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Winter Wildlife Hikes

Winter can be a great season for spotting wild animals. Here are a few trails you might catch wonderful wildlife in action this season, along with some wildlife-watching tips.

Lots of animals hunker down for hibernation during the winter months, including humans! Late sunrise and early sunsets can make it hard to get out of your own den, but with fewer leaves on trees and shrubs, you may stand a chance of seeing more wildlife in winter than in summer. So get outside, stretch your legs and get your blood pumping in search of some wonderful Washington wildlife. We've got a list of good starting spots for wildlife visible in the skies and snow.

Heading out in winter has some special considerations

    • Those early sunsets and cold winter temperatures require a few extra essentials in your bag, and a few other things to stay safe on trail.
    • And, while it can be tempting to get up close and personal with the cute creatures you find on trail, it is very important to give wild animals their space, and never feed them. Instead, snap some pictures of your memorable wildlife encounter using these useful tips.

Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 2.0 miles of trail

Elevation Gain: minimal

Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary Photo by Surviving Urban.jpeg
Enjoy natural beauty without going too far at the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary. Photo by Surviving Urban.

For a short and sweet winter nature hike in the city of Everett, check out the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary. The Boardwalk Trail will take you right through the sanctuary itself. Keep an eye out for birds, their nests, and even trees that have been downed by beavers to make their dams.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Sequalitchew Creek

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Mileage: 2.0 miles of trail

Elevation Gain: minimal

Sequalitchew Creek Photo by Bobbi Jean.jpeg
Enjoy both the beach and the forest on the Sequalitchew Creek trial. Photo by Bobbi Jean.

Take a sweet city hike on the Sequalitchew Creek trail in DuPont. The lovely forested trail takes you to a stunning pebbled beach complete with old wooden rail lines. This short jaunt is an excellent way to stretch your legs and see some wildlife this winter.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


wElts-Samish Restoration Site

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Bellingham Area
Mileage: 0.75 miles, weather dependent
Elevation Gain: 30 feet

Samish Flats Photo by Mukul Soman..jpg
The evening waterfowl feeding flights are an exclusive winter experience at the Welts-Samish Restoration Site. Photo by Mukul Soman.

Discover for yourself why the Welts-Samish Restoration Site is considered one of the best places in the Northwest to see shorebirds, falcons and short-eared owls. Known by bird-enthusiasts as “the West 90,” this restoration site is a popular place to see raptors in the Samish Flats. While fantastic all year round, visiting the site in the winter provides the unique opportunity to see the remarkable evening waterfowl feeding flights.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Indian Island county Park

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Hood Canal
Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 70 feet

Indian Island County Park Photo by Lucy.jpeg
Take a winter walk on the beach at the Indian Island County Park. Photo by Lucy.

While summer is the typical time to go to the beach, visiting the coastline during the winter season can make for a fun adventure without the crowds! Take a walk during low tide at the Indian Island County Park, keeping an eye out for jellyfish or other marine wildlife.

Be sure to keep your eye on the sky as well. A wide variety of bird species, like heron, kingfisher, pintails and more, call the beach home. There are special considerations for taking kids tidepooling. Read up before you go!

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Leadbetter Point State Park - Dune Forest Loop

Location: Southwest Washington — Long Beach Area
Mileage: 2.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 60 feet

Leadbetter Point State Park - Dune Forest Loop Photo by Jon Stier.jpeg
Both bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy Leadbetter Point State Park. Photo by Jon Stier.

Leadbetter Point State Park is a delightful natural area full of winter opportunities to see some incredible wildlife. You'll enjoy a variety of landscapes, and might even spot river otters or blue herons on the 2.9 mile Dune Forest Loop. A visit to the Martha Jordan Birding Trail is a terrific way to extend your trip and do some winter bird watching.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Meadowbrook Farm

Location: Snoqualmie Region — North Bend Area
Mileage: 1.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Meadowbrook Farm Photo by schmerica79.jpg
Plan an exciting winter adventure at the Meadowbrook Farm Interpretive Center and loop trails. Photo by schemerica79.

Have some fun outside with the kids at Meadowbrook Farm! With its variety of loop trails and Interpretive Center, Meadowbrook Farm is perfect for a quick visit or full day adventure.

The 1.5 mile roundtrip trail from the Interpretive Center to Centennial Field Park is a stroller friendly option, so little ones can enjoy the fresh air too. Find views of Mount Si, winter birds and maybe even a few elk at this charming winter destination.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground Snowshoe

Location: Mount Rainier Area — SW - Longmire/Paradise
Mileage: 7.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground Snowshoe Photo by Wendy W.jpeg
The Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground Snowshoe is a great way to experience the Wonderland Trail in a different way. Photo by Wendy W.

Enjoy the Wonderland Trail in a new way this winter with the Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground Snowshoe. This moderate snowshoeing experience is relatively safe, but it is always a good idea to lookout for signs of avalanche danger. Observant visitors may be able to spot a few animals or find their tracks in the fresh snow, as the woods are home to deer and other winter wildlife.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail

Location: Central Washington — Potholes Region
Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail Photo by Loren Drummond.jpeg
Look for elk and wildlife track at on the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail. Photo by Loren Drummond.

Experience both flora and fauna on the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail. This short, paved trail is full of fascinating mineralized specimens. During the winter months, elk and wildlife tracks can be found at this unique location.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Whistler Canyon Trail

Location: Eastern Washington — Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Mileage: 24 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3000 feet

Whistler Canyon Trail Photo by staziemom.jpeg
Bighorn sheep can be found along Whistler Canyon Trail in the winter. Photo by staziemom.

With a roundtrip of up to 24 miles to explore, the Whistler Canyon Trail is perfect for a long or short winter hike. Mule deer, mountain goats and other wildlife have all been spotted from the Whistler Canyon Trail. During the winter, bighorn sheep have even been seen in the area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Iller Creek

Location: Eastern Washington — Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene
Mileage: 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet

Iller Creek  Photo by Koranul.jpeg
 Be prepared for snow, ice and a rewarding experience on the Iller Creek trail. Photo by Koranul.

Bring sturdy shoes with strong traction to the Iller Creek trail. This hike can be slippery and a little trickier to navigate in the winter. However, those who choose to give it a try could be treated to some marvelous wildlife viewing. Moose activity has been reported on this trail during the winter months.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Beaver Loop

Location: North Cascades — Methow/Sawtooth
Mileage: 1.65 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: none

Beaver Loop Photo by austineats.jpeg
Beaver Loop provides a tranquil winter experience. Photo by austineats.

Warm drinks and draft beers are only five miles down the road from Beaver Loop, so warming up after a day in the snow is a breeze. Footprints and other evidence of beavers can be found along the Early Winters Creek. This quiet trail has no elevation gain and snowshoe markers along the way make it easier to follow the path. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


BEebe Creek Wildlife Area

Location: Central Cascades — Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan
Mileage: 2.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal

Beebe Creek Wildlife Area Photo by austineats.jpeg
Evidence of beaver activity, like felled trees and tracks, can be found at the Beebe Creek Wildlife Area. Photo by austineats.

Birds, beavers, bighorn sheep, raccoons and more have all been spotted at the Beebe Creek Wildlife Area. The ADA-accessible trail has benches along the way so visitors can pause to watch migrating birds. In the winter, keep an eye out for tracks and other evidence of animal activity along the way.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Tieton River Meadows Snowshoe

Location: South Cascades — Goat Rocks
Mileage: 10.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Tieton River Meadows Snowshoe Photo by mytho-man.jpeg
 Try snowshoeing and search for wildlife on the Tieton River Meadows Snowshoe. Photo by mytho-man.

Snowshoeing is a fabulous way to get yourself outside during the sleepy winter season. The Tieton River Meadows Snowshoe fun for the whole family, as it is an easier snowshoe experience and even allows leashed dogs. Those new to snowshoeing can choose from a variety of loops in the area to fit their comfort level. Elk, martens, foxes and other wildlife can all be spotted in this area, so be sure to bring a camera along with plenty of layers to keep you warm.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Seaquest State Park - Silver Lake

Location: South Cascades — Mount St. Helens
Mileage: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Seaquest State Park - Silver Lake Photo by Bob and Barb.jpeg
The flat trail and boardwalk at Seaquest State Park – Silver Lake are ADA-accessible. Photo by Bob and Barb.

There is lots to see and explore in the winter at the Seaquest State Park. The barrier-free loop trail consists of a boardwalk and raised trail through Silver Lake. The graveled trail is almost completely flat, so it is great for wheelchairs and strollers. Even during winter, plenty of wildlife can be spotted from the trail at the Seaquest State Park.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide