Top 10 hikes around Washington
Karen Daubert of Washington Trails Association shares her wealth of knowledge — and opinions — on where to trek in the Evergreen State.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Northwest travel guides
Wildflowers are blooming. Mountain trails are thawing. For many Seattleites, May — especially Memorial Day weekend — signals the time to dust off those hiking boots.
The choices are endless in our backyard. Where to begin?
We asked Karen Daubert, executive director of Washington Trails Association, to name a Top 10 list of hikes in our state, either for day trips or weekend getaways.
Her trails advocacy group runs arguably the most popular hiking website in Washington, wta.org, with 2.7 million unique visitors annually. WTA has detailed descriptions and maps of 3,314 hikes (and counting).
Daubert has done half of those hikes, including every one in the Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass corridors. A former attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, she takes about 50 hikes every year, including summiting about 30 peaks.
She’s perplexed that other Seattleites aren’t taking enough advantage of the outdoors.
“You can access the Olympics, Mount Rainier, the Cascades and all the volcanoes within a couple of hours,” she said. “I can go to Tiger Mountain after work and be at a trailhead in 45 minutes.
“I love hikes with views, even in the middle of winter. I would snowshoe, I would ski — just to get to a high point and just look at the beauty of the Northwest. There’s nothing like it. Nothing like it.”
Here’s her list of Top 10 Washington hikes, in no particular order. Accompanying comments are hers:
• Chelan Lakeshore Trail, Lake Chelan. 17 miles one-way from Prince Creek to Stehekin; 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Best time to go: April-June; September-October.
The best spring backpack involves a boat ride three-quarters of the way up Lake Chelan and a trek north to the town of Stehekin along shimmering waters and snowy peaks.
Lake Chelan is unique in its beauty, depth, geography and history and I have enjoyed hiking almost all of its many trails. The boat ride alone is an adventure.
• Easy Pass, North Cascades Highway. 7 miles round trip; 2,800 feet gain . Best time: late-July through October
It isn’t easy but absolutely beautiful. Hikers forget about their toils with high alpine views punctuated by vivid wildflowers in summer and golden larches in fall.
The view from the pass, of the North Cascades and Ragged Ridge, is spectacular, and compared to nearby Maple Pass this trail doesn’t see many people.
• Skyscraper Pass, Mount Rainier National Park. 8 miles round trip; 850 feet gain . Best time: late-July through September
Follow the Wonderland Trail, which circles the mountain, to Skyscraper Pass. In August, Mount Rainier is framed in masses of purple lupine. It’s an easy scramble up a clear trail to Skyscraper Mountain with even better views.
This was my first hike with my family when I was 10. The mountain is visible in all its glory as is Grand Park, Burroughs Mountain and many other nearby favorites.
• Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park. Up to 12 miles round trip; 3,600 feet gain . Best: mid-July through September
It’s one of the most stunning hikes in the state, and the trail to Cascade Pass is easy and short enough for kids and those with creaky knees. Those with extra energy will find the push up to Sahale Ridge worth the extra effort. This area offers access to some of Washington’s most challenging mountains.
• Harry’s Ridge, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. 8 miles round trip; 200 feet gain. Best time: May through October
The best way to understand what happened at Mount St. Helens in 1980 is to walk in the path of the blast. This trail takes hikers from the crowded Johnston Ridge Observatory to a point overlooking stark Spirit Lake. Hikers can see the regrowth close-up and get views of the volcano and blast zone.
This is a must-do hike. We have a volcano in our own backyard. My favorite adventure is to combine Harry’s Ridge with the Coldwater Lake Trail and to continue for as long as my legs and the sunlight carry me.
• Little Bandera, Snoqualmie Pass (westside). 7 miles round trip; 2,850 feet gain . Best time: July through October
Starting on the popular and wide Ira Spring Trail, the path turns steep as hikers make their way up Little Bandera Mountain. If you go during summer, there’s ample reason to rest on your way up — dancing white beargrass glowing in the midday sun. The views are amazing as you look down on the freeway.
This is my favorite trail on the Interstate-90 corridor. It’s not as crowded as nearby trails. The views from the top include the peaks and valleys of the beautiful Alpine Lakes.
• Polallie Ridge, Teanaway. 8 miles round trip; 3,000 feet gain . Best time: June to early July, and fall
Teanaway is the place to go on those dreary June weekends when you think that summer will never arrive. This trail provides plenty of sunshine along a steep trail. There are amazing wildflowers and bird life.
I like all the trails in Teanaway — especially the fact that many can be made into loops. This is special because of its views of the Stuart Range.
• Horseshoe Basin, North Central Washington. 12 miles round trip; 1,550 feet gain . Best time: July through September
This is high, rolling country near the Canadian border with numerous peaks to climb and lakes to lounge by. Hikers will want to backpack into this spectacular area and stay for a while. Allowing less than a week would mean missing out. I touched 17 summits in six days and got to enjoy the Boundary Trail, 73 miles long.
• Mount Townsend, Olympic Peninsula. 8.2 miles round trip; 2,900 feet gain . Best time: July through September
This trail takes hikers from old growth and Pacific rhododendrons to a lofty summit with views of Puget Sound islands, the Seattle skyline and a Cascade mountain backdrop, as well as a front-row seat into the wilderness of the Olympic mountains.
• Ozette Triangle, Olympic National Park coastline. 9.4 miles round trip; 300 feet gain . Best time: Year-round
Washington boasts amazing scenery all along the coast, but this trail offers something the others don’t: a loop option. Whether you go to Cape Alava or Sand Point, it’s three miles along the sometimes slippery boardwalk punctuated by three miles of spectacular beach and ancient petroglyphs.
I can’t end a list of favorite hikes without talking about our dramatic coast. I like this one in the winter when there are dramatic storms, spectacular surf and no crowds.
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