[This article originally ran on the Mountains to Sound Greenway blog.]
After several long weeks of closures to help keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, some parks and trails are reopening for day-use. And while many are excited to get back outdoors, Mountains to Sound Greenway is reminding folks that it’s more important than ever to take the necessary steps to recreate responsibly.
One of those guidelines is to maintain at least six feet of physical distance between yourself and anyone outside your household. This can be tricky to accomplish on trails that are narrow or steep along the sides. Furthermore, if you’re visiting some of the state’s most popular trails, it can be virtually impossible to maintain your distance, especially at the overcrowded trailheads.
[NOTE: There’s no guarantee there will be parking at trailheads. Mountains to Sound Greenway recommends going with your plan B or plan C if you arrive and find a parking lot is too full.]
The MTSG team pulled together pulled together a list of 7 alternative trails in the Mountains to Sound Greenway that are typically less crowded (Hint: you won’t find Mailbox Peak or Mount Si on this list).
These trails are also all at least partial road-to-trail conversions, which are generally wider and easier for physical distancing. Remember, there are no guarantees about these trails, which is why it’s extremely important that you don’t head out with just one plan – in case you arrive at the trailhead and find it to be more than halfway full.
While it might be tempting to grab one of the last parking spots or park illegally on the road, these actions are all contributing to overcrowding, which means higher risk of virus spread, and the potential for parks and trails to be re-closed.
7 Trails to Try for Better Physical Distancing
- Mount Washington
- Rattlesnake Mountain – Not to be confused with the extremely popular, and currently CLOSED, Rattlesnake Ledge trail.
- Granite Creek – For a wider path, you can start at the Granite Creek Connector trailhead. This version of the hike utilizes the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company logging road more extensively and climbs along a more gentle grade for the first 880 feet of elevation gain, distributing it over 2.8 miles. Directions and further explanation can be found in the WTA Hiking Guide entry.
- Oxbow Loop Trail – Read more about the story behind this new trail here.
- Mount Teneriffe Trail
- Taylor Mountain Trails
- Palouse to Cascades Trail – This trail runs 212 miles across most of Washington state, with multiple access points. Note that the Cedar Falls/Rattlesnake Lake trailhead and the Twin Falls trailhead remain closed at this time. Before heading out, check to ensure your desired trailhead is open and has adequate parking.
You can also use resources like WTA’s Hiking Guide or Hike Finder Map to find other open hiking options. Chances are, if you’ve heard of the hike a bunch or have seen it posted in popular hiking Facebook groups — it’s going to be busy right now.
Aim for some lesser-known options that are new to you. But do make sure you’re recreating well within your comfort and skill level, always pack the 10 Essentials, and let a friend or relative know where you plan to go and when you expect to be back. Also keep in mind that it’s still early in the season, which means you should be checking trail reports and be prepared for the possibility of snow at higher elevations.