The Pacific Northwest is known for being an outdoor playground, and Washington alone has 3,577 different hikes logged on its trail association website.
In the last few years, I’ve come to love hiking, and if I have a free weekend, you can count on me to be on the trails. This last year I’m proud to say I logged 175 miles, and in the past three years I’ve done over 60 unique hikes in Washington. Now, I’m happy to share my favorites of those hikes with you.
Comet Falls/Van Trump Park — Mount Rainier Area
This is one of the few hikes that Zach and I have repeated, and for good reason. It’s so beautiful that we take all our out of state visitors here. What kind of person wouldn’t be impressed with a 300-foot waterfall? Bring a raincoat too, because you’ll want to get up close!
Our last trip to Comet Falls ended differently. We finally made it past our usual turn around point at the falls and made it up to Van Trump Park. It’s one mile past Comet Falls (you’ll have already gained most of the elevation by the time you get to the falls), and you’ll reach a meadow. If you’re lucky and the weather is clear, you’ll have a very personal view of Mount Rainier.
Mount Storm King — Olympic National Park
I love Mount Storm King because its elevation is low enough to keep it accessible for most of the year, but it’s still a good workout. We did this hike in March of last year, and since we timed it with the perfect weather window, we made it all the way to the top without snow.
This one is not for those who fear heights, however. There are two steep rope sections with loose dirt to scramble up. Since you start below the ropes, you cannot tell how well the knots are holding at the top. That to me, was the sketchiest part. Zach (who does fear heights, and I’m proud to say, did make it to the top) probably hated the fact that there is a sheer cliff edge at the bottom of the ropes. Don’t slip!
If you do brave this hike, the views high above Lake Crescent are worth every step!
Fall is the perfect time to visit Summit Lake. I thought the fall colors looked beautiful from afar when we stopped at the lake shore, but when I hiked to Summit Peak and saw the changing leaves up close, they were even more beautiful. The view from Summit Peak was my favorite, even though I’ll have to make a trip back on a clear day to see Rainier.
Mount Ellinor — Olympic National Forest
The trail is one of the most well-maintained trails I’ve been on. It’s is beautiful the entire way and really challenges you while not requiring any technical climbing skills.
I started out from the upper trailhead, opting for the steep start rather than the lower trailheads gradual climb. The summit area isn’t large, so start this one extra early if you’d like to have space to yourself.
Skyscraper Mountain— Mount Rainier Area
If you’re hiking near the Sunrise Visitor Center on Rainier, do yourself a favor and go at sunrise. You’ll avoid the summertime crowds, bugs, and heat. Skyscraper Mountain is an 8-mile intermediate hike, although I found it to be easy up until the last half mile, where you gain most of the hike’s elevation. The summit itself is small, exposed, and rocky, but it will leave your head spinning, in the best of ways. You’ll have 360 degree views of the sunrise on one side and Mount Rainier on the other.
High Rock Lookout — South Cascades
Any fire lookout will provide amazing 360-degree views, but I love High Rock for its hike length and location. Location wise — It’s far enough away from Seattle that it sees fewer people than other popular fire lookouts like Tolmie Peak or Pilchuck. Its length is a steep 1.3 miles to the top. Quick, but still a thigh burner. Once at the top, you’ll be amazed by the stunning views and sheer cliffs.
The Enchantments — Central Cascades
I scored permits to backpack in the Enchantments last year. I carried a 32-pound pack and hiked a total of 22 miles with 9,150 feet of elevation gained. It was by far the toughest backpacking I’ve ever done.
Hiking anywhere in the Enchantments is a brutal task, but the views are always worth it. Day hiking requires no permits, and I recommend visiting Colchuck Lake to start.