When it comes to winter hiking near Seattle, I’m always a little nervous about driving on bad roads or ending up on a trail covered in snow (and not being prepared for it). So when I hiked Little Si and didn’t run into either issue, I knew I had to write about it.
Little Si is a an easy to moderate level hike near North Bend, Washington. It’s approximately 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometers) round trip, and has an elevation gain of about 1300 feet (396.24 meters). Not to be mistaken for Mt. Si, a neighboring and more strenuous hike, Little Si is a good hike for people who only want to spent a few hours out in the cold.
Permits required for Little Si
Anyone who plans on parking at the Little Si trail head or overflow parking lot will need a valid Discover Pass. You can buy one ahead of time at licensed vendors like REI or Big 5, at some Washington State Parks, or online. Since no one in our hiking group had a Discover Pass, we bought a day pass online and then wrote the information on a piece of scrap paper which we placed in the dash.
The Little Si trail starts out at a steady incline until you’re just high enough to see over the tops of the nearby houses. Then the trail levels out and begins to make its way into a forest. As the trees get thicker, you forget how close to civilization you are, and start to get into hiker mode.
Here, you’ll see a huge, fallen tree stretched out over the trail. If you’re hiking on a busy day, there will probably be a few daredevils walking across it or a group of friends posing for a photo. Our hiking group did a little of both.
Once past the fallen tree, the trail will remain fairly flat for awhile. More and more ferns begin to pop up, and then a large rock face comes into view on your left. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a few rock climbers here testing their spider man skills.
The trail then begins to incline again and continues doing so till the end. The good news - the steady incline means your in for some sweet views!
1st major viewpoint
The first viewpoint is wide open and offers views in two different directions. For some reason though, the wind gets going really strongly here. It didn’t seem windy on our hike at all until we came to this viewpoint. Then we were suddenly zipping up our coats and clutching our belongings.
2nd Major Viewpoint
After another steady hike upwards, you’ll come to the 2nd major viewpoint. This viewpoint is the best in my opinion, and much more impressive than the official end of the trail. Our hiking group liked this viewpoint so much we decided to stay a little longer and eat our trail snacks.
The official end of the trail
The actual end of the trail is just a few paces past the 2nd major viewpoint. The view here is focused on the nearby suburban development, and didn’t impress me as much as the 1st and 2nd major viewpoints.
Tips for hiking Little Si in the Winter
Dress in layers. You’ll likely warm up quickly at the beginning of the hike, and then feel like your freezing at the 1st major viewpoint (the wind is ruthless).
Bring something warm to drink. One of my hiking buddies brought hot tea in a Stanley Thermos and I was so jealous when she poured herself a cup at the end of the trail.
Extend the adventure. Little Si only took us about three hours to complete. If that’s too short of a day for you, check out Franklin Falls or Snoqualmie Falls afterwards. Both of these PNW favorites are nearby and beautiful in the wintertime.
Check the weather report. Hiking during the wintertime can get a little sketchy if you time it wrong. While there wasn’t snow when we hiked Little Si in early December, I can’t promise there won’t be snow when you hike.
Winter hiking boots
It’s the PNW after all…make sure your boots are waterproof, warm, and have decent traction. I like these Sorel boots. They’re a little heavy for longer hikes, but double as great snow boots.
I love a nice, insulated jacket in the winter. They keep you cozy without having to bundle too many layers on and store nicely in your backpack. Here’s a similar jacket to the one I wore on the hike.
These Yaktrax crampons provide additional traction for icy and snowy conditions. You probably won’t need these for Little Si, but they’ll definitely come in handy if you extend your winter adventure and visit Franklin Falls.
Like it? Pin it!
A once-weekly email highlighting 52 unique travel destinations around the world.