For the past two years (and counting!) I have made it my goal to take at least one hike every single month. This has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made: not only has it helped me stay active, it has helped me remember that adventure is always attainable. Along the way, I’ve discovered some incredibly breathtaking places. Today, I am going to share my top 5 Pacific Northwest hiking spots:
5.) Palouse Falls, WA
If you want a short hike with high adrenaline, this is the place. It isn’t more than 4 miles round trip, but when half the trail gives you 12 inches between solid footing and sudden death, you won’t need a lengthier path! Dangle your feet over the edge of the 200 foot waterfall, then follow the area’s unofficial hiking trails to the bottom of the basin to gain a true appreciation for the power of falling water. To get to the bottom, use the series of ropes that hikers have tied to nearby trees and roots. Before hiking this trail, I highly recommend hitting up the historic Pataha Flour Mills for lunch, if it is on your way. Be sure and check their website to see if they are open when you plan your trip!
Note: Use extreme caution. These trails are dangerous enough that Palouse Falls State Park has disowned them and holds no responsibility to hikers. People have died from falling here, so do NOT mess around on this hike. Also, parking costs $10.
4.) Big Eddy Recreation Trail, ID
This enchanting 10-mile long trail starts at the Big Eddy Marina in Ahsahka, Idaho and follows the shoreline of the Dworshak Reservoir, ending at Dworkshak State Park in Lenore, Idaho. This trail is perfect for first-time backpackers, as there are a number of primitive campsites along it and lots of water available to filter. I recommend hiking it in mid to late October, when the weather is mildly cool and the bushes inside the pine forest are changing color, as in the photo above. If you intend to backpack it, however, shoot for late June-September to avoid chilly and potentially wet nights.
Note: You may park at the Big Eddy Marina for free. If you park on the Dworshak State Park side of the trail, you will be charged $5 for day parking and $10 to park overnight.
3.) Goat Peak, WA
This was my very first “big” hike, done while I was a teen at summer camp. This trail is around 5 miles round trip and climbs 1,400 feet up to a mountain top fire watch tower. Your total elevation will be 7,001 feet and you’ll feel it as you take in the spectacular panoramic views of central Washington. Be sure to climb up the watch tower stairs and say hi to the ranger at the top! This hike can easily be done in an afternoon, but despite the relatively short distance, you truly feel like you’ve accomplished something due to the elevation.
Note: You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead. It takes 1.5 hours to get to the trailhead from Mazama, WA. The roads are very bumpy and run through an open-range cattle area, so be aware!
2.) Tunnel Falls, OR
This is one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve ever done, hands down. If you love lush green forests, waterfalls, and are not afraid of heights, this is the place for you! This trail was blasted into the side of rock walls in the Columbia River Gorge in the early 1900’s, just because they thought it would be a neat place for a trail- and they were right. Plan to start early, as this hike is a 12 mile round trip, and if you’re like me, you will want to stop and admire all the gorgeous waterfalls along the route.
Note: There is a $5 parking fee at the trailhead. Trails in this region have strong potential to be slippery, and portions of it have very large drop offs. I would not recommend this trail for pets or small children.
1.) The Wallowas, OR
These mountains have been nicknamed “The Little Alps”, and understandably so! My all-time favorite hiking spot is in these mountains is the Ice Lake Trail, which is accessible via the West Fork of the Wallowa Trail, just up the road from the Wallowa Lake Tramway. My favorite thing about the Ice Lake Trail is the frequent presence of waterfalls and mountain streams, from which you can freely drink the best water you’ve ever tasted. If you have backpacking gear, you can follow the trail 11 miles into the mountains to Ice Lake, however if you can only do a day hike, I still strongly recommend following this trail as far as you’re able. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it- the views still take my breath away!
Note: Parking is free at the picnic spot next to the trail head. The best time of year to come is July-September; prior to this the trails become impassable at high elevations due to snow. If you don’t plan to hike for more than a day, you can come as early as May to enjoy cooler weather.
Do you have any favorite Pacific Northwest trails? Feel free to comment below or drop me an email! I would love to explore your top picks.
Sarah Iddings is the writer of the Adventure of Sair travel blog. She loves being outside and is a wizard of cheap excursions. You can learn more about her and her projects at www.sarahiddings.com. If you wish to get in touch, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy trails!