Baby, it’s cold outside. But Fido still needs exercise. And so do you. Here are ten top Grays Harbor trail options for both of you. In no particular order:
- Lake Swano Trail at Grays Harbor College
Distance: 1.5 miles RT
An easy, scenic loop trail around a quiet lake through a magnificent second-growth forest. The Lake Swano Trail is also a gateway to other trails through the forest, including the Poggie Trail, Coastal Forest Trail, Nice Creek Trail, and Alder Creek Trail. The trail and wooden bridges and observation decks may be slick in wet weather, so watch your step.
Park in the lower lot of the campus near the Bishop Center.
Discover Pass required.
Johns River Wildlife Area cover more than 6,700 acres, managed in 15 units located near the Pacific Coast on the Olympic Peninsula. The local portion is 12 miles southwest of Aberdeen off Highway 105. It includes two hiking sites a few miles past Aberdeen: the River Dike Trail and the Cemetery Trail.
The Johns River Dike Trail is an easy, paved trail of about .57 miles one-way. It’s just off Highway 105 and Game Farm Road.
Located just past the Ocean Spray cranberry plant.
The Cemetery Trail is about four miles, RT. Head out of Aberdeen toward Westport on Highway 105. The undeveloped parking area at the trail head is on the left, just past the sign for Markham. If you hit the Ocean Spray plant, you’ve gone too far.
About three miles one-way, this is an easy asphalt walkway along the Chehalis River. You can pick it up at several access points, including off US 101 at the bottom of the Chehalis River Bridge near SR 105, and at the Bishop Athletic Complex.
Doesn’t exactly rank high on the “most scenic” hit parade. But if you’re looking for a quick trail without a long drive to the trailhead, this can be a good option.
- “Dog Marsh”
8th Street, next to Anderson-Middleton in Hoquiam.
A favorite with local dog owners, this graveled, short trail is marshy in the middle. It’s also likely to host flocks of Canada geese and other waterfowl, so stick to the perimeter trail.
This easy walk is within city limits but doesn’t feel like it. My good dog loves this place! (Pro tip: If you start near 8th Street and head east around the loop, you’re walking face-first into a sometimes biting wind off the water. Dress accordingly.)
Grand Avenue and Sunset.
Located in Hoquiam’s only nature park, this isn’t really a “trail” by Hiker Babe standards. You can cover it start to finish in less than thirty minutes. If you walk slow. But it’s a nice place to get off the road with Fido if you’re heading up the Sunset Memorial Park, Sunset Loop, and a good cardio workout. (I don’t recommend this site during the summer, as it sits smack in the middle of a mosquito farm.)
Be careful on this one. It’s easy to get confused. Leashed dogs are allowed on some Quinault area trails. It comes down to whether the trail is inside the national forest or the national park.
Leashed dogs are allowed on national forest trails – e.g., south shore side, like Falls Creek, Willaby Creek, and the Lakeshore Trails. Watch for fallen logs and other debris on the Lakeshore Trail. Also note that boardwalks on south shore trails are slick as glass when wet. Use caution.
But! Bark alert – dogs are not allowed on trails inside the national park, e.g., north shore trails like Irely Lake, Wolf Bar, Three Lakes, and Ellip Creek. Maybe that’s just as well, as these trails are more remote, rockier, and more challenging than south shore trails.
Discover Pass required.
Seventy-five acres hugging 6,000 feet of shoreline and open tide flats. Again, watch those boardwalks in wet weather. Leashed dogs allowed only during hunting season, from November through February (e.g., now would be good!)
- Dunes Trail (aka: Westport Light Trail)
About 5 miles RT
Trail end points: W. Ocean Avenue and Westhaven Drive
Discover Pass required.
This easy, paved trail winds through two state parks—Westport Light and Westhaven. On a clear day, snatch great views of sand dunes, beaches, the Westport Lighthouse, and the Pacific Ocean.
1813 Lake Sylvia Road
Discover Pass required
Five main hiking trails, 15,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, and all the cool scents your fur ball could ever want to sniff out! The park is quiet, restful, and thickly forested. A great place for you and Fido to explore!
One of the best things about this little park? It has mileage markers. So you know exactly how far you’ve walked. The one-mile loop is pretty, forested, and well-shaded. Cool on a warm day. And usually uncrowded. A great outdoor walk.
Kindly comply with leash laws and remember to clean up after your dog. Bring plenty of water to keep both yourself and your dog properly hydrated.
Don’t forget to dress in layers. Grab your Frogg-Toggs and wellies, if you have ‘em. Whatever works. Just don’t leave your canine companion cooped up all winter because the weather’s lousy. You’ll both feel better after a little outdoor trail time!
Another version of this post, by the same author, also appeared in Grays Harbor Talk.