You don’t have to go on a long hike to enjoy the great outdoors here in Washington. We’re lucky to have plenty of local parks, gardens and trails where you can go just for some fresh air and sunshine. If you feel like getting out and about, but don’t want to travel far, check out any of these 13 spots for more of an easygoing walk through nature.
1. Madison Falls
This horsetail-shaped cascade flows near the Elwha River, just west of Port Angeles. Luckily, the path out to the falls is short, paved, and wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy its splendor.
2. Trail of the Cedars, Newhalem
At less than a mile round-trip, this pleasant nature walk winds through beautiful old-growth forest in the town of Newhalem. It starts out by the foot of Main Street, crosses over a bridge spanning the Skagit River, and then heads through the old forest grove, past the town's historic powerhouse.
3. Trail of Two Forests, near Mount St. Helens
Appropriately named, the Trail of Two Forests winds through two forests, side-by-side, that have an age difference of more than 2,000 years. One of them is old-growth, while the other is much younger after it was wiped out by lava from Mount St. Helens long ago. This boardwalk trail loops between the two for less than a half-mile, and is known to be both kid and wheelchair-friendly.
4. Ginkgo Petrified Forest, Vantage
One of the largest petrified forests on Earth is actually right here in the center of Washington. It not only features impressive views of the Columbia River, but also more than 50+ species of fossilized wood, including: ginkgo, sweetgum, redwood, Douglas fir, walnut, spruce, elm, maple, horse chestnut, cottonwood, magnolia, yew, and witch hazel.
5. John A. Finch Arboretum, Spokane
Hidden on Sunset Hill, this arboretum offers a quiet place to go for a serene afternoon walk. It's open to the public every day, free of charge, and features a lovely collection of trees and exotic plants along Garden Springs Creek.
6. Japanese Garden, Seattle
The Seattle Japanese Garden is a small urban oasis in the Madison Park neighborhood. It features winding paths to walk along, as well as maple trees, a koi pond, cherry orchard and even a tea house. It does cost about a $6 fee to get in (kids 5 & under are free) - but for this kind of serenity in the city, it's worth every penny.
7. Mima Mounds, Olympia
These dome-like mounds are one of Washington's strangest natural wonders. There's a short, ADA-accessible trail you can take around the preserve for about three miles to get an up and close look at these mysterious ground formations.
8. Peace Arch Park, Blaine
You can find this unique park in the northwestern corner of our state, right by the Canadian border. On our side, there's a state park in Blaine, and on the other side is a Provincial Park. In the center, there's a huge, 67-foot-high peace arch memorial. Visitors to the park are free to visit both sides, without having to worry about any border formalities.
9. Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Vancouver
For about five miles total, this paved path stretches along the Columbia River offering fantastic views of Mount Hood down in Oregon. Along the way, you'll pass by all kinds of unique small shops and restaurants to stop by and check out as well.
10. North Creek Park, Mill Creek
This unique, floating boardwalk in North Creek Park was just recently completed in late 2015. It features plastic foam floats underneath the decking, allowing anyone to go for an easy, scenic walk through marsh without getting your shoes or socks wet.
11. Rocky Brook Falls, near Brinnon
Rocky Brook Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula, and it's not a very far hike out at all. You'll only walk about 200 yards before reaching this 125-foot cascade plunging down a massive rocky wall. The pool at the bottom is even known to serve as a popular swimming hole during the summertime.
12. Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery is pretty much the definition of "enchanting." The northwestern-most point of the contiguous states can be reached by only a short, 3/4-mile trail out along a beautiful wooden boardwalk. It passes by four viewpoints along the way, from which you'll be able to spot dreamy tree-covered sea stacks, deep narrow coves, and Tatoosh Island out in the distance.
13. Priest Point Park, Olympia
This waterfront park offers miles of trails to go for a nice and easy stroll. You'll also find picnic tables here, as well as beach access to Budd Inlet, and unparalleled views of downtown Olympia and our state's capitol building.
Have you been to any of these spots before? Where are some of your favorite places to enjoy the outdoors in Washington?