When Seattle’s rainy season kicks into gear, it’s tempting to hang up your hiking boots and hibernate. But there’s a lot to love about being outdoors in drizzly weather. Drenched ferns and mosses glow with a kryptonite-green hue, rivers and waterfalls puff up with spectacular power, and the air feels fresh, cool, and invigorating.
There’s a therapeutic benefit, too. According to Dr. Stephen Ilardi, professor of clinical psychology and author of the book The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, exposure to light boosts our mood and resets our body clock, which aids sleep, even on cloudy days. The catch? When it’s cloudy out, the light intensity is lower than on sunny days. In order to reap the benefits, we must spend 2-3 hours outside on a cloudy day versus 10-30 minutes when it’s sunny.
So what are some good strategies for hiking in the rain? Check weather, road, and trail conditions and be prepared for unexpected showers, ice, snow, downed trees, and washouts. Invest in a waterproof jacket, pants, shoes, and gloves to help stay warm and dry. Gaitors will keep rain out of your shoes and give your legs an extra layer of warmth. Underneath your rain gear, fabrics like merino wool will draw moisture away from your body and help protect against hypothermia. Traction devices, such as microspikes, are also handy on icy trails. Before hitting the trail, line the inside of your backpack with a garbage bag to keep valuables dry.
Here are four easy hikes (and a bonus wintry option) for less-than-ideal weather.
1. Bridle Trails State Park, Kirkland
3.5 mile loop, 450 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, Discover Pass required, map
Bridle Trails State Park is a great option for squeezing in solid trail time in an oasis of greenery. The wide, established, and gently rolling trail system winds through the 482-acre park, showcasing verdant undergrowth, sprawling tree canopies, interpretive signs, and wildlife.
2. Licorice Fern Trail, Cougar Mountain
3.8 miles round-trip, 200 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)
The Licorice Fern Trail showcases a pleasant, fertile forest. The undulating trail descends through trees dripping with feathery moss before crossing over Far Country Creek on a wooden bridge to continue northwest on the Indian Trail to Far Country Falls.
3. Rattlesnake Lake Trail—Cedar River Watershed Education Center, North Bend
1.5 miles round-trip, 30 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)
Rattlesnake Lake provides a beautiful green getaway with mostly paved, ADA-accessible paths and lakeside views of the Cascade foothills. Make a loop around the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and visit the rain drum garden for a delightful drum symphony.
4. Twin Falls, North Bend
2.6 miles round-trip, 500 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, Discover Pass required, map
Twin Falls is especially beautiful when water levels rise in winter and spring. Views of the South Fork Snoqualmie River greet the trail, which leads to a powerful view of a 135-foot waterfall from the lower falls viewpoint. Visit the 80-foot wooden bridge spanning the gorge for a misty view of the upper falls.
BONUS: Bullion Basin Snowshoe, Crystal Mountain Resort
4.5 miles roundtrip, 1500 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map
When it’s raining in Seattle in the wintertime, it’s snowing in the mountains! Head to Bullion Basin for a quiet, tree-lined snowshoe without the bustle of ski resort crowds. When you’re finished, take a scenic, wintry gondola ride (no dogs allowed in winter) and sip a cup of hot cocoa at the Summit House.
Seattle’s best-kept secret is the beauty of its natural surroundings. Explore the dynamic topography waiting just outside your door with Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle.