As a fair-weather hiker who avoids rainy walks like I avoid liver and okra at dinner, I’m amazed that countless Washingtonians choose to hike in the rain. Many will tell you that they enjoy it.
Lauren Braden’s 52 Ways to Nature: Washington, published in Seattle’s Mountaineers Books in May, devotes an entire chapter to striving. What’s the appeal? In contrast to the high country’s allure in sunny weather, the rainy season is the time to dig deep and make new discoveries, Braden says.
River valleys, she writes, “are at their loveliest when showered with rain and shrouded in fog.” Water dripping from trees can create a mystical atmosphere and the crowds are usually smaller. How about this?
So where do these goblin-like, ducky people go for a walk in the rain? We polled five local outdoor experts and came back with 11 suggestions to help you hike this fall and winter.
1. Nancy Temkin is co-chair of the Foothills (Eastside) Hiking and Backpacking Committee for The Mountaineers (see st.news/foothills). Temkin says she conducts a few hikes a week year-round, and even on rainy days at least a handful of people turn up, eager to get out despite the rain.
Waterfall hikes are really nice when it rains, Temkin says and mentions twin cases near North Bend (also one of Braden’s top picks) and Wallace Falls near Gold Bar as prime destinations for rainy days.
“They only bubble up when it rains,” Temkin said.
When the clouds hang low in the valleys, a hike up could be an interesting option Dirty Harry’s balcony from Interstate 90 at exit 38.
“On those days, you can climb above and look down at the clouds floating beneath you,” Temkin said. “It’s really very peaceful.”
Temkin suggests urban hikers start in Volunteer Park and walk down to Lake Union (take the steps on Howe or Blaine Streets, or take East Prospect Street at the southwest end of the park — or start at the lake) and down the west side of the lake to ascend that Galer Street stairs to Queen Anne. It’s a treat during the holiday season.
“Residents do a great job decorating, and the cranes are often lit,” Temkin said. “Don’t let a little rain stop you from enjoying it.”
2.Paul Winterstein is executive director of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, which hosts a few public hikes each month.
“Almost everywhere in the Alps it’s good on rainy days,” said Winterstein. “On rainy days, forest and countryside can be the target, and the Alps offer many opportunities.”
He offers two tips: On Tiger Mountain, from the starting point of the climax (I-90, exit 20), take the Swamp Trail to the Ruth Kees Big Tree Trail and a very large Douglas Fir.
“Signage says the tree is about 400 years old, but more contemporary estimates say it could be as old as 1,000 years,” Winterstein said.
Continue to the Wetlands Trail (and “watch the rain fall on Round Lake,” said the Issaquah rainy-day hiker), then combine the Bus, Nook, Talus Rock, and West Tiger trails back to the Trailhead for 4.7 miles.
Or try Margaretenweg on the west side of Squak Mountain, a 6.5-mile route beginning at State Route 900.
“The low clouds on rainy days often hang in the trees here and elsewhere on Squak,” Winterstein said.
3. Author of a Washington travel guide Tami Asars completed a 124-day southbound trek this month on the Appalachian Trail and completed the Triple Crown of hiking along with previous treks of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails.
She also recommends river valley and waterfall hikes and prefers short, beginner-friendly hikes Oxbow Loop Trail (about 2 miles) in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley near North Bend, where she lives.
“It has pretty cedars and lots of moss, which looks cool when it’s raining,” Asars said. “Very typical Northwest.”
During her journey through the Appalachian Mountains, she was hit by downpours caused by Hurricane Ian (in Virginia) and Hurricane Nicole (in Georgia). It reminded her that hiking in light rain can be appealing, but slogging through torrential rain is best avoided by day hikers.
“It was really cold and that was a double whammy,” Asars said.
“It reminded me of the beauty of day hikes versus backpacking in the rain,” she added. “On a day hike, you can turn back if the rain gets too heavy.”
4. Stacey Lissit chairs the Seattle Hiking Committee for The Mountaineers. She also advocates Wallace Falls as a wet weather destination Heybrook Ridge near Index (where “it always rains,” she joked) and hikes in the mountains near Issaquah (Cougar, Squak, and Tiger).
Lissit also suggests Bullitt Fireplace Traila wooded 2 mile walk on the north side of Squak.
“You get a lot of money there for a fairly short ride on a rainy day,” Lissit said.
Your keys to a successful hike on a rainy day: a dry bag to protect your phone, earbuds or other electronics and papers; good rainwear and insulating layers; and above all a good attitude and good company.
“Even if it’s raining, you can have great conversations,” says Lissit. “You enjoy the company of people as you walk and don’t think about the weather. And when you run out of words, it’s just interesting to hike outside in the rain.”
5. Craig Romano is the author of more than two dozen hiking guides. The main attraction of hikes on rainy days, he said, are fewer people on trails.
“A rainy day is a great time to hike popular river trails that get very crowded in summer, such as Boulder River and the Old Sauk River Trail near Darrington,” said Romano.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hiked the Boulder River in great weather, but it’s good,” he said. “It’s an ancient forest, so there’s a lot of shelter there, even in bad weather.”
The “bad” weather does indeed bring many silver linings to intrepid rainy-day hikers.
“When it rains, the river turns,” said Romano. “In the summer you only see a fraction of the water as in the rainy season. It is impressive.”