Rain or shine: Seven trips and six tips for hiking in unpredictable weather

Ollalie - downtofootbridge

More moss and less mess, please! A cover of trees over a sturdy, improved trail like this one at Ollalie State Park is not just pretty — it makes hiking in dicey weather more fun.

Oct. 23, 2019

Here comes the rain again. Or is it going to be sunny? Or both?

Washington’s often capricious weather might leave you scratching your head when considering a hike. But it doesn’t have to! Plenty of state parks have great hikes under soaring tree canopies that naturally protect you from a sudden soaking.

Bonus: Spending time in the outdoors is healthy for you — body and mind. That's why this spring Washington State Parks began working with the national Park Rx America program, which offers a platform for health care providers to write nature prescriptions for patients. Prescriptions include — but are not limited to — activities and relaxing in parks, including Washington’s state parks. Learn more about this exciting new program here.

Ready to get out and hike? Check out these destinations to get you started.

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Rhylee - Tenas granddaughter on the river

If the rain lets up on the Hood Canal, step out of the forest at Dosewallips State Park and enjoy exploring by the shore like Rhylee!

Bogachiel State Park  

Bogachiel’s trails are surprisingly dry for being located in a rainforest, where annual precipitation can reach 170 inches per year. You will still need your rain gear here at this lush, verdant park on the outskirts of Olympic National Park. But the moss-covered oaks and soaring cedars deflect much of the moisture. Meander through the duff-covered trails and over picturesque bridges crisscrossing the Bogachiel River. This lesser-known park is breathtaking, and well worth the drive. (Directions)

Dosewallips State Park

Fall is spectacular at Dosewallips State Park. Salmon spawn in the Dosewallips River. Mighty elk pass through this rustic park for a seasonal wildlife view in October and November. For a hike, take the Steam Donkey Loop Trail or snap some epic scenes of  Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains. It’s a favorite with fall hikers and great for hiking newbies. The trail meanders through an autumn paradise of trees, connecting to the Maple Valley Trail along the Dosewallips River. (Directions)

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Try a path more dry! The tall trees at Millersylvania State Park provide shelter and stunning beauty.

Millersylvania State Park

With miles of hiking through a deep forest setting by a charming lake, it’s easy to see why Millersylvania is one of the best-loved parks in Washington. Historic, Civilian Conservation Corps-built kitchen shelters offer a respite from the rain if you break for lunch. Feel like hiking for a few days? Grab your tent or RV and stay the night! (Directions)

Olallie State Park 

Bike or hike through miles of deep forest to the rhythm of Olallie’s roaring waterfalls. Bring your camera! Charming foot bridges offer views of the rushing Snoqualmie River. Plus, at this time of year, fall colors are peaking at this western Cascades Mountains park. (Directions)

Rockport old-growth trees with moss

Stroll between the ferns! Enjoy a deep forest experience hiking through Rockport State Park's old growth stands.

Rockport State Park 

The epitome of a deep, Pacific Northwest forest, Rockport’s rare old-growth stands are so dense that light rarely filters through, let alone rain. Experience the feel of an ancient ecosystem along the Skagit River. The park makes a good day-use spot to rest and enjoy lunch mid trek. (Directions)

Saint Edward State Park 

You may hear the raindrops hitting the plate-sized leaves of the Norway maples lining the trails at Saint Edward, but few will make it to you. Set on the northeastern shore of Lake Washington, this Kenmore-area park offers a tranquil respite from the rigors of urban life. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the old seminary grounds, and then venture down to the water for some great views of Seattle. Finish your visit with a quick tour of the old brick buildings designed by famed architect John Graham. (Directions)

Wallace Falls State Park 

Waterfall, lake and river views are the big draws at Wallace Falls, near the town of Gold Bar, west of Stevens Pass. Hikes through changing alder and maple are a hiker’s paradise. Take the Greg Ball Trail out to Wallace Lake, or head west on Woody Trail to viewpoints of Lower, Middle and Upper falls. (Directions)

The Basics

In this season, weather and trail conditions are unpredictable. Here’s a few safety tips to review before heading out for a fall hike.

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Tell someone where you are going: Knowing where you were headed, whether alone or with friends, lets others know where to start looking if you don’t make it back. Be specific. And make sure to take your cell phone with you. Tracking its signal can mean a quick rescue. Even better, pack along a GPS and/or a good map.

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Be prepared: Pack food, medical supplies or ways to shelter yourself in an emergency. Dress in layers and have something that will keep you dry in a pinch. Check out the Washington Trails Association‘s Ten Essentials for need-to-pack items.

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It’s hunting season: You are sharing the natural world with other outdoor enthusiasts right now, some of whom are armed. Hunting is not allowed in state parks, but be watchful on lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife during hunting season. Wear bright colors and stay on trails.

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Watch the weather: Our lickety-split climate changes can work for or against you. Have emergency protection ready to go, and watch out for slides or other hazards that inclement weather can bring. If you feel like you are getting in over your head, don’t be embarrassed to call for help.

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Be wary where the wild things are: Most wildlife stay well hidden. But some may be looking to add a few pounds before hibernation. Bone up on bear safety and wildlife viewing ethics. Carry a whistle and bells, especially if you are headed into bear territory.

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Know when to hold up:  Do you know the how to yield when you are on the trail? Practicing proper trail etiquette is not just gracious, it’s imperative to your safety and those around you. Follow this link to brush up on how to know when to go and when to slide to the side.

Learn More

1022191615aLooking for a good resource for all things hiking in Washington?
Visit the Washington Trails Association’s website for trip ideas, trail reports and more!

Have you had a great state parks experience?
Tell us about it and share your photos on our story share page!



You may run into some "fun guys" when you stroll through the woods in fall. Don't forget to look down as well as up when hiking — beauty is everywhere!