Here’s a guide to just a few of our favorite hiking trails in Washington.
YOU WANT: Wildflowers
FIND IT: Umtanum Creek Trail, Umtanum Creek Recreation Area
THE HIKE: Carved by the Yakima River, this wild canyon is filled with the scent of sagebrush and juniper. And the ground bursts with technicolor blooms of ochre shooting stars, balsamroot, bluebells, golden currants, lupines and flowering cactuses. Share the sights with mountain goats and flocks of bald eagles.
YOU WANT: Hot Springs
FIND IT: Olympic Hot Springs Trail, Olympic National Park
THE HIKE: Once the site of a rustic resort, the springs are accessed by a 3-mile walk down an abandoned road and were returned to their natural state by the National Park Service in the 1970s. Pretend you’re Goldilocks as you pick between a series of seven rock-lined, bubbling soaking pools that vary from 85 to 105 degrees.
YOU WANT: Big Trees
FIND IT: Grove of the Patriarchs, Mount Rainier National Park
THE HIKE: Sheltered from forest fires by the nearby Ohanapecosh River and a network of small creeks, the western hemlocks, Douglas firs and western red cedars found at the end of this easy half-mile walk are estimated to be 800 to 1,000 years old. Apparently, that was ample time for these goliaths to fill out: Their trunks exceed 25 feet in circumference and some soar up to 300 feet high.
YOU WANT: Fall Foliage
FIND IT: Sherman Peak Loop, Colville National Forest
THE HIKE: Washingtonians call it a “Larch March”: a fall trek into the great outdoors to witness the state’s larch trees, one of the few varieties of conifer that turn golden yellow in autumn before shedding their needles. See hundreds of them ablaze on this 5-mile loop around 7,000-foot Sherman Peak, set in a million-acre wilderness.
YOU WANT: Wild Berries
FIND IT: Little Huckleberry Mountain, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
THE HIKE: Southwest Washington’s sunny climes produce some of the state’s most intensely flavored berries. A veritable explosion of sweet berry bushes lines the upper reaches of this 2.5-mile hike to the top of 4,780-foot Little Huckleberry Mountain. At the summit, chomp on sweet views of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Big Lava Bed, a snaking 9-mile stretch of blackened rock that oozed forth from a now-extinct volcano.
YOU WANT: To See Sasquatch
FIND IT: Silver Star Mountain, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
THE HIKE: A photo snapped by a hiker in 2005 captured the silhouette of an ape-like form standing atop this 4,300-foot mountain. Add it to the pile of compelling tales of run-ins with the legendary beast near Skamania in southwest Washington. Even sans Bigfoot, the 5-mile trail makes hearts pump year-round with dazzling spring wildflower displays and blasts of fall color.
YOU WANT: A Fire Lookout
FIND IT: Hidden Lake Trail, North Cascades National Park
THE HIKE: Channel the spirit of writers like Jack Kerouac and Edward Abbey—both of whom logged time in Pacific Northwest fire lookouts—with a 4.5-mile trek to this historic sentinel perched on a jumbled pile of granite stones atop 6,890-foot Hidden Lake Peak. Built in 1931, the tower is maintained by volunteers and sports 360-degree views of Cascade Pass and Hidden Lake.
Photo: Desolation Peak Fire Lookout in North Cascades National Park