Moon Washington Hiking
Best Hikes plus Beer, Bites, and Campgrounds Nearby
By Craig Hill
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- Diverse Hiking Options: Whether you plan to take leisurely lakeside walks or challenging journeys around Mount Pilchuck, enjoy outdoor getaways ranging from easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips
- Find Your Hike: Looking for something specific? Choose from strategic lists of the best hikes for breathtaking waterfalls, spring wildflowers, or hiking with your dog, plus a breakdown of the best hikes by season
- The Top Outdoor Experiences: Pick alpine wildflowers in a meadow along Mount Rainier's Skyline Trail, or wander through a dense, green rain forest in Olympic National Park. Venture across a suspension bridge to breathtaking canyon views, and glimpse seals, eagles, and deer at a wildlife reserve. Catch a vibrant sunset from a beach dotted with sea stacks, or explore an underground lava tube
- Nearby Fun: Relax post-hike at a local brewery, savor a plate of fresh oysters, and stargaze before bed at a nearby campground
- Essential Planning Details: Each hike is described in detail and marked with round-trip distance and hiking time, difficulty, terrain type, elevation gain, and access points
- Maps and Directions: Find easy-to-use maps, driving directions to each trailhead, and details on where to park
- Expert Advice: Longtime hiker Craig Hill shares his local secrets, unique tips, and honest opinions of each trail
- Tips and Tools: Advice on gear, first aid, and camping permits, plus background information on climate, landscape, and wildlife
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Hit the Trail
Best By Season
Best Waterfall Hikes
Best Brew Hikes
Best Wildflower Hikes
Best Dog-Friendly Hikes
Easy Waterfall Walks
WASHINGTON HIKING TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Explore the Columbia River Gorge.
2 Take in Pacific Ocean views and spot marinelife.
3 Hike around Mount Rainier, Washington’s tallest peak.
4 Wander through fields of wildflowers.
5 Chase waterfalls.
6 Walk beneath curtains of moss and towering trees in Olympic National Park’s Quinault and Hoh Rain Forest.
7 Swim in mountain lakes.
8 Follow trails through the urban forests of Seattle.
9 Kick back with a post-hike beer.
10 Take in sweeping views. Climb to the top of one of the 93 fire lookouts across the state to see all the way to the horizon.
HIT THE TRAIL
The Evergreen State could take even the most dedicated hiker a lifetime to explore. There are 3 national parks, 9 national forests, 24 wildlife refuges, more than 100 state parks, and 4.5 million acres of protected wilderness.
But beyond the numbers are the experiences. There are the Olympic Peninsula’s temperate rainforests, made lush by more than 10 feet of rain per year, and the wave-chiseled sculptures at Point of Arches, as well as the maritime playgrounds of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. Further east are the skyscraping volcanoes of the Cascades and the channeled scablands. Washington is also home to the quieter side of the Columbia River Gorge and the rewarding finishing stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Our trails give generously to those who love to wander. Pause to skip rocks on Rialto Beach. Feel your pulse quicken as you stand on Burroughs Mountain or listen to avalanches rumble down Mount Rainier. Hear the haunting bugle calls of elk during the early fall.
Discover the fulfillment of challenges conquered and the rejuvenation that comes with solitude. Each step takes you a little farther from the stress of everyday life and a little closer to the peace nature delivers.
This book shows you the paths to take. Nature will take care of the rest.
Camping the Coast
With a mix of sea stacks, lighthouses, towering capes, tide pools, and beaches, Washington’s coast offers classic adventure. Pick a hike and then pitch a tent nearby for the night, or string these suggestions together—they’re listed north to south—to hop your way down the coast on a hiking-camping trip. Driving time between successive campgrounds is typically between 1 and 3.5 hours.
Makah Indian Reservation, Neah Bay
Start your day with an easy walk to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States. Then make the longer hike to Point of Arches via Shi Shi Beach to catch sunset. Spend the night at Hobuck Beach Resort, an oceanside campground on Makah tribal land, conveniently situated between the trailheads.
Olympic National Park, Ozette
Two legs of the Ozette Triangle are boardwalks cutting through the forest to and from the middle leg, a walk on Washington’s wild coast. Nearby you can spend the night camping on the shore of Ozette Lake at Ozette Campground, and learn about the homesteads that once occupied this area.
Olympic National Park, Rialto Beach
Time your visit for low tide and examine tide pools as you stroll along Rialto Beach to the sea arch known as Hole-in-the-Wall. Spend a night sleeping in the forest less than 1.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean at nearby Mora Campground.
Olympic National Park, Kalaloch
Head about 30 miles inland from the coast to hike through rain forest on the Quinault Loop. Then head back to the coast for a night at Kalaloch Campground, one of the most popular campgrounds on the Olympic Peninsula; sites are close enough to hear the ocean surf.
Spend a night near where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped at Cape Disappointment State Park and take a walk on the North Head Trail. After a short side trip to an old military battery, the trail leads through the forest to a lighthouse with sweeping views of the Pacific.
BEST BY SEASON
▪ Hall of Mosses and Hoh River Trail: This is the best season to see wildlife at this popular Olympic National Park destination.
▪ Dog Mountain: In spring this peak is capped with vivid wildflower fields.
▪ Kamiak Butte: The rolling hills of the Palouse are most green in spring.
▪ Second Burroughs Loop: Alpine tundra, wildflowers, glacier views, and the rumble of rock and ice careening down Mount Rainier make this an epic summer hike.
▪ Chain Lakes Loop: Visit lakes on a North Cascades trail with views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan.
▪ Steamboat Rock: Start the day with a hike up a basalt butte in the Grand Coulee, and then spend the warmest hours playing on Banks Lake.
▪ Maple Pass Loop: For fall colors, it’s hard to beat this North Cascades loop.
▪ Granite Mountain: This scenic climb is awash in reds, oranges, and yellows in autumn.
▪ Lake Ingalls: October is the time to see mountain goats wandering among golden larches.
▪ Oyster Dome: This popular trail is open year-round and sees fewer visitors in winter.
▪ Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail: In winter, bald eagles fish for chum salmon at the refuge. In late January, hunting season ends and the final 700 feet of the estuary boardwalk reopens to hikers.
▪ Point of Arches via Shi Shi Beach: A worthy trip any time of year, you won’t have to share the beach with as many visitors in colder months.
BEST WATERFALL HIKES
▪ Twin Falls: View this dynamic cascade in the forest from several vantage points.
▪ Cedar Falls: Make this easy hike early in the spring when the falls are at their most powerful.
▪ Wallace Falls: The trail to these falls is one of Washington’s most popular hikes.
▪ Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls: This stack of waterfalls is so tall you can’t fit it all into one view.
▪ Quinault Loop: Pass multiple waterfalls on this loop through lush rain forest greenery.
BEST WILDFLOWER HIKES
▪ Skyline Trail Loop: Conservationist John Muir’s words are carved into the steps at the beginning of this hike and let visitors know what lies ahead: “the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens”.
▪ Skyline Divide: Heather, aster, daisies, and lupine add a kaleidoscope of color to a ridge with up-close views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan.
▪ Grand Valley: Look for scarlet paintbrush, bluebells-of-Scotland, and more on this hike.
▪ Dog Mountain: Colorful lupine, columbine, balsamroot, and other wildflowers attract so many visitors that you need a permit to visit in spring.
▪ Cowiche Canyon: Golden balsamroot and pink bitterroot add spring color to the arid terrain near Yakima.
BEST DOG-FRIENDLY HIKES
▪ High Rock Lookout: Dogs aren’t allowed on trails at Mount Rainier, but this hike just outside the park is the next best thing.
▪ Lake Twenty-Two: This climb past waterfalls, giant cedars, and a serene lake is a lovely treat for both you and your pet.
▪ Mount Ellinor: Young, fit dogs will love this short but steep hike, and you’ll love the views.
▪ Coyote Wall (Labyrinth Loop): This is the rare hiking trail with an off-leash season.
▪ Badger Mountain: Leashes are available to borrow at the trailhead.
EASY WATERFALL WALKS
The Pacific Northwest’s renowned precipitation makes it quintessential waterfall country, and many don’t demand a thigh-burning workout to appreciate. Visit in the spring to see them flowing at full force.
Distance/Duration: 1.9 miles round-trip, 1 hour
Trailhead: Storm King Ranger Station, Olympic National Park
Depart from the ranger station and pass beach access to Crescent Lake before using a narrow tunnel to travel under U.S. 101. From here, the wide, smooth Marymere Falls Nature Trail passes two trails over a 0.5-mile stretch leading to the intersection with the Barnes Creek Trail. Turn right, cross bridges spanning Barnes and Falls Creeks, and climb 39 steps to a loop with two viewing areas (separated by 51 steps) of the 90-foot cascade splashing down a mossy cliff. After finishing the loop, return the way you came or explore other trails in the area.
SOL DUC FALLS
Distance/Duration: 1.8 miles round-trip, 45 minutes
Trailhead: end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, Olympic National Park
Sol Duc Creek splits into three falls, plummeting nearly 50 feet into a narrow canyon. A bridge and viewing platform overlook the falls, located next to the Canyon Creek Shelter. Built in 1939, the shelter is a year younger than Olympic National Park.
Distance/Duration: 1.4 miles round-trip, 45 minutes
Trailhead: Salish Lodge, Snoqualmie
You can see Snoqualmie Falls’ dramatic 270-foot plunge just a few steps beyond the Salish Lodge, but the 0.7-mile walk from this upper viewing area to the Snoqualmie River greatly enhances your visit. The trail is wide, steep, and lined with salmonberries, elderberries, sword ferns, vine maple, and other flora. At the bottom of the trail hikers pass a massive turbine and sections of pipe from hydroelectric plants that have harnessed the river’s energy since 1898. The falls’ significance to the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe predates the power plants; the tribe considered the falls to be the birthplace of their people. Follow a boardwalk along the river to the lower viewing area. If the trail seems too steep, you can drive to the lower parking lot.
Distance/Duration: 2 miles round-trip, 1 hour
Trailhead: Forest Road 5830 north of Denny Creek Campground, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Wander a family-friendly trail along the South Fork Snoqualmie River and stand at the foot of a 70-foot cascade. Just beyond the intersection with the Wagon Road Trail (an option for the return trip), descend to the base of the falls. Be careful: The rocks can be slippery and debris sometimes washes over the falls or drops from surrounding cliffs. In wintertime when the falls freeze (and closed roads might make this trip longer), there is the risk of avalanche from the steep slopes of Denny Mountain. With an elevated stretch of I-90 passing above, the area is a striking intersection of nature and civilization.
Distance/Duration: 1.4 miles round-trip, 45 minutes
Trailhead: Palouse Falls State Park parking lot
Visible just a few steps beyond the parking lot, this stunning, nearly 200-foot plunge in the Palouse River takes almost no effort to view. However, a path at the north end of the parking lot takes hikers to the less-visited upper falls. You’ll follow a path right along the edge of the canyon and gaze down at the massive falls, then make a steep descent through a hillside slit to active railroad tracks. Follow the trail along the tracks before descending the talus slope to the canyon floor and the upper falls.
SEATTLE AND VICINITY
Water or mountains? Vibrant city or the solitude of nature? The Seattle and Puget Sound area is an ideal hub for adventurers who don’t want to make these tough choices. Twenty-five miles is all that separates the sound-view paths at Discovery Park from the short trail climbing to Poo Poo Point on Tiger Mountain. Whether you want to watch birds on the Nisqually Delta, explore history on Whidbey Island, or take in the majestic view from atop Oyster Dome, Puget Sound offers abundant opportunities within two hours of Seattle. And if you want to test your legs in the mountains, it’s less than 40 minutes to North Bend, home of scenic local favorites such as Mailbox Peak, Mount Si, and the Rattlesnake Ledges.
1 Oyster Dome
2 Deception Pass: Rosario Head and Lighthouse Point
3 Ebey’s Landing
4 Discovery Park Loop
5 Poo Poo Point via Chirico Trail
6 Rattlesnake Ledges
7 Mount Si
8 Twin Falls
9 Mailbox Peak: Old-New Loop
10 Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail
1 Oyster Dome
BLANCHARD STATE FOREST
Use forest trails to climb from an inspiring trailhead panorama to another sweeping view of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.
BEST: Winter Hikes
DISTANCE: 3.9 miles round-trip
DURATION: 2 hours
ELEVATION CHANGE: 1,200 feet
TRAIL: Dirt trail, roots, rocks
USERS: Hikers, leashed dogs, mountain bikers, horseback riders
PASSES/FEES: Discover Pass
MAPS: USGS topographic map for Bow
HOURS: One hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset
CONTACT: Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Northwest Region, 360/856-3500, www.dnr.wa.gov/blanchard
The view from the parking lot at the Samish Overlook would be the highlight of a lot of hikes. Farmland and Samish Bay are below you, the San Juan Islands are in the distance, and paragliders launch into the sky in the foreground. It’s hard to believe, but even better views await those willing to take a short hike through Blanchard State Forest.
START THE HIKE
MILE 0-0.4: Samish Overlook to Samish Bay Connector
Follow the gravel path north from the grassy Samish Overlook. After about four steps, stay right at an intersection with a short loop trail. After a few more steps, a sign pointing the way to Oyster Dome and Chuckanut Drive lets you know you’re heading in the right direction.
Descend gradually through the trees on the Chuckanut Trail, a path that’s part of the 1,200-mile-long Pacific Northwest Trail between Montana and the Pacific Ocean. After 0.4 mile turn right to join the Samish Bay Connector. (To the left, the trail drops 1.4 miles and 900 feet to an unofficial trailhead on Chuckanut Drive; some start there to get in a little extra climbing. However, state officials ask hikers to start from the overlook.)
MILE 0.4-1.65: Samish Bay Connector to Oyster Dome Trail
The climbing is gradual at first but a steep stack of switchbacks completes the 1.25-mile connection to the Oyster Dome Trail. While crossing streams and passing under cedars and Douglas firs it’s easy to see why the 4,500-acre forest has a long logging history. Today timber and biomass (residual limbs and small pieces of wood) are sold by the state to help fund schools, roadwork, hospitals, and other services. Before the junction with the Oyster Dome Trail, pass a mangled interpretive sign explaining that a mile-high glacier creeped through this area 18,000 years ago.
MILE 1.65-1.95: Oyster Dome Trail to Oyster Dome
Continue straight as you join the Oyster Dome Trail. The path is a bit vague as it approaches a creek, but it becomes clearer after you step over the stream. Finish this 0.3-mile stretch by scampering over rocks and roots and then popping out of the trees onto a rock outcropping with views of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympics. Look for bald eagles and other birds circling overhead. Watch your step as you snap photos and stake out a place to relax; the rock is slippery when it’s wet.
The most direct route back to Samish Overlook is to return the way you came.
From I-5 north of Mount Vernon, take exit 240 and turn west (left for northbound traffic and right for southbound traffic) onto Lake Samish Road. In about 0.5 mile turn left on Barrell Springs Road. Drive 0.7 mile and turn right onto Blanchard Hill Trail Road. After 1.6 miles turn left at a sign directing you to the Samish Overlook. Continue 2.2 miles to the overlook. A restroom is near the trailhead.
GPS COORDINATES: 48.609757, -122.426313 / N48° 36.5854’ W122° 25.5788’
2 Deception Pass: Rosario Head and Lighthouse Point
- On Sale
- Mar 2, 2021
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Moon Travel