Talapus and Olallie Lakes

This Saturday, the weather was 65° and sunny–much too beautiful to not go out hiking. We decided on Talapus and Olallie Lakes off Exit 45 in North Bend, which is an approximately 6 mile round-trip trek featuring very well-paved trails and a modest incline. To get to the trailhead, you have to drive up a relatively windy gravel road which could get slippery in the winter–drive carefully, as there are a couple switchbacks with steep dropoffs on the outside edges. At the trailhead, there is a parking lot big enough for at least 20 cars, a restroom, and a self-serve pay station for anyone who doesn’t have a Northwest Forest Pass.

The first couple miles of the hike are fairly easy, though there are a few steeper stretches. Be careful of the many roots along the trail, and of the muddy sections (at least this time of year)–there were parts where almost my entire boot sunk through. I would highly recommend waterproof boots and/or gaiters, but they’re not strictly necessary. There are several places where you can see running water Continue reading

Skyline Divide

After much too long a stretch of busy, non-hiking weekends, I was finally able to get outside. My dad and I drove about three hours north from Kent to the (tiny!) town of Glacier, WA where we had rented an Airbnb for the weekend. It was the perfect place to stay as a base camp for Skyline Divide, as we only had to drive about 1000 feet to the start of NF-37, the gravel road leading up to the trailhead. I had been anxious that the drive up would be icy or covered in snow, as the USDA Forest Service had reclassified the road conditions as “NOT CLEARED” on 10/12. However, in terms of ice and snow conditions, the road wasn’t bad, with only the last few miles seeing any snow–and it helped that we were driving a car with FWD. I would recommend taking the drive slow, though, as there were some potholes and fallen tree branches scattered along the road (it took us about an hour from the start of NF-37 to the parking lot).  At the trailhead, there’s room for quite a few cars, as well as a picnic bench and a restroom (Note: the restroom was running low on toilet paper when we arrived, so I recommend bringing your own–just in case!).

We started off on the trail at 8:45 AM, and I was surprised at how quickly we warmed up–I began taking off the warmer outer layers Continue reading

Skyline Trail to Panorama Point

It’s been much too long since I’ve been able to get out and hike in the PNW! I’ve been so busy–I went to the east coast, then to Hawaii, and since then I’ve just been trying to catch up and fight jet lag. This weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to get out and enjoy the mountain again–probably one of the last times I’ll go down to Rainier this summer. We decided to try Skyline Trail on the Paradise side of the mountain. Skyline is a 5.5 mile loop with a relatively small elevation gain (around 1500 feet), although much of the incline happens at the very start. As with any hike in the national park, remember to bring your America the Beautiful Pass (or $25 for the entry fee) and dogs are not allowed. I would also recommend arriving at the parking lot early–we got to the Paradise lot around 10AM and it was already filling up quickly.

We started up the trail behind the visitor center/restrooms and, while the first stretch is paved, the ascent up is brutal until about half a mile in. The views make the climb that much more pleasant though, with rolling green fields, wildflowers and the mountain up ahead. We passed by a couple of waterfalls and stopped to touch the packed-down snow on the side of the trail. There were also quite a few chipmunks and marmots roaming near or on the trail, and none of them seemed too disturbed by all the foot traffic. As you get closer to the top of the loop, the trail gets much rockier and there are lots of uneven steps to climb.

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Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout

My friends and I had been planning to take a trip down to Mount Rainier for months, and this past weekend was much too beautiful to pass up the chance for a day hike to Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. We started off from Kent Station at 7 AM, and the drive to the trailhead took about two hours. I’m glad I read the trip reports on WTA.org before making the drive, because I was able to anticipate the rough road conditions that started about 12 miles prior to the trailhead parking area. The road is very bumpy on the way up, and the dust can severely impact visibility, especially in the sun. I recommend keeping your headlights on the entire time, even if it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference–at the very least, cars around you will be able to see you better. Luckily, the road isn’t potholed, so even relatively low-clearance vehicles can make it to the top (although we did see one car that had punctured a tire and was being helped by the ranger). About 11 miles into the gravel road you will come to a pay station where you must purchase a $25 day-pass, unless you have an America the Beautiful Pass with you. When we finally made it to the trailhead, there were already quite a few cars lining the side of the road (you can only park on the left side, closer to the lake/trail).

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Mount Si

Similar to Mailbox Peak Old Trail, Mount Si is famous in the I-90 corridor trail guides for being one of the more challenging options for a beautiful day hike. Make sure you bring your Discover Pass if you want to park at the Mount Si trailhead. We did Si on the first weekend over 90° and boy, did we feel it! The journey to the top consists of seemingly endless switchbacks and a 3100+ foot elevation gain, and although it is not nearly as steep as Mailbox, the trail felt much harder in the hot weather. This trail has heavy foot traffic throughout the year, so it was no surprise that we saw hundreds of hikers along the way, many of them training for Rainier by wearing heavy packs (I was so impressed–I’m definitely not quite there yet!). One of the perks of it being such a popular trail is that the path is well-maintained and is easy to follow.

We started off at a steady pace, but by the time we reached the halfway point about 2 miles in, we were sweating and taking lots of breaks. We had only brought about a liter of water each, and about a half mile from the top considered turning back because we were completely out. Luckily for us, we ran into a friend on her way down from the top, and she saved the hike by giving us another half liter! [Sidenote: The day after I hiked Mount Si, I went out to REI and bought a 2.5 liter water bladder, and have been using it for the majority of my hikes since. If you decide to tackle this trail, I highly recommend you bring more fluids than you think you’ll need, especially if it’s a hot day.]Once we got to the end of the trail, we sat down, had lunch, and watched the birds flit around asking for handouts from tired hikers. The views were top notch, and would have been even more spectacular had we braved the rock-climb up to the top of the infamous Haystack.  

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Teneriffe (Kamikaze) Falls

I did the hike to Teneriffe Falls back in March when it was much cooler, which I appreciated because the trail is uncovered for much of the way up to the falls. At the time, the parking lot at the Teneriffe trailhead was packed so we made our way from the Si lot instead–it added on an extra 3 miles round trip, but made for a nice warm-up/cooldown. You are required to hang a Discover Pass on your dashboard at both the Mount Si and Teneriffe parking lots, so prepare for that when you plan your hike. This hike is 6 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of almost 1500 feet. While not exactly Mailbox, Teneriffe boasts its fair share of rocky terrain, especially near then end towards the falls. It also has what feels like endless switchbacks, although the views along the way make up for it. The end of the trail is clearly less maintained than the first couple of miles, so watch where you step because it can be slippery (at least, it was in March!) and gets worse as you get closer to the waterfall. Teneriffe Falls is gorgeous–it makes the list of my Top 10 Favorite Waterfall Hikes! I looked up at crystal clear water cascading down a sheer rock wall and just felt utterly small–I would 100% recommend this hike to anyone, and am looking forward to going again in the future!

 

Heybrook Lookout

This past weekend was the hottest of the year thus far, so I decided to ease into hiking in heat by tackling Heybrook Lookout. Located off US Highway 2 in Index, this hike is a very short 1.25 miles up with nearly 900 feet of elevation gain to the lookout. The first half of the trail leading to the top is the steepest, but it’s mostly shaded by tall trees and then levels off after the initial trek uphill.The trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, and there was no litter on the hike (always a pleasant surprise!). There is a viewpoint near the top, where you have your first view of the mountains–we took pictures at this point but reached the lookout tower within minutes of continuing on the trail. The last stretch consists of climbing almost 100 stairs to the top of the tower, where we were rewarded with gorgeous 180° views of Mount Baring, Mount Index and Mount Persis. I would highly recommend this hike as a beginner’s alternative to Rattlesnake Ledge, as it has a great payoff for being easy/moderate difficulty.

Panoramic View from the Lookout

 

Rattlesnake Mountain

A few weekends back, I decided to take a solo sunrise hike to the top of Rattlesnake Ledge. As I noted in a previous post about this hike, Rattlesnake is an easy 2 mile hike up to the top, so I figured I could getting to the trailhead an hour before the estimated 5:15am sunrise would give me plenty of time. I brought a picnic blanket, lunch and a book, and set off from my apartment at 3:30–since there was almost no traffic to speak of, the drive was much shorter than usual. The main parking lot was gated, so I ended up parking in the limited space next to it. It wasn’t until I reached the map at the start of the trail that I realized I had driven to the Snoqualmie Point side of Rattlesnake, about a 10.5 mile trek from where I wanted to be by sunrise. Since I couldn’t possibly make it there in time, I decided to go for the new trail instead (unlike Rattlesnake Ledge, this side of the mountain requires a Discover Pass, so make sure to hang yours before starting your hike).

I made it to the first viewpoint, Stan’s Overlook, at 2.5 miles in and caught the sunrise–it was gorgeous! The trail was relatively easy and well-maintained, even throughout the forested area. I did get to walk through several spiderwebs on the way up to Grand Prospect, which is 5 miles in and served as my stopping point for the day. I put on sunscreen, set up my blanket and started reading. I didn’t see a soul until around 8am, when a trail runner who was planning on doing the entire 21 miles to and from the Ledge passed by. It was so peaceful here, and although I obviously can’t speak for the entire length of the trail, I would highly recommend Rattlesnake Mountain for an easy day hike, 6.5/10!

 

Mailbox Peak

Since my old housemate (Logan) is moving this week, I decided to send him off in the best way I know how–with a grueling hike through the woods to a ridiculously gorgeous viewpoint. Mailbox Peak (Old Trail) is one standard by which hikers in the PNW are measured, featuring an almost 4000 foot elevation gain in a short 2.5 miles. However, Logan hadn’t been hiking in a while, so we were planning on taking New Trail instead, which is half as steep and twice as long. We left from Kent at 8am sharp and arrived at the trailhead around 9–this hike requires the Discover Pass at the parking lot–and headed up to the trail. We somehow managed to completely misinterpret the map at the bottom and ended up taking Old Trail anyway.

Old Trail is everything they say about hiking Mailbox–it is a steep, poorly maintained (although there are reflective markers on trees along the way), relentless trail with few switchbacks. Despite it being the most challenging hike I’ve done to date, I found it to be much more enjoyable than I was anticipating. It helped that the day started off cool–we walked through a few clouds on the way up–and I can’t imagine doing this particular hike in mid-summer heat.

The majority of Old Trail takes you through a seemingly never-ending wooded area. We definitely got lost a couple of times, since the “trail” is pretty unclear at times, but luckily were eventually able to locate the reflective markers every time. There were quite a few other people taking Old Trail too, so we tried to keep an eye out for hikers who knew where they were going when possible. We played leapfrog with a group of hikers all the way up–in fact, we passed each other so often that we actually learned their names! Continue reading

An Afternoon Trek to Franklin Falls

One of my friends recently got into hiking and the outdoors, so we decided to plan a short, weekday trek to Franklin Falls after work. It was a rainy day, so we came prepared with raincoats, gaiters, hats and waterproof hiking boots. The drive to the trailhead was easy once we hopped on I-90, and after taking Exit 47 there was almost no traffic at all. We parked in the Denny Creek lot, but soon realized that there was no connecting trail that would allow us to get to Franklin Falls from that trailhead. Luckily, it was a short drive to the correct lot (the Franklin Falls lot is very well painted and is a quick walk to the start of the trail), where we hung our Northwest Forest pass and started trekking. The hike is very easy, coming in at 2 miles round-trip and a total elevation gain of only a few hundred feet. With its well-maintained path and consistent river views, the hike to Franklin Falls would be a great outdoors activity with children, although they may need some assistance navigating the slippery rocks near the end of the trail. Between the  raging waterfall and the waves from the river crashing up against the rocky shore, the view at the end was spectacular. I’m sure this hike would be just as beautiful on a sunny day, but there was something particularly Pacific Northwest about the fog hugging the trees and the looming gray skies. All in all, I would rate this hike a solid 7/10 if you want an easy jaunt to a gorgeous payoff.

Panoramic Views