Monday, February 7, 2011

Northwest Winter Hikes: Twin Falls and More

Sure, our winter weather is often dreary, chilly, and damp here in the Pacific Northwest. Think that stops us from getting out and reveling in our splendid outdoors?

It doesn’t stop many of us crazy diehards—even when the freezing level shoots up and it’s raining on the ski slopes (and everywhere else). We love our outdoors here in the Northwest.

In the lowlands and foothills there are still plenty of hiking trails accessible year-round (except for during a rare lowland snowfall). Here’s a sampler.

Twin Falls
Note: Currently the Twin Falls trail is closed  between the first overlook with benches (0.75 from miles from west trailhead) to the west end of the Twin Falls Canyon Bridge (1.75 miles from west trailhead) due to several hazards that make the trail dangerous for hikers. Access the east end of the Twin Falls Trail from the Homestead Valley Trailhead located off of I-90 Exit 38.

Today I managed to find three also-crazy-diehard friends to join me for a hike in the rain to Twin Falls in North Bend’s Olallie State Park, about 30 miles east of Seattle in the I-90 Mountains-to-Sound Greenway corridor.

Twin Falls is a popular, pretty easy, relatively short hike through the forest along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River with views of gorgeous waterfalls, which are gushing today from the rain and some snowmelt.

I like this hike despite the crowds because it’s close and short enough (2.4 miles roundtrip to the waterfall overlook bridge, or up to 4 miles RT) that I can zip out in the morning, get good exercise, and be back in Seattle for afternoon errands. Although it’s not a long hike, elevation gains and losses along the trail get my heart rate up and work the quads and glutes.

With lots of Gore-Tex rain gear, I rarely hike with an umbrella. But today I do. Here in North Bend along this stretch of river, it rains over 80 inches a year, more than double Seattle’s annual rainfall. This is truly a temperate rainforest, with thick green moss and delicate ferns clinging to tree trunks along the river.
Starting out in the rain at Ollalie State Park Twin Falls trailhead.

We meander along the river for about a half mile, then the trail switchbacks up and down and up and down again. The trail is in decent shape considering the traffic it gets. People come with all sorts of footwear, from Betty in her leather hiking boots with gaiters, to Gavin in his barefoot sport shoes, to Joe-Cool with his naked paws.

There are a couple lookouts along the way before the overlook bridge between the lower and upper falls, which crosses a narrow gorge about 80 feet above the water. Water spilling over the lower, tallest waterfall reminds me of spun sugar threads as it spiders down the rock face and plunges into the river. It’s bracing to behold.

We turn around a little past the bridge and get back to the trailhead after being out a little under two hours, wet but happy.

More I-90 Corridor Year-Round Hikes
Here on Pacific Northwest Seasons I’ve blogged about other foothills hikes in the I-90 corridor between Puget Sound and Snoqualmie Pass. (Just click on the links to posts about these hikes.) Generally the Issaquah Alps, including Tiger Mountain, Cougar Mountain, and Squak Mountain are accessible year-round, with miles of forest trails. Most of the year you can also hike up Rattlesnake Ledge for stunning views of the Snoqualmie Valley and Mount Si. And with a trailhead just across the parking lot from Rattlesnake Ledge, Cedar Butte is another mostly year-round hike in the forest.

City Hikes
Portland and Seattle have some large forest parks with good trails for getting away in the city. Read about winter walks in Carkeek Park here. In Carkeek as well as Discovery Park, with its miles of trails, the scenery transitions from forest, to grassy fields, to sandy Puget Sound beaches. Forest Park in Portland has over 30 miles of trails just above downtown.

After hiking the forest trails in Carkeek Park, I always go down to the beach and touch  Puget Sound.

Island Hikes
Go stretch your legs on an invigorating and glorious hike along the bluff at Ebey’s Landing on the western side of Whidbey Island. In Washington's San Juan Islands, there are numerous hikes on Orcas Island, including the Mountain Lake Loop in Moran State Park and Turtle Mountain.

Along the bluff trail at Ebey's Landing, Whidbey Island

Columbia River Gorge Hikes
Unless there’s a winter ice storm, actually a pretty rare occurrence, you can hike year-round on the many trails in the Columbia Gorge National Recreation Area east of Portland. Be careful of icy trails near waterfalls on cold winter days. In this post I wrote about hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls and back.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! And I'd love to hear in the comments below about your Northwest experiences.

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Jennifer said...

I LOVE reading your blog.

Ellen said...

Great blog!

Barry said...

Umbrellas on the trail! Go example of no-attachment mind. Well, maybe attached to staying dry!

Mab said...

Jill-nice video, did you use a flash camera? Love those naked paws.

mab said...

Jill-when can we go hiking??

jill said...

Jennifer and Ellen, Thanks!

Barry, sorta attached to staying dry but umbrellas went up and down, so dampness pervaded. No problem!

Mab, I just used the video setting on my little Canon camera. I don't know why the trees are purple instead of green though! Yes, let's go hiking soon!

Betty said...

Great article, Jill. I enjoyed the hike. Had to hang up my pack so it could dry out.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed. We were a "loon patrol" if there ever was one. Still a good hike though!

Mike B. said...

So many great outdoor adventures to have here. The hiking possibilities are endless. Our favorite spots nowadays are more kid-friendly since, well, we have kids. But we push them a bit once in a while!