Three Great Winter Hikes

Hole in the Wall

Adventures_NW_Gear_Review-The Olympic Coast is magical in winter. The crowds are gone, the sea is tempestuous, and the broad expanse of Pacific Ocean and open sky is a tonic for the winter-closeted soul. From the trailhead at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park it’s an easy two-mile hike north up the beach. The only obstacle is Ellen Creek – if it’s been raining especially hard and the tide is up, a ford or semi-gnarly log crossing might be required. You’ll find sweet campsites between the creek and the Hole in the Wall (a sea arch) to the north. The sea stacks just south of the arch are an awesome place to watch the sun go down. If overnighting, you’ll need a permit, available at the Wilderness Info Center in Port Angeles.

Trailhead: Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Adventures_NW_Gear_Review-2405Oyster Dome

A local treasure, easily accessed from either Chuckanut Drive (6.5 miles roundtrip with 1900 feet of elevation gain) or the Samish Overlook on Blanchard Mountain (four miles roundtrip with 900 feet of elevation gain). Consult Ken Wilcox’s excellent book, Hiking Whatcom County for details. Either way once you’re on top, the views are exhilarating. The Salish Sea sparkles far below, the expanse of blue dotted with green islands. If it’s clear, Rainier can be seen floating in the sky to the south. Bring a picnic lunch and leave your cell phone in the car.

Trailheads: Chuckanut Drive just south of the Oyster Bar or Samish Overlook on Blanchard Mountain, accessed off the Barrel Springs Road.

Huntoon Point

Adventures_NW_Winter_Hikes-0035To reach a place as stunning as Huntoon Point in only three miles is a rare, rare privilege. From the parking lot at the upper lodge of the Mt. Baker Ski Area strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and climb the well-tracked slope at the edge of the ski area  (avoiding gravity-fueled skiers and snowboarders) to the quiet of Austin Pass. The views of Shuksan here may require a contemplation stop. But guess what? They get better. From the pass follow the snow-covered road until you see the last switchback below Kulshan Ridge. Head directly up the slope here to avoid a potential avalanche area and gain the ridge crest. From here, it’s a blissful traverse of the ridge to its apex at Huntoon Point. Baker, Shuksan, the blue Cascades: Count your blessings!

Trailhead: Mt. Baker Ski Area upper lodge parking lot

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