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9 Hikes for Friends and Family During the Holiday Season

Enjoy time with friends and family this holiday season and show off the best of Washington with these hikes that take you to beautiful places on gentle trails suitable for all abilities.

The holidays can be a stressful time. Hiking can help.

Instead of staying inside for your 23rd round of cribbage, wrangle Aunt Betty, grandpa Merle and the toddler for a fun and family-friendly trek in the great outdoors. One of the biggest perks of having friends and family in town is being able to show off all that Washington's trails have to offer!

Planning a hike for visitors of different experience, fitness and accessibility needs can be a challenge, but we think it's well worth the additional work. To make it easier, we asked the WTA staff to share some favorite local adventures to take visitors on.

Tips for leading a stress-free hike

  • Pack extra. Your friends and family probably didn't travel with the 10 Essentials in tow, so it may be up to you to keep them warm and comfortable on trail. Toss a few extra layers, snacks and water into your pack before heading out the door. (And don't forget a camera to capture the memories!)
  • Prepare a Plan B. Having a backup plan ready to go will make you look extra good if things go sideways due to weather, traffic or time.
  • Set a good example. Show your friends and family the importance of taking care of the places you love.
  • Tell a story. Brush up on the history of your hike. (Knowing the tribes who have been stewarding the land for generations is a great place to start. Grab a hiking or walking history book. You could even work in a visit to a local museum or interpretive site.


BridlE Trails State Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 3.5 miles, roundtrip (the park has 28 miles of trails)
Elevation Gain: 450 feet 

Trail
Things can get muddy in winter, but those puddles are a delight for toddlers. Photo by ejain. 

This state park geared toward equestrians has a little something for everyone. Short loops for little legs, or longer loops for energetic hikers or trail runners. It doesn't sport grand views, but it is a forest oasis in easy reach of Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. It's the perfect place to get out at a moment's notice without a lot of driving or prep work. It has an ADA-accessible bathroom not far from the parking lot. If you arrive on a horse show weekend, Mercer Slough makes a good backup plan a few miles south.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide



Brightwater Center

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 3.0 miles of trails
Elevation Gain: 120 feet

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South loop trail. Photo by Muledeer. 

We love a good wastewater treatment plant. They usually have surprisingly delightful trails, are a great place to see wildlife (especially birds), and often have excellent interpretive signage explaining just how the waste we create is managed. Brightwater is just one of many places in Washington like this. Take your friends and family with a stop here and you be pleasantly surprised by how nice your hike is.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Horseshoe Bend

Location: North Cascades — Mount Baker area
Mileage: 2.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 220 feet

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North Fork Nooksack River along the trail. Photo by nwroth. 

This rambling trail is perfect for groups of varying abilities. The tread is wide and flat for the first part of the hike, but the further upriver you walk, the more rugged your outing. About a mile and a half in, the trail starts to climb away from the river, topping out in forest before plunging back down to the river on narrow tread. Bring good shoes though — it can get muddy and slippery. It is right next to a river, after all. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Whipple Creek Park

Location: Southwest Washington — Vancouver Area
Mileage: 3.1 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 210 feet

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Trail through the forest at Whipple Creek Park. Photo by Ryan Ojerio. 

Whipple Creek park offers a deep forest experience without the long drive into the Cascade foothills. Just off I-5 near Ridgefield, this little park is a good option for visiting family, or for a leg-stretcher if you have to travel for the holidays. There are trailside distractions too (think giant ferns and interesting bridges), perfect for kiddos. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide



Lyle Cherry Orchard

Location: Southwest Washington — Vancouver Area
Mileage: 5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet

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Views of the Columbia River Gorge from Lyle Cherry Orchard. Photo by Patricia Coulthard. 

While the poison oak or ticks might make you hesitate over a summer visit with kids or friends, but winter is an ideal time for a visit with family and friends who are fit enough for the climb. The real payoff are the stunning views of the Gorge, so save this one for a day when sun or dramatic clouds will show off Washington to best effect.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Liberty Lake Regional Park - Split Creek Trail

Location: Eastern Washington — Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene
Mileage: 4.06 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: Minimal 

We enjoyed the recently constructed/fortified bridges on the trail.
When snow falls, Liberty Lake can become a winter wonderland. Photo by adowling

Built partly by WTA volunteers, the Split Creek Trail offers a slightly shorter outing than the loop that circles the whole park. In just four miles, you'll see a waterfall and a lovely cedar grove (be sure to have a little extra time built in to stop there for a bit). The trail is wide, too, meaning you can take your eyes off the ground and look up and all around. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Point No Point Park

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Kitsap Peninsula 
Mileage: 2.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Point No Point Lighthouse
Besides Puget Sound views and a beach, the lighthouse is also a draw at Point No Point. Photo by Strider.

Here's a wonderful way to share the dramatic beaches of Washington with the whole family. Because the parking area is right next to the beach, this is a good option for anyone with limited mobility. If you can, there's also a short trail that weaves through the dunes and up a short hill to limited views of the area. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Shadow of the Sentinels

Location: North Cascades — Mount Baker Area
Mileage: 0.5 mile, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Old growth forest
Boardwalks lead to giant trees. Photo by busmonkey

Another lovely boardwalk stroll, the Shadow of the Sentinels trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, making it another good option for all users. Educational signs along the way highlight the importance of our forests, and standing beneath these incredible trees, it's easy to see why it's so important to protect them. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Heybrook Ridge

Location: Central Cascades — Stevens Pass west
Mileage: 3.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 775 feet

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Views from the ridge. January views by meganallyn

Thanks to work from Snohomish County Parks, Friends of Heybrook Ridge, and WTA, this trail was completed in 2018 and provides a nice alternate to Heybrook Lookout, with (arguably) even better views. Heybrook Ridge pairs nicely with the ADA-accessible Erinswood trail, which departs from the same trailhead. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide