The Pacific Northwest’s reputation for rain is not undeserved, especially in winter. Our sunny days are all the more precious for their rarity, and if you live in the region, you know the feeling of wanting to make the most of times when the weather is nice enough to get outside. Here are six scenic, easy-access walking trails in the Vancouver area to help you maximize those special days of beautiful weather all year round.
- Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail. This short and simple trail boasts excellent facilities and sweeping views of the Columbia and Mount Hood. Experience the grandeur and beauty of classic PNW scenery from a mile-long paved trail while learning about the history and ecology of the area from interpretive signage. There’s also a natural play area for the kids, and if you want to take advantage of nice weather by going kayaking, this park offers easy canoe or kayak access to the water.
- Salmon Creek Trail. This 6-mile, mostly flat paved trail showcases wetlands, creeks, and ponds in the heart of a bustling residential area. Depending on the time of year, visitors can see cormorants, wood ducks, and other waterfowl, as well as Mount Hood. This trail is popular with walkers and cyclists alike, and if you need to avoid the steep hill at the trailhead, this trail is wheelchair-accessible from Salmon Creek Park at the trail’s east end.
- Vancouver Waterfront. This beautiful 7-acre park opened in 2018, revitalizing downtown Vancouver’s riverfront shore and offering new opportunities for public spaces, ecological education, and retail and dining possibilities. The park lies at the westernmost end of the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, which runs 5 miles from Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver to Fort Vancouver and Wintler Park. Challenge yourself to walk or bike the full length of the trail, or enjoy wandering the thoughtfully landscaped pathways of the park. Either way, leave some time to take in the Columbia River views from the park’s already iconic cable-stayed Grant Street Pier.
- Fort Vancouver and the Discovery Historic Loop Trail. Vancouver’s historical claim to fame is Fort Vancouver, a National Historic Site dedicated to the history and cultures of the Pacific Northwest. Exploring the Fort is a day trip unto itself, but you can wander the Vancouver National Historic Reserve and see the Bandstand, historic homes on Officers Row, Pearson Airfield, and more historical sites in a choose-your-own-adventure combination of trails and sidewalks. (Bonus: this is the regional destination for playing Pokémon Go.)
- Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. Access this 8-mile paved trail from four different points along this popular greenway north of downtown Vancouver. Much-loved by cyclists and families, the trail follows Burnt Bridge Creek from the residential Ogden neighborhood all the way to Vancouver Lake. The trail is mostly flat and takes visitors through a variety of Northwest landscapes, including grasslands and woods.
- Lacamas Creek Loop. Between Camas and Washougal, in the midst of developing suburbia, lies a 300-acre park full of forest land, waterfalls, and exposed rock formations left by massive floods at the end of the Ice Age. Walking trails of various lengths meander through the forest, but the Lacamas Creek Loop lets visitors avoid the crowds at the nearby parks and head straight into 4 miles of trail featuring wildflowers, three waterfalls, and Douglas fir forest. This trail is a great way to get a taste of Columbia Gorge wilderness with easy elevation gain and family-friendly access.
These are just a handful of the Southwest Washington trails offering scenic, accessible walking destinations. Which one is your favorite?