The weather outside may be frightful, but outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty in Grays Harbor County that’s delightful.
That’s because coast-hugging Grays Harbor escapes the polar bear weather and deep snow common elsewhere in Washington, offering family friendly hiking and outdoor exploring even in the dead of winter. Trails featured below are easy, family friendly, and relatively short (three miles or less round trip.) Some are paved, some aren’t.
So grab your rain gear and check out these six trails in southwest Washington’s Grays Harbor, “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.”
Where: 1131 Airport Way, Hoquiam
Distance (round trip): 1.9 miles
Type: Loop trail, asphalt/boardwalk
A short walk down a paved road past a row of airport hangars brings you to the trailhead. It’s well-marked. This lightly trafficked trail along a wooden boardwalk offers excellent views of the Grays Harbor Estuary. Mount Rainier can also be seen from wooden benches spaced intermittently along the trail.
This site is frequently jam-packed in the spring and summer. Crowds dissipate in the fall and winter, allowing you plenty of solitude and space. Note that the wind can get chilly off the water, so dress appropriately!
Part of the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Dogs not allowed.
Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Limited parking is available at the former Lana’s Hangar Cafe.
Where: 1620 Edward P. Smith Drive, Aberdeen
Distance: 1.5 miles RT
Type: Loop trail, dirt
This is an easy, scenic loop trail around a quiet lake through a magnificent second-growth forest. The Lake Swano Trail is also a gateway to other trails through the forest, including the Poggie Trail, the Coastal Forest Trail, Nice Creek Trail, and the Alder Creek Trail.
Mostly level and good for all skill levels. Be advised that wooden bridges and observation decks may be slick in wet weather, so watch your step.
Park in the lower lot of the Grays Harbor College campus near the Bishop Center.
Where: 2331 North B Street, Aberdeen
Distance: 1.1 miles, RT
Type: Loop trail, dirt
Located within Stewart Memorial Park, this short dirt trails winds through a splendid old growth forest bristling with Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock trees. Several small waterfalls canter past the trail while moss drapes branches like bunting on a band stand. There’s even a lone picnic table at the back end of the loop.
This trail is mostly flat, with a few micro ups and downs. Tanglefoot abounds. Watch your step on rain-slicked wooden bridges, steps and walkways.
Where: Quinault – South Shore Road
Distance: .5 (one-half) miles, RT
Type: Loop trail, dirt/compacted gravel trail
Perched on the lip of picturesque Lake Quinault in the heart of the Olympic Rain Forest, this interpretive trail may have first-timers thinking they’ve just fallen into a vat of verdure. Lichen leaks from bough and bower. Giant conifers and nurse logs litter the forest floor like fallen behemoths. Willaby Creek laughs along the trail through Willaby Gorge.
A great choice for kids and all skill levels.
From Aberdeen, travel north on U.S. Highway 101 for 45 miles to the junction of South Shore Road. Turn right (east) and drive 1.4 miles to Quinault Rain Forest Trailhead on right side of South Shore Road.
Distance: 1.2 miles, one-way
Type: Out and back, paved
This easy, flat trail meanders past Pioneer Park and Miller Junior High School as it crosses the Cosmopolis Waterway and skirts area wetlands. You’re in the city between Aberdeen and Cosmopolis, but it doesn’t feel like it.
Park at the Pioneer Park Sports Complex on S. Lawrence Street or in DeWitt Park at the trail’s eastern terminus.
Where: Overlake Street NE, Ocean Shores
Distance: 1.2 miles, RT
Type: Loop trail, dirt
Wandering past the Duck Lake wetland ecosystem, this easy trail is mostly flat with a few mild ups and downs. It winds through the dense woods of the Weatherwax Preserve.
Minutes from the beach, this short loop trail is easily overlooked. But if you know where to go, it’s a quiet outdoor alternative to crowded venues elsewhere.
The initial portion of this trail is likely to be muddy during winter, so prepare accordingly. Limited parking is available on the street at the arched sign at the trailhead.
You won’t find any jaw-dropping vistas or epic panoramas on these trails. But you will find some family friendly outdoor outings and a chance to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and exercise without having to contend with ice or abominable snow creatures. So grab your rain gear and go!