A beautiful thing about living in Washington is the myriad hiking possibilities. One can head to enormous mountains, temperate rainforest, beach, or dry canyons – there are endless options. Living in Seattle means I can enjoy the cultural city life without giving up on outdoor activities. In fact, outdoor recreation is emphasized more here than in many more rural places I’ve lived. This year, I both cross-country skied and snow shoed for the first time, hiked quite a bit, camped several times, and collected mushrooms and berries. The following is a summary of the hikes I took this year – hopefully they’ll give you some ideas, whether you live nearby or are visiting.
This one requires tire chains to get up to Paradise, but it is worth the hassle. We rented snowshoes in Ashford and tramped around on the trails near Paradise for a few hours. The weather fluctuated between snowy and mostly sunny. Mount Rainer was reluctant to peek out of the clouds, but even so, we had amazing views. There were quite a few skiers enjoying the mountainside as well.
I was totally enamored with Winthrop after first visiting it autumn of last year. We returned for a weekend, when the yellow balsamroots were rioting all over the hills. On our hike we saw magpies, lizards, and – eek! – a rattlesnake. We also traversed through areas that had been burned in wildfires the year before. The next morning, we went hot air ballooning, but that is another story.
We took a weekend to camp by Lake Ozette on the Olympic Peninsula. On Saturday, we drove out to Cape Flattery, where we took a short hike to the point. Alas, we spotted no puffins. However, we had fun with the crabs galore on a nearby beach we stopped at.
Snow Lake is relatively close to Seattle, and as such, it’s pretty crowded. My friends and I left in the early morning to beat the rush. Our views of the lake we obstructed that morning by dense fog, but that lent its own atmosphere. On the way up to the lake, we still saw some beautiful views of wisps of cloud stretching over the tree-lined ridges below.
The Mount Baker area has some of the most incredible hikes – not to mention our go-to camping spot – and Skyline Divide is a gem. The ascent is more than worth the subsequent view, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, since the only source at the top is snow, if present.
So many berries! Blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries galore; you might not even need to bring your own snacks. Here is a warning, however: at the split in the trail, turn left toward the lake rather than continue toward the right like we did, which added a few miles to our hike. No matter, because there were more berries down this less-trafficked path. After correcting our error, we made it to the gorgeous lake.
I thought Skyline Divide was my favorite hike until we did Ptarmigan Ridge. Wow. No matter where you are on the hike, the views are stunning. If you’re lucky, Mount Baker will make an appearance. The day we were there, the weather shifted from light snow to sun. There were still snowy patches along the hike – the accessible window for traversing this one is brief. The hike itself is a good distance: about nine miles, round trip. A lot of people turn around early, where the hike rounds Coleman Pinnacle, but I recommend going all the way to the plateau where the Portals (rock formations) can be seen. Beyond that, the trail becomes more difficult to follow and requires mountaineering skill, so we turned back. Happily, as we made our way out, Mount Baker briefly came into view. Bonus: there were tons of tasty huckleberries along the trail, and I collected and ate quite a few toward the end of the hike.
We already have hikes saved in our Washington Trails Association account for next year. It can be difficult to choose between an old favorite hike and a new adventure (or skipping the grand views and diving into thicker woods for mushroom hunting), but having the choice is a great thing. Happy trails.∗