Trailblazers: Lake Padden Loop Trail
The winter months can seem daunting at times, especially when there is a lot of school work to be completed. Getting outside during the winter can be a challenge. After settling into classes for the quarter, you may find yourself snuggled up with warm socks on and a good Netflix binge. I know I struggle with it. But, when your body and mind need a lift, there are some great local and easily accessible hikes near campus that are not the Arboretum. I will be focusing on these more accessible winter hikes over the next couple of months.
Lake Padden is a popular swim spot during the summer months. It boasts a beach; a swimming platform which is installed seasonally, picnic tables, summer boat rentals, off-leash dog trails and play area, a basketball court, a golf course, a baseball field and even tennis courts that are situated with a view of the lake. However, during the winter months this park is still teeming with hikers, bicyclists and families. This is partially due to the park’s location, being only 5 miles away from campus and partially due to its towering trees that provide some shelter from the falling drops.
The park has two entrances; the east entrance takes you past the golf course and boat launch. The east entrance then continues down a long lakeside road passing a covered picnic area, basketball courts and the enclosed off-leash dog area. If you park here and begin on the east side of the lake, you will see this mossy trail map. The map even includes all of the offshoots; of which there are many in this park. The trails are marked by difficulty ranging from easy to moderate to difficult. If you park on the west side entrance you will head past the swim area and tennis courts to a smaller parking area near the dock. If your purpose at Padden is to explore unknown offshoot trails, this is the entrance for you.
The trail can get muddy at times, although most of the mud is contained on the first 100 yards of the east side of the trail. When I hiked this trail this week, it looked like this however, when I hiked it earlier in January, this area had frozen over and was difficult to navigate without slipping. If the temperature drops below the mid 30s, beware of this portion of the trail after 3 p.m. as it can become icy.
From the dock on the west side, you can see a beautiful view. If you find yourself on this side of the lake and looking for a mini-adventure, go to the dock and turn around. There you will see a wide trail leading along Padden Creek. This is the Padden Gorge trail, it is just barely over half a mile long and snugs up to the creek along its route. There are several other, even smaller trails throughout this area as well such as this nameless, but intriguing offshoot. I thoroughly enjoy everyday I spend at Lake Padden. The trail systems are large enough to feel like you are an explorer while not taking a whole study day to drive there. The total Lake Padden main loop trail is 2.6 miles around and even on a rainy day it is still a pretty nice hike.