This article was written in collaboration with Expedia.com.
Last winter was disappointingly mild in the PNW, with so little snow in the mountains that ski resorts from Stevens to Snoqualmie ended up shuttering their doors far before the typical season ends. This year weather experts have predicted cooler climates, which means it’s time to grab your coat and gloves and start getting excited for winter activities. We’ve put together three of our favorite winter day trips from Seattle that are the perfect excuse to get outdoors and explore different pockets of the NW this winter season!
Leavenworth is a short 2.5 hour drive from Seattle, making it a great day trip destination each season, with Oktoberfest taking over the Bavarian village in the fall, and white water rafting and hiking drawing crowds in the summer. If you’re looking for a great way to get into the holiday spirit, head to Leavenworth in December, when thousands of guests pour into the city to experience old town decked our in holiday lights and decor and with a little luck, a light dust of snow. The first three weekends in December are dedicated to the Christmas lighting festival, with over half a million lights strung throughout the village. Visitors can often find a talented bell choir and carolers belting popular holiday tunes, Santa and his helpers for the kids and a German inspired Gluhwein tent serving piping hot spiced wine for the adults, sure to warm you from the inside out! If you want to turn your excursion into an overnight adventure, the Icicle Village resort has an array of winter packages that include romantic spa specials, marshmallow roasting s’more activities, and more. Can’t make it in December? January is also a great time to visit Leavenworth for the Ice Festival, featuring snow sculptures, a homemade chili restaurant crawl, skiing down Leavenworth’s ski hill, and a beautiful aerial fireworks show.
Every Seattleite and PNW visitor must add Mount Rainier to their outdoor excursion bucket list. Just a three hour drive from Seattle to the Cascade’s tallest peak, patrons will enjoy exploring the base of this fascinating active volcano, and hike through the endless towering old growth Douglas firs, lakes and waterfalls. Winter is my favorite time of year to visit, as the park is a little less crowded than summertime, and is a great opportunity to break out the snowshoes! Grab some friends and caravan over for a full day of snowshoeing one of several trails, including the 6 mile loop around Mazama Ridge. This trail starts and ends at Paradise, and features stunning 360 degree views. If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, Crystal Mountain ski resort is arguably the best and largest ski resort in the NW, with ski slopes for every level of user. If you’re not a skier, you can still take in the beauty of the slopes from a scenic Mount Rainier gondola ride, climbing over 2,000 feet to the summit of Crystal mountain. Your journey to the top will provide immaculate views of the mountain and cascade range, and the Summit House restaurant on top is a beautiful place to enjoy a meal at the highest elevation restaurant in Washington.
Goldmyer Hot Springs
Who doesn’t love a natural spa buried deep in the woods? Goldmyer hot springs is a geothermal oasis hidden 25 miles in the foothills of the cascades, past North Bend. If you’re fit to the task, this moderate 6 mile hike through the wilderness along the Snoqualmie river passes through old growth, tranquil creeks, and towering trees covered in moss clusters. Depending on the time of year, this might be a great trail to strap on your snowshoes and take your time hiking in, while reveling in the crisp mountain air. Witness impressive waterfalls as you weave through the well marked trails on your journey to the Goldmyer trail head. If this is your first hot springs visit, know that you might get to know your soak mates up close and personal – these hot springs are clothing optional. But don’t be shy, after your blood pumping hike, you’ll want to strip down and reward yourself by dipping into one of several naturally heated soaking pools, and for a little more privacy keep your trunks on and wade back into the cave for some Zen time. Goldmyer is owned and operated by the Non Profit Northwest Wilderness Programs, and recommends reservations to access the hot springs. There is only a 20 person per day limit, so avoid being turned away by making a reservation ahead of time. If you feel like turning this into a camping adventure, bring your gear and reserve a campsite along one of several sites near Burnt Boot Creek.