Five great Washington hikes
I’m a nature lover and have enjoyed hiking for many years (not telling you how many coz you’ll guess my age). We moved to the PNW about fourteen years ago and I was in heaven with the variety of hikes that are here. Here is a short list of 5 great Washington hikes, starting with the easiest and shortest.
1. Rattlesnake Ledge Trail, North Bend Area
This super popular trail is an easy walk to the most amazing view point over the Snoqualmie Valley. It is off the 90 freeway a little after the North Bend area. The trail is a gradual uphill and is 4 miles round trip. You can also see Mt Si and Little Si from the top. Be forewarned this is one of the most Instagrammed views and it is incredibly popular as a hike, so try to either get here early in the morning or around mid afternoon in order to find parking. There is no fee for the parking. Here’s a link for more info.
The view at Rattle Snake Ledge is incredible.
2. Discovery Park, Seattle
This is my favorite park to go to in Seattle, mostly because I’m able to find sea glass here on the beach near the light house which I use in my sea glass jewelry designs. Amazingly enough, it is really close to the urban part of Seattle and is located in the Magnolia neighborhood. The fact that it is an urban park may explain the reason why I always find sea glass here.
The snag with this park is that unless you have a disabled parking permit, the parking lots are located 1 ½ miles from the beach areas. You will most probably be walking on the loop trail and either aiming for the “South Beach” or the “North Beach”. Both are worth going to and the lighthouse on the Sound separates these two beaches. No matter which way you go, you will have an uphill walk and then a downhill walk and this is rev eased on your return walk. Don't worry the walk is gorgeous and to get to the beaches you will walk through incredible Pacific Northwest forests and have sublime views of the Puget Sound. You need not worry about the tides for both beaches as there is a pathway between them at the base of the historic lighthouse. There is no charge at all for Discovery Park and it is in the AAA Washington Book and is marked as a “gem” which means it’s a top spot to visit. Here’s a link to the park’s website:
The lighthouse at Discovery Park is quite iconic, the beach has great beach combing for sea glass too.
3. Natches Peak Loop Trail, Just outside Mt. Rainier Park
My husband and I did this easy loop trail at the end of the wild flower season and we were not disappointed by the views and the stunning valleys of wildflowers. It's a 3.2 mile round trip which is best done clockwise and has an elevation gain of 600ft which is why I've said it's easy. You park just above Tipsoo lake or at Sheep's Lake trailhead and then hop onto the Pacific Crest trail Or PCT as hikers know it.
Here's the view from the side of the road where you may park just above Tipsoo Lake.
It's best to try to time this hike with good weather because the views are incredible. If you are lucky you may be able to see Mt. Rainier as you come around onto the west flank of Natches Peak. You do need a Northwest Forest Pass for this trail. We've only don't this trail in the warmer months and when we did a trail across the valley in 2020 we could see that there was still a lot of snow on this trail in early July. I'm pretty sure by mid July it would have melted though.
Aren't these wildflowers glorious?
Queen Anne's lace flowers nodding gracefully beside an alpine lake. I make a mini pendant from Queen Anne's lace flowers, you can see it here.
4. Lena Lake, Olympic Peninsula
This is our family’s favorite local hike to go to in the summer because it’s about 1 hour from the Olympia area where we live. The trail is about 7 miles round trip depending on how much of the lake circumference you explore. It has fairly continuous switchbacks as you ascend to the lake from the Forest Service road (#25 off the US 101), in other words you have to be a little fit for this trail. I usually enjoy looking at the native plants as we hike up and checking their potential for my nature inspired jewelry, like these fine silver fern pendants.
Fine silver pendant from real fern leaf
Walking through the forest to the lake is an experience of its own. In the spring you might be lucky enough to see some rhododendrons blooming and in the fall the vine leaf maples are glorious red shades. The views of the lake are pretty amazing too and it’s a very refreshing lake to swim in too during the summer. You do need to pay a $5 day fee. Here’s a link for info on that.
And here’s the link for info on Lena Lake:
Enjoy the peaceful alpine surroundings at Lena Lake
The native vine leaf maples are particularly beautiful in the Fall season.
5. Mt. Rainier Sunrise Rim Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park
This lovely 5.5 mile hike is a loop trail leaving from the Sunrise Visitor center in Mt. Rainier National Park. You can visit this area any time of the year and have fun snow shoeing here, playing on the sledding area in the snow, hiking to see the wildflowers in July and August and in the early Fall to see the heathers and the wild huckleberries start getting their rich autumnal colors. Even in July you may encounter short patches of snow that you’ll traverse over in order to stay on the trail. We’ve seen marmots and ptarmigans on this trail and of course incredible wild flowers. If you have kids with you, a fun activity to do is pick up a brochure from the Sunrise Visitor Center that has the wildflower varieties and try to check all of them off. This may be impossible as the flowers have different bloom times, but kids do like a good scavenger hunt and you can always reward them with a soft serve ice cream from the visitor center cafeteria for doing this. Make sure you bring enough water bottles for this hike as it can be quite hot in the summer months and you can get quite thirsty. It is also at quite an elevation so be aware that you may get a headache if you are not used to higher elevations. There is a park entrance fee of $25 which is valid for 7 days. It’s obtainable at the park entrance.
Here’s a good link for Mt. Rainier:
Gorgeous alpine valleys and wild flowers on Mt Rainier will make you think you are in Paradise.
I hope you've enjoyed my 5 favorite Washington hikes and I hope I’ve inspired you to get out and try a new trail and to get out and appreciate the little details of nature while getting some fresh air and exercise. I'm sure you have your favorite hikes too. Please leave them in the comments below so that we can try your favorite ones. I'm always game for discovering more of Washington's beauty.
In case you also love nature inspired or jewelry formed by the forces of nature, you can find those here.