Looking for winter trails

Gary Knowels

Active Member
I had major knee surgery in September and have done a pretty good job with rehab. I'm cleared to do anything I can physically handle. This summer I am planning to do some longer backpacking trips and need to get back into shape. I'm looking for trails that I can hike during the winter to start building my endurance and strength back up. I've been searching WTA and looking at road closures for access. I have a few trails in mind, but thought some of y'all might also have some ideas for me.

My last hike was Dry Creek (Lake Cushman) 8 miles and 1400 feet of gain.

I'm looking for 5-10 miles with 1000-2000 feet of gain right now and will work to add distance, gain, and difficulty in the coming months.

I'm not opposed to hiking on snow, I have microspikes, poles, good boots, gaiters. I am not looking for a snowshoe. I drive a FWD vehicle with decent ground clearance so roads will need to be in relatively good shape and not with a ton of snow.

Lastly, I'm looking within about 2 hours drive of Tacoma.

Thanks in advance!


Active Member
west side of the Elwha, river trail. you can add as many miles as you like with some elevation gains. head on up to the natural hot springs or cross the river and head up whiskey bend rd where the options for interior hiking are unlimited.

little river into the park and again add any number of miles you like with elevation gains to boot. this trail climbs to meet the Hurricane ridge road W of the visitor center. not sure how far up you can get without shoe shoes.

drive up to the gate on Blue Mountain rd and start uphill. again, you may run into enough snow to warrant snow shoes.

big caution, do not hike these trails in heavy winds.
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Big Time Hater
There's a few river valley trails on the east side of the Olympics.
Dosewallips, Duckabush and Lower Big Quilcene come to mind.
Lena Lake off the Hamma Hamma road also.
Many low to mid elevation trails along that side of the canal.

Gary Knowels

Active Member
I went back to Lake Cushman today and did the copper creek trail. 2400 feet of gain put me through it! About 4 inches of fresh now at the top, my boot prints were the only on the trail, what a lovely day.


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Gary, what was your knee surgery? I had quadriceps tendon repair in August 2019 and was no way ready to hike like that in 4 months, but I did get I some good hikes about 10 months later!

Gary Knowels

Active Member
Gary, what was your knee surgery? I had quadriceps tendon repair in August 2019 and was no way ready to hike like that in 4 months, but I did get I some good hikes about 10 months later!
I had a medial meniscus root repair. The base of my meniscus tore upward off of the tibia. They drill a hole through the tibia and stitch it back down through the tunnel they made. First 6 weeks was strict non-weight bearing and I've been building back up since then. My surgeon remarked at the 3 month mark "things are going about as good as could be expected. All patients should hope it goes like this."

This type of repair is new in the last 15 years. It used to be they just cut it out or left it until the bone on bone wear caused arthritis and eventually a knee replacement. I feel really lucky that this was available to me, especially since my surgeon is the leader of this procedure in the entire Northwest.

Operation #3 from Olympia Orthopedic Associates. Top notch.
How about the Lewis river trail above Swift reservoir? Should be low enough to be snow free and follows some pretty water, but may be a bit beyond 2 hours from Tacoma.

Gary Knowels

Active Member
Thanks Dick, I'll check it out!

Most of my hiking experience is on trails in the I-90 and HWY2 corridors because I lived in North Seattle. Now that I'm in Tacoma I've got a lot of trails to learn.

A buddy and I are putting in for a Wonderland permit. I'm currently training with the idea that we will be doing it this summer. We're both teachers and have unlimited summer flexibility so I think we have a good shot at it.

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