Adventure Guide: Wet & Mild Winter Walks

Ginkgo center 2005
Stroll through the ages! Gingko Petrified Forest State Parks' warm, desert-like environs are home to a treasure trove of rare and diverse petrified forest samples.

March 15, 2017

This winter has proven considerably bolder and colder than those Washington has experienced over the past couple of years. 

Snow is plentiful. Temperatures are lower than average and precipitation is...well…there’s a reason this is called the Evergreen State.

But what’s the non snow-lover to do? Just because you aren’t into skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling, you don’t need to take the winter season sitting down. Take heart and take a hike or a bike ride at a lower-elevation state park!

You might need some rain gear, boots and some layered clothing, but you probably won’t need to bundle up heavy for this adventure. That means you can enjoy your stroll, your favorite hot beverage in one hand and (maybe) an umbrella in the other. Need some suggestions? Here are few to start with:


Wenatchee Confluence State Park

Wenatchee Confluence Bridge and Trail CCFKR  theslowlane
Wide vistas, magnificent bridges and smooth, easy trails. The Apple Capitol Loop Trail at Wenatchee Confluence State Park is a great way to spend a couple of hours or even a full day. Don't forget the camera! Photo by Robert Ashworth.

The spot: Wenatchee Confluence State Park, a mixed-use camping park at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers.
The walk: Within walking distance of the urban heart of Wenatchee, this park is an activity-for-everyone hotspot. Take a stroll along the Apple Capital Loop Trail for a mile—or 10! This trail wends its way through the park, over two bridges and along the Columbia River. Paved and relatively flat, the trail is an easy hike for any ability! Enjoy the fauna that the water environment attracts and the visual delights of the surrounding semi-arid shrub steppe climate. If you are on a bike or really feeling your oats, take the Rocky Reach Trail branch 5.5 miles up to  Lincoln Rock State Park. Or just take the spur that heads into downtown Wenatchee to warm up and get a bite to eat.

Rainbow Falls State Park and Willapa Hills State Park Trail

Walk, bike or stroll, no matter how you roll there are miles of fun to be had on the Willapa Hills State Park Trail. And stop by Rainbow Falls State Park while you are at it!

Gingko Petrified Forest State Park

Gingko Petroglyphs CCFKR Chris Phan
 A short stroll down the sandy path takes you to Gingko's wall of petroglyphs. Hint: this makes a super panoramic picture! Photo by Chris Phan
The spot: Overlooking the Columbia River in Vantage.
The walk: With just three miles of trails there is not a lot of hiking to be done at Gingko. But these sandy paths are sure to take you back a long, long way —16 million years in fact! This park packs a lot into a small area. Enjoy wide vistas of the mighty river running through the dry shrub steppe cliffs. You‘ll want to hike slowly as you descend down the path to view the prolific petroglyphs etched into the rocks walls. Be sure to look down! This park is home to the Vantage Forest, an enormous cache of diverse petrified wood discovered by George Beck in 1932. Stop in to the park’s interpretive center before you go for a look at more regional treasures. Feel like a bit more walking? Head south across Interstate 90 to the Wanapum Recreational Area and check out the swim beach, though you probably won’t want to go for a dip right now.

Columbia Plateau State Park Trail

                  Like to wander in the wide open spaces? You'll find miles of big sky country at Columbia Plateau Trail State Park. 

The spot: Columbia Plateau's address is officially in Washtucna, however, multiple trailheads exist at both the north and south ends of the trail providing ample access.
The walk: Give us trail, lots of trail where there used to be a rail! You sure won’t feel fenced in on this 130-mile trail! The trail’s complete span is not yet developed. However, the 23-mile stretch between Lincoln County and Cheney is ready for you to go, go, go! The 15 miles from Ice Harbor Dam to Snake River Junction also are open to hiking, skating, biking, or whatever way you like to get moving! Take an early morning walk through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge area (just outside Cheney/north end of the trail), and you might just catch a glimpse of some of the deer, elk, moose and hundreds of bird species that call the region home. Built along the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad bed, this is a flat and easy hike for all ages.

Learn more!

These are just a few hikes to consider! The Cascades region is still pretty snowbound, but lots of lowland hikes await discovery.
Explore for yourself!

Where do you like to hike during the shoulder season?
Share your photos and stories here!