It’s the beginning of 2017, and I took a little time to reflect on some of the places we explored this past year, specifically where we hiked.
During the summer months here in Seattle, we try to get out for a hike pretty much every weekend — usually in Cascades — and while we didn’t get out as much as we did in 2015, we managed to hike some epic trails and even got a little more into snowshoeing.
Here’s three of my favorite hikes around Washington state that we explored in 2016:
The first, most important thing about this hike is that it leaves from the parking lot at the Rainy Pass PICNIC AREA. Not the Rainy Pass trailhead, which is on the other side of the road and leads you onto a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. We learned this the hard way by hiking about a mile and a half along the wrong trail. I was suspicious by the the third creek crossing, since I hadn’t read anything about water crossings in the trail description. We alerted some fellow confused hikers who arrived in the parking lot as we were getting back in order to head to the correct trailhead. Lucky them.
But once you’re on the right trail for the Heather-Maple Pass Loop trail (7.2 miles, 2000 ft. elevation gain), it’s fantastic.
It starts in the forest and climbs for a bit. About 1.25 miles in, you can break off to Lake Ann, which is pretty muddy and marshy so early in the season. It was kind of cool to see from below before you climb above it, since the whole area is carved out by glaciers. But honestly, it was underwhelming compared with how amazing the views are on the way up to the pass. If you’re pressed for time or don’t want to add another couple miles, it’s okay to skip.
We hiked this on July 4th weekend, and there was still considerable snow at Maple Pass, starting just after Heather Pass. We attempted to traverse it since we had microspikes and hiking poles (better equipped than most other hikers that day), but we got a little sketched out on the steepest slopes approaching the pass. It probably would have been fine, but it was late in the season and a hot day and we didn’t want to risk falling down the mountain. We saw one person successfully make it over the pass.
I have a fairly prominent fear of heights (that I’ve really only discovered by hiking in the PNW), and the slopes, both covered in snow and not, tested my fear for sure. Just don’t look down, just don’t look down.
This hike is great even as an out-and-back, rather than a loop, and it’s definitely worth an overnight trip out to the North Cascades. We’re planning to go back this year and complete the loop for sure.
We really like the Sunrise area of Mount Rainer National Park. It’s a little less crazy than Paradise and offers some really unbelievable views of the mountain and surrounding areas.
In late September, we camped at the White River campground in the park and finally hiked the Fremont Lookout trail (5.6 miles, 800 ft. elevation gain) that leaves from the Sourdough Ridge Trailhead near the Sunrise Visitor Center.