12 Trails to Explore in the Mountains to Sound Greenway This Winter

Oxbow Loop; Courtesy of Mark Boyar

With 1.5 million acres of land spanning from Seattle to Ellensburg, there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had in the Mountains to Sound Greenway. When the snow starts to fly, it doesn’t mean you have to hole up indoors. There are many winter hiking trails that remain relatively snow-free, so bundle up and head out to explore!

Even though you shouldn’t find these trails under too much snow, we always suggest you carry the 10 essentials, check the forecast, and read recent trip reports before heading out.

1. Discovery Park Loop

Magnolia Neighborhood, Seattle
2.8 miles roundtrip / 140 ft gain

Discovery Park provides an oasis for nature lovers without even leaving the city! The Discovery Park Loop Trail passes through forest and open meadows, offers expansive views across Puget Sound (with Mount Rainier in the distance if clouds permit), and can be enjoyed by hikers and bird watchers year-round. Be sure to stay alert, as you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a rare arctic snowy owl near the South Meadow during winter! If you have the time and energy – a half-mile side trail off the loop provides access down to a rocky beach and the West Point Lighthouse, well worth the effort.

Discovery Park
2. Schmitz Preserve Park

West Seattle
1.7 miles roundtrip / 220 ft gain

This 53.1-acre park in West Seattle boasts a huge amount of old growth trees and 1.7 miles of hiking trails. The trails lead generally upstream along Schmitz Preserve Creek and its small tributaries, with some routes reaching higher points on the southern, eastern, or western park boundaries. If you like to explore, you can simply meander the trails, or for a more structured hike, follow the suggestions here.

Schmitz Preserve Park; Courtesy of Seattle Parks & Recreation
3. Saint Edward State Park

Kenmore / Kirkland
3 miles roundtrip / 400 ft gain

Start your hike 400 feet above Lake Washington and head down to the undeveloped, peaceful shoreline under a dense canopy of Douglas fir, western red cedar, western hemlock, bigleaf maple, Pacific madrona, and cottonwood at this historic 316-acre state park. There are many routes you can take (click here for a trails map). The Perimeter / Seminary trailhead provides the most direct hike to the lake shore, while the North Trail will give you a longer experience. 

Saint Edward State Park
4. Mercer Slough Nature Park Trails

Bellevue
6 miles total

Nestled in the heart of Bellevue, the 320-acre Mercer Slough Nature Park offers a tranquil setting for a variety of recreational experiences, including three main walking trails: the 0.8 mile Bellefields Loop Trail, the 1.1 mile Heritage Loop Trail, and the 4-mile Periphery Trail. The Mercer Slough is Lake Washington’s largest remaining wetland, providing a diverse habitat for over 170 species of wildlife. Interconnected boardwalks, soft surface trails, and asphalt paths transport visitors through this unique urban wetland. You can find a trail map here. Keep this one on your list for gorgeous kayaking in the summer, too!

Mercer Slough Nature Park; Courtesy of Jones and Jones
5. Squak Mountain State Park

Issaquah Alps
6.6 miles / 1,684 ft gain

Squak Mountain State Park has an extensive 13-mile network of winding trails to explore in this quiet sanctuary just outside of Issaquah. The most direct route to the summit is to follow the signage for the Central Peak trail, a 3.3-mile distance. There are many side trails that can be taken to add loops and additional viewpoints if you’re looking for a longer adventure.

Squak Mountain
6. Tiger Mountain – Tradition Plateau

Issaquah Alps
Varies

Tiger Mountain’s Tradition Plateau offers several options for a low elevation loop hike centered around Tradition Lake. One of the most popular routes is described here.

Tradition Lake
7. Oxbow Loop

Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley
1.9 miles / 60 ft gain

Oxbow Loop Trail is a relatively flat 1.9-mile hike that provides a family-friendly, lower intensity hiking addition within the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. The trail begins by winding through older forest stands, providing intermittent views of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, Oxbow Lake, and the surrounding mountain peaks of the Middle Fork Valley. To download or print a trail map, click here.

Oxbow Loop; Courtesy of Kimberly Schmeling
8. Garfield Ledges

Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley
2.2 miles roundtrip / 830 ft gain

Found at the end of the Middle Fork road, this short but steep trail reaches a scenic viewpoint in just over a mile, providing a big pay off with minimal effort. With a high point at 1,860 feet above sea level, the trail is usable year-round, providing the Middle Fork road is passable (snow is not removed from the road in the winter). The hike ascends from a large trailhead to a cliff-top viewpoint with an expansive vista down valley to the southwest, including views of Stegosaurus Butte, Preacher Mountain, Grouse Ridge, and Rattlesnake Ledge.

*As of 12/26/19, the Middle Fork Road (FSR 56) is closed 7.2 miles from Valley Camp at CCC trail due to a gravel slide. Garfield Ledges trailhead is not accessible until the road is reopened. Check in with Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for updates.

Garfield Ledges
9. Snoqualmie Valley Trail

Multiple start points in the Snoqualmie Valley
31.5 miles total (multiple access points allow you to do as short of a distance as you’d like!)

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail (SVT) is King County’s longest, and perhaps most majestic, regional trail. This soft-surface greenway follows a historic railroad route through the lower and upper Snoqualmie River valleys to the Cascades and provides access to the rural towns of Duvall, Carnation, and Fall City, as well as Snoqualmie and North Bend. Highlights include Snoqualmie River Valley views, river natural areas, the historic 100-foot-high Tokul Trestle, nearby Snoqualmie Falls, and ever-changing views of Mt. Si along the upper valley portion of the trail. Click here for a trail map with more details about parking and stops to experience along the way.

Snoqualmie Valley Trail between Snoqualmie and Carnation
10. Cedar Butte

North Bend
3.5 miles roundtrip / 900 ft gain

Take a short hike up a forested butte near Rattlesnake Lake to reach a beautiful summit with minimal company on the trail compared to other popular hikes in the area.  The summit is forested, but there are views out toward the north looking up the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, with Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, Green Mountain, Russian Butte and Mailbox Peak all visible.

Cedar Butte
11. Coal Mines Trail

Cle Elum
4.7 miles one way / 453 ft gain

This former Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway is now a trail connecting the historic towns of Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald through Central Washington forests and past small mountains of tailings left from coal mining days. The Coal Mines Trail is mellow and well-maintained, and about as wide as a dirt road. This trail is great for all types of hikers that would like to get a glimpse of the old mining activity that was once abundant in this area.

Coal Mines Trail
12. Trails at Suncadia Resort

Cle Elum
Varies

Enjoy more than 40 miles of both paved and unpaved trails throughout Suncadia, catering to many different activity types. This winter, explore the vast alpine landscape with this Nordic Trail Map, which shows Nordic trails, snowshoe trails, and walking trails.

Views from Suncadia; Courtesy of Heather
Bonus! Ranger-Led Snowshoe at Snoqualmie Pass

Looking for an opportunity to learn how to snowshoe with a little guidance? Explore your National Forests by joining a ranger-led interpretive snowshoe walk starting at Snoqualmie Pass. The 2020 season will operate Fridays through Sundays, from Jan. 3 – March 29. Click here for more info and reservations.

Snowshoeing in Snoqualmie Pass
The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust works to conserve and enhance the landscape from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains to Central Washington, ensuring a long-term balance between people and nature. Please consider making a donation or volunteering your time to build and maintain recreational opportunities for all.
Priority Areas:
Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley, Snoqualmie River Valley, Upper Yakima Basin, Urban and Edge Communities
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