In the Pacific Northwest we escape to the great outdoors year-round, and because the snow usually stays up in the mountains (about 45 minutes from Bellevue), a visit to Bellevue this winter means hiking opportunities ranging from snow-free urban vistas to white winter wonderlands. Just peruse our favorite winter hikes below, determine your timing, your level of desire for adventure and how bundled up you want to get. Then make your choice and get outside to enjoy the natural beauty that is so abundant here.
- Enjoy beautiful views of Seattle, Bellevue and Lake Washington as you walk west across the 520 floating bridge from the Evergreen Point Park and Ride. A 14-ft wide walking and bike path is separated from the adjacent freeway by a protective barrier. The path includes resting areas with benches and three scenic viewpoints providing information about Nautical and Maritime history of Lake Washington, as well as details about local fish and waterfowl.
- While construction continues on the west end of the 520 floating bridge the trail is an out and back trail from the Evergreen Point Park and Ride.
Hike Distance: 2 miles round trip (or continue to the east and walk for several more miles along this same pathway)
- Drive to the Evergreen Point Park and Ride just 3 miles west of downtown Bellevue
- Catch the 555 ST Express Bus from the Bellevue Transit Center and get off at the Evergreen Point Freeway station.
Tips and things to know before you go:
This is a paved pathway with some elevation gain/loss as you transition from the park and ride area to the floating bridge level. Dress for the weather and have fun. The Evergreen Point floating bridge connects Seattle to Bellevue and holds the Guinness World Record title for the longest floating bridge in the world. The bridge originally opened in 1963 and was replaced by the new slightly longer, 7,708 foot bridge, in April 2016.
The Mercer Slough Nature Park is a 320-acre wetland oasis, lushly populated with ferns, shrubs, flowers, several varieties of berries, distinctive wooden boardwalks and shaded pathways just a short distance from Bellevue’s bustling downtown. Stop by the Visitor Center at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center (on the east side of the park) to talk to the on-duty park ranger, view the interpretive displays and check out back pack with activities to help you learn about the park and its environs.
Hike Distance: There are three main trails in the Park: the 0.8 mile Bellefields Loop Trail, the 1.1 mile Heritage Loop Trail, and the 4-mile Periphery Trail. Canoers and kayakers can explore the 2.6 mile Water Trail that flows through the length of the park. Canoes and Kayaks are available for rent at Enatai Beach Park on Lake Washington.
Drive (or walk) just 2 miles south of downtown Bellevue’s skyscrapers to the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center and Bellefields trailhead on the east side of the park.
Tips and things to know before you go:
Mercer Slough Nature Park is the largest remaining stretch of wetland left on Lake Washington and it’s wetlands, meadows, forest, and bog are home or the seasonal destination of 170 species of birds and animals including Coyote, Beaver and Muskrat. Birds commonly seen in the park include: Great Blue Herons, many Ducks, Killdeer, Sparrows, Swallows, Red-tailed Hawks, Eagles, Towees, Kinglets, and Bushtits. Trails include boardwalks and well maintained pathways but there can be muddy spots.
Highlights: A relatively short winter hike pays off big with an almost entirely frozen 135-foot waterfall creating a mist that covers everything and icicles that drip from the rock walls. While the falls are spectacular the journey is also worthwhile as you walk through snow laden old growth forest along the bubbling South Fork of the Snoqualmie River.
Hike Distance: The hike to Franklin Falls is easy. It’s a two-mile round-trip adventure with a 400′ elevation gain. In other words, it’s great for all ages and skill levels. You can make the hike to Franklin Falls year-round, but it’s especially stunning in the winter.
Getting There: From downtown Bellevue the trail head is just 45 miles and takes about 50 minutes to get there. Take I-90 east to exit 47 (Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek). At the top of the exit turn left. You’ll hit a T in the road; turn right. Take the first left (you’ll see signs to Denny Creek Campground). Stay on this road for about 2.5 miles. Take another left after the campground. The Franklin Falls trailhead is right there and it’s well-marked.
Equipment needed: Despite the short distance, winter hiking on this route is nothing to take lightly. Dress for the winter weather, wear boots with good traction and gloves and a warm jacket. Some portions of the trail get pretty slippery so hiking poles and snowshoes or ice grippers that can be put on your shoes can be helpful too.
Tips and things to know before you go: To avoid the crowds and finish your hike before dark its a good idea set off for this trip by 10 am on a weekend, by noon on a weekday. A Northwest Forest pass is required. A day e-pass can be purchased for $5. Just print it out ahead of time and place it on your vehicle’s dashboard.
Highlights: Explore the Cascade Mountains and learn about winter ecology while snowshoeing on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest January through March. No experience is necessary and the Forest Service provides snowshoes and poles.
Getting There: Snoqualmie Pass is just over 50 miles from Downtown Bellevue – about a one-hour drive.
Various Snowshoe walk options are offered Saturdays and Sundays.
- Short Snowshoe Hike with Ranger
- Extended Snowshoe Hike with Ranger
- Winter Photography Outings
- Kids in the Snow
Equipment needed: Participants should wear layered and insulated clothing, hats and gloves with sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots, hats and gloves. To offset the costs of the program, a donation is requested. Extreme winter weather may be cancel snowshoe programs. Please call ahead to make reservations and check on any cancellations.
Need the proper layers or equipment for the journey? Get geared up for your winter hiking adventures at REI in Bellevue and before you #optoutside.
Photo Credits, Top to Bottom: Sharon Linton