After an extremely mild winter that made it possible for hardy souls with proper traction devices to do summer hikes in February, overcrowded trailhead parking lots signal the summer hiking season is now officially here. About a year ago I wrote about summer hikes close to Seattle (which I would link here if I was more WordPress savvy). Since then I’ve expanded my hiking radius, and since summer is made for sequels, I’m going to write about some of my favorite hikes from last summer. As always, wta.org is the best source about hiking trails in Washington; consider this my personal take on a handful of the hikes you can find there.
Heather Lake (Mountain Loop Highway) – This isn’t one of my top hikes, but I’m including it here because it’s a short hike that’s within about an hour of Seattle and can be enjoyable and pretty even when the weather isn’t great – I did it on one of the few crummy weather weekends we had last summer. This is close to Lake 22 but usually less crowded.
Hidden Lake Lookout (Marblemount) – Unless you have technical climbing skills, this truly is a summer hike. Some people did make it up during our mild winter, but I would never be so brave to try. Getting to the trailhead involves a white knuckle drive on a narrow and bumpy road with a number of blind curves with steep drop-offs, but the hike it worth it. You cross through forest, mountain meadows with expansive views and then eventually scramble up to a lookout with even better views. The lookout can be used for camping on a first-come, first-served basis, and it’s worth spending some time in it exploring the nooks and crannies.
Oyster Dome (Chuckanut Drive) – This hike can be done year-around, but since I did it for the first time last summer, I’m including it here. It’s also just about an hour from Seattle and a great workout. But the really great thing about this hike is the views of Puget Sound and the San Juans. There is a steep and slippery section near the top that really calls for hiking poles (especially on the way down), but the WTA has done work on the trail this spring, so that part might not be as treacherous anymore.
Park Butte (Concrete) – Go in midsummer for the wildflowers or go in late summer for the huckleberries. I did the latter and filled a container with enough berries to make a cobbler when I got home! Go any time of year for in-your-face views of Mt. Baker. This is another hike with a lookout that can be claimed for camping first-come, first-served, and I think the view from this one is even more breathtaking than Hidden Lake. Make sure check out the tarns once you come down from the lookout. You can also lengthen your hike by either taking the Railroad Grade climbers’ route toward Mt. Baker or taking the Scott Paul Trail loop.
This is the climbers’ route. You can make one of them out in the center of the photo – he’s carrying orange skis.
Tatoosh Ridge (Mt. Rainier) – This is a long day from Seattle, but the wildflowers and views of Mt. Rainier are incredible (with views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens to boot). It should say something that I enjoyed this hike despite not being able to figure out the proper turnaround point and going several miles more than planned, running out of water on an 85 degree day (what happens when you go farther than expected), being attacked by dozens of biting flies (next time I wear pants on this hike, no matter how hot it is) and eating a very dissatisfying Subway sandwich after returning to civilization in Enumclaw.
West Fork Foss River and Lakes (Skykomish) – Saving the best for last. I love alpine lakes, and this hike has five of them in seven miles (that’s each way – so 14+ miles total). Given the distance, this is a long day hike; it would be better as an overnight backpack if you’re into that sort of thing. You can shorten the hike by about four miles roundtrip by not going to Big Heart Lake. This hike will definitely be part of my regular summer rotation.
Little Heart Lake
Big Heart Lake
This summer I’m hoping to discover some new wildflower and lake hikes to write about next year.