Beating the Winter Blues: How to Avoid Seasonal Depression in Seattle

Grey skies: a typical Seattle scene.
Grey skies: a typical Seattle scene. Randy Wick
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Winter in Seattle can be tough, even for the most hardcore adventurer. The typical forecast goes something like this: rain, rain, and more rain. And then there’s the fact that the sun (the one you would hypothetically be able to see if it wasn’t always so cloudy) doesn’t rise until about an hour before most people arrive at work, and sets an hour before they leave for home. So you might start to forget what “daytime” even means.

But the winter blues don't have to get you down. The key to surviving the cold season in Seattle is to take the wet weather head-on, to pretend the rain isn’t constantly falling, and do activities that make you feel “normal” anyway. In other words, while you don't have to embrace the gray skies, you don't have to succumb to seasonal depression in Seattle. Here, seven tips for how to get through the drab Pacific Northwest winter—because the glories of summer that make it all worth it are only a few months away.

1. Go for a blues-busting run or ride.

You're not gonna melt: Grab your bike or lace up your sneakers and get after it.
You're not gonna melt: Grab your bike or lace up your sneakers and get after it. Dan Ox

There’s no reason you can’t keep running or riding through the Seattle winter. In fact, the rain on your face, mud on your ankles, and, if you’re heading out after work, a headlamp illuminating your path will only make you feel all the more epic when you're done. When the seasonal depression kicks in, take a lap or two around Discovery Park , Green Lake , or Seward Park , and you’ll feel so much prouder of your efforts.

2. Get your nature fix indoors.

If you want to feel as though you’re outside without the discomfort of getting cold and sopping wet, Seattle’s got you covered. Head to the butterfly house at the Pacific Science Center to check out pretty insects and warm up in the 80-degree facility, stop and smell the flowers at the Volunteer Park Conservatory , check out the local underwater ecosystems at the Seattle Aquarium , or head to Woodland Park Zoo’s tropical rain forest building, dome, and aviary with a rainy day discount .

3. Savor the snow.

Snowshoers scouting out Snoqualmie Pass.
Snowshoers scouting out Snoqualmie Pass. Samantha Larson

If it’s raining in Seattle, it’s mostly like snowing in the surrounding peaks (you may not have seen them in a while, but trust us: the Cascades and the Olympics are still there, just hidden in the clouds). Whether on skis, a snowboard, or snowshoes, spend a day or weekend at a higher elevation, and you’ll come back feeling refreshed—and able to face yet another forecast of nonstop rain.

4. Take a hike—in the rain.

The clouds breaking above Wallace Falls State Park
The clouds breaking above Wallace Falls State Park Andrew E. Larsen

If you’ve got cold feet at the thought of seeking out snow, there are plenty of trails at lower elevations where the precipitation will still be falling in liquid form—and hiking in the rain has its own kind of Pacific Northwest-esque charm. Check out Wallace Falls , the Boulder River Trail , or, for the ultimate rainy trek, the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh Rainforest.

5. Hone your climbing skills.

Climbers scale the walls at Vertical World.
Climbers scale the walls at Vertical World. Peter Stevens

Climbing is a sport that’s hard to do when the rock is wet—but, luckily, Seattle has several indoor gyms to keep you in shape for when your favorite crag does finally dry out. The Seattle Bouldering Project is a great place to stay social while getting ready for next season’s Leavenworth sends, and Vertical World has the routes to keep your endurance up for Little Si or Index .

6. Cozy up with an adventure-inspiring book.

When it comes to sinking into a good read, foul weather can actually be the perfect forecast. Live vicariously through the escapades told in classics like Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire , Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air , or Cheryl Strayed's Wild. Or keep it local with A Life on the Edge , Pacific Northwest hero Jim Whittaker’s memoir, or Bruce Barcott’s Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier .

7. Hunker down at a coffee shop to plan your next adventure.

Cozying up in Cafe Allegro on a cold winter night
Cozying up in Cafe Allegro on a cold winter night Bjorn Giesenbauer

Another stereotype that is as true of Seattle as the rain: There are a lot of coffee shops in this town. Favorites like Macrina Bakery and Café Allegro aren’t only good options to keep caffeinated in order to stay chipper when the weather is dismal, but, when you're armed with a laptop or guidebook, they make for the perfect staging ground to plan your next adventure. Trust us, the rain will stop and you’ll be headed back outside in no time. Until then, soak in the opportunities it can bring.

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