.
Witnessing the raw power and beauty of a waterfall is a hiking bonus. See for yourself at another CCC-era park on the banks of the Chehalis River. Spring rains and runoff mean the falls will be at their fullest! A trail within the developed section of the park (to the north of State Route 6) leads to the low, wide waterfall that cascades over basalt.

On sunny days, a misty rainbow may appear over the thundering whitewater. The park forest has some of the last and finest old-growth left in the Chehalis area. Ten miles of trails take you through moss-covered trees, some 200 feet high. The forest floor is lush with fern and rhododendron. Most hiking trails lie to the south of the highway, with a trailhead accessible from Route 5. Check out the map in the park day-use area to find the trailhead.

Seaquest State Park / Mount St. Helens Visitor Center

Early spring strolls
Discover why Washington is known as the Evergreen State by taking a stroll at Seaquest State Park.
With all that Seaquest State Park has to offer hikers, you might need to stay a night or two to do it all!

Make a stop at the Mount St. Helens Visitor’s Center to view displays that tell the story of the mountain (don’t miss the tree that was in the path of the blast) and the 1980 eruption. Be sure to watch the short film about the eruption in the center’s theater — it’s a kicker!

From the Visitor Center, take a short walk along the shores of shallow Silver Lake, and enjoy the marshland habitat. Only 10-feet deep, Silver Lake was formed when a previous eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens dammed Silver Creek. Keep an eye out for great blue heron, deer or elk having a drink as you stroll the boardwalks. On a clear day, you can catch a view of Mount St. Helens.

Ready for a walk in the woods? Take the tunnel underneath Spirit Lake Highway to wander through Seaquest’s fairytale-like forest! If you stay at the park, the trails are right out your front door…or tent flap.

Wenatchee Confluence State Park

Early spring strolls
Wonderful wetland walk anyone? A morning stroll through Horan Natural Area is nothing short of wow. Photo by Peter Prehn

Wander through the wetlands! Nestled on the banks of the Wenatchee River, Wenatchee Confluence is a perfect stomping ground, whether you have paws, flippers, webs or feet! An oasis in the middle of dry, shrub-steppe hills, this urban Wenatchee park is an easy-to-access walk that’s teeming with life – not to mention opportunities for the photographer!

Start at the north end of the park on the paved portion of the Apple Capital Loop Trail, and across the bridge spanning the river to the Horan Natural Area. Enjoy an easy stroll through the marshy bottomlands with expansive blue-sky views. Along the gravel loop trail you can see all manner of river-dwellers. Look for frogs, muskrats, beavers, quail and lots and lots of ducks!

If you still feel like some activity following your walk, take advantage of the park’s more urban side! Bring a friend and enjoy a pickup game of basketball, volleyball, soccer or tennis on the fields and courts!

Columbia Plateau State Park Trail

Early spring strolls
This route was made for walking! The Columbia Plateau Trail is mile after mile of heart-healthy fun!
You can walk for miles and miles! Another great rails-to-trails project, Columbia Plateau follows the 130-mile path of the original Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad along the Spokane River. Hop on the trail in Cheney for the easiest access. The 23 miles between Lincoln County and Cheney are developed and open to the public. There are also another 15 miles from Ice Harbor Dam to the Snake River Junction.

Columbia Plateau is not only great for walking but gawking too! Wildlife viewing is a popular attraction on the trail and for good reason! Right now you may catch a glimpse of trumpeter swans in the midst of their spring migration!

Bring those binoculars! You can also spot large animals such as moose, deer and elk, especially in the morning and early evening. Make sure to stop at the many interpretive signs along the way. The trail is steeped in railroading history!

Have a top hiking trail pick for spring?
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Feature photo of hiking shoes by Blair Cook