There is nothing better than stepping out with family or friends on a crisp, beautiful walk in the Pacific Northwest once Mother Nature has shifted her palette from autumn gold to winter white. With Bellevue as your starting point, there are dozens of stunning local trails nearby for beginners and experts alike. The trail distance need not be long to lead you to an excellent pay-off and panoramic views.
Here are nine winter walks where the scenery just might stop you in your tracks- no hiking required!
Bellevue Botanical Garden
If you’re looking for a dose of winter wonder without a drive, the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s urban locale offers 53 acres of natural wetlands, restored woodland trails, cultivated gardens, and more in the heart of the city. (Get a sneak peek of the garden here, as our ambassador Rashad Little explored the garden for Visit Bellevue’s The Vue video series.) Most of the trails are packed gravel, elevation gain is nearly non-existent, and the garden also offers events and classes frequently, making it a perfect spot for a family outing.
It might be popular, but for good season: Snoqualmie Falls is a quick 30-minute drive from Bellevue and offers a view of the falls just a short distance from the upper parking lot. But don’t stop there. Stretch your legs and go in for a closer view. The steep but well-managed 0.7-mile interpretive trail will deliver you right to the Lower Falls viewpoint.
Boulder River Trail, North Cascades
While you can trek the full 8.6-mile loop of the Boulder River Trail, you can also opt to hike just a mile in to see an impressive set of waterfalls cascading through the forest. During the winter months, the area is particularly green due to rain and light snow. The trail does include some elevation gain, but most of it is on an old logging road, so the terrain isn’t too challenging. The adventure begins in Arlington, less than an hour from Bellevue.
Saint Edward State Park
Hop on the highway for a quick drive, and you’ll arrive at a local gem: Saint Edward State Park. Criss-crossed with a trail system that ranges from easy to challenging, the park offers fresh air off of Lake Washington and gives you stunning views with just a short walk down to the waterfront. The trails can get a bit muddy during the winter months, so bring appropriate shoes and reserve time for a stop to grab hot coffee or hot chocolate in Kirkland on your way back to Bellevue.
Heybrook Ridge, Stevens Pass
If you’re looking for a semi-challenging hike that’s not too long, consider Heybrook Ridge, which offers panoramic mountain views in just 3 miles (roundtrip). The elevation gain is considered moderate-to-hard, but the views make the short trek well worth it. Heybrook Ridge is about an hour from Bellevue, making for an excellent day trip, and simply driving this route is stunning during the winter months. If there’s snow on the ground, you’ll want to pack snowshoes or microspikes, and you should throw some chains in your car just in case the pass is slippery.
Note: The Heybrook Ridge Trail was closed in September 2022 due to fire. Check ahead for the current trail status before traveling.
Shadow of the Sentinels, North Cascades
About a two-hour drive from Bellevue, the Shadow of the Sentinels interpretive trail is just a half-mile roundtrip with only 50 feet of elevation gain, making it a perfect family adventure for hikers of all ages. The boardwalk also renders the trail accessible for wheelchairs and strollers when there’s not snow on the ground, and educational signs share fascinating information about the Western red cedars and Douglas firs that line the trail. Check trip reports before you go, as you may need to pack snowshoes or microspikes for exploration on snowier days, and vehicle access becomes limited once the snow gets deep.
Deception Pass State Park
No ferry ride is needed for this island adventure, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Bellevue. Rarely covered in snow, Deception Pass State Park offers gorgeous ocean views all winter long. (Dress warmly, though, as that ocean wind can really pick up.) Watch boats and swirling currents as you hike along a variety of trails; the distance is up to you, as there are multiple trail options that have limited elevation gain.
Wiley Slough, Skagit Wildlife Area
An hour outside of Bellevue, you’ll find Wiley Slough, part of a designated wildlife area that allows you to walk along the bay and view migrating birds. In particular, snow geese and tundra swans will begin their migration during the later winter months, making February an ideal time for a visit. The length of your walk can vary in length based on your group’s preferences and ability levels.
Hurricane Ridge Area, Olympic National Park
Hop a ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula for sweeping mountain views from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. This trip will likely take you all day, due to ferry times, but the drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is stunning in and of itself. Once you arrive, rent a pair of snowshoes for a short one-mile trek out to additional views. Make sure to check the National Park Service website before you go; sometimes the roads are closed due to snow.