Top 10 Washington Hikes
It's been 30 years since I first hiked in Washington State—and 25 since I relocated there permanently. In that time I have logged over 17,000 trail miles in the Evergreen State, many of them in my Oboz boots*.
With so much ground explored, I should be qualified to proclaim a Top Ten Washington Hikes list, right? Tough task. I have hundreds of favorites from over two thousand different trails. Still. People love lists. I love lists. So here is my best effort. Enjoy!
1. Sourdough Mountain, North Cascades National Park, 11 miles roundtrip; 5,100 feet of vertical: Heather Romano (my wife) stares out at Diablo Lake from high up on Sourdough Mountain. All photos: Craig Romano.
The arduous haul to the historic lookout atop Sourdough Mountain is worth every ounce of sweat you'll expend. And you'll expend plenty! But a panorama of craggy, spiraling, glacier-cloaked, cloud-piercing peaks, and, directly below, surrealistic turquoise-tinted Diablo Lake is worth it.
2. Hidden Lake Lookout, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 9 miles roundtrip; 3,300 feet of vertical: Traverse alpine meadows, shiny granite slabs, and glistening snowfields to reach an historic fire lookout precariously perched on a craggy 6,890-foot thumb. Then stand mouth agape as you stare down at shimmering Hidden Lake. It's cradled in a half-frozen hanging valley surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains on the continent.
3. Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, 12 miles roundtrip; 3,800 feet of vertical: From a lofty start beneath the fierce face of 8,200-foot Johannesburg Mountain, follow a route once used by Native Americans, explorers, prospectors, and surveyors to cross the North Cascades at 5,400-feet Cascade Pass. Then head up a steep open ridge to the toe of Sahale Glacier.
4. Marmot Pass, Buckhorn Wilderness, Olympic National Forest,10.6 miles roundtrip; 3,500 feet of vertical: This trail captures the very essence of what makes the Olympics so darned special. Hike along a tumbling pristine river traversing towering old-growth forests and resplendent alpine meadows. Reach a lofty pass with horizon-spanning views that include majestic snow-clad spires and the Seattle skyline across Puget Sound.
5. Grand Ridge, Olympic National Park, 7.4 miles one-way: 2,400 feet of vertical: Views from this open ridge are indeed grand, as are the wildflowers and this trail, which is the highest in the Olympics. Enjoy nonstop views of jagged glacier-covered peaks, deep emerald valleys of unbroken old-growth forest, and miles of wildflower-saturated meadows and alpine tundra.
6. Summerland, Mount Rainier National Park, 8.6 miles; 2,000 feet of vertical: Follow the Wonderland Trail through majestic old-growth forest to a high basin. Then enter the sprawling alpine meadows of Summerland and be dazzled by Mount Rainier and its impressive Fryingpan Glacier.
7. Indian Bar, Mount Rainier National Park, 15.0 miles roundtrip; 4,100 feet of vertical: Follow the Wonderland Trail through primeval forest to the flowering alpine meadows of the Cowlitz Divide. Then descend to the famed Indian Bar, a large gravel bar on the glacier-fed Ohanapecosh River once used by Native peoples as a camp. Admire Wauhaukaupauken Falls thundering down a narrow chasm and marvel at a CCC-built stone shelter sitting in meadows above the river.
8. Coldwater Peak, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 12.8 miles roundtrip; 1,900 feet of vertical: It's an exhilarating hike up steep flowered slopes and through a natural rock arch to this anvil shaped peak within the 1980 blast zone. But the views are among the best in the monument. Stare straight down to sparkling St. Helens Lake in a high bowl above sprawling Spirit Lake set against America's most famous volcano.
9. Hawkeye Point, Goat Rocks Wilderness, 11.0 miles round trip; 2,700 feet of vertical: Stand upon a 7,431-foot rocky precipice and gaze straight down into a barren cirque whose lake is frozen much of the year. Giant volcanoes Adams, Rainier, and St Helens surround you. And scores of mountain goats roam the alpine tundra carpeting the slopes of this old lookout site.
10. Gypsy Peak, Salmo-Priest Wilderness, Selkirk Mountains, 8.0 miles round trip; 3,350 feet of vertical: Tucked in the northeast corner of the state bordering Idaho and British Columbia, Gypsy Peak is Eastern Washington's highest summit and one of the state's wildest mountains. Hike up Crowell Ridge through open forest and berry patches home to a handful of grizzly bears. Then head off trail on a rugged ridge to Gypsy's rocky summit hovering over a couple of alpine lakes set in lonely basins.
* My all-around Oboz for exploring is the Firebrand; My shoe for going light and far is the Traverse; and my shoe for backpacking and difficult terrain is the Sawtooth Mid.
Craig Romano is an award-winning author of more than a dozen hiking books on Washington State. Visit him at CraigRomano.com and on Facebook at "Craig Romano Guidebook Author."