Hamilton Mountain

I decided to try Meetup for the first time following my last (failed) attempt, when I ended up on the wrong hike. This time, I was going with a small group down to Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. From our meeting point (transit parking at Tacoma’s Discount World), it took us about 3 hours to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived around 9:30am, the first parking lot was already full. Luckily, there is a second, larger parking lot 0.1 miles up the hill from the first and we found many open spaces there. The road is well-paved and the parking lots are easy to access (and both have restrooms). Discover Passes are required to park in either of the two lots available near the start of the trail.

The start of the trail is wide and flat, and for about a mile it’s a very easy jaunt up to the turnoff for Hardy Falls. The trail down to the falls is steep and unfortunately, the falls were only a trickle this weekend–they might have been more impressive a month or so ago. Once back on the main trail, it’s a short distance to Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, which were much more unique. The Pool of the Winds (pictured here) requires you to climb up a rocky area at the fork, and there are guardrails for safety along the side of the edge. I saw several hikers debating whether or not they wanted to take the detour, and I made sure to let them know it was worth it (and that it was short!).

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Ira Springs Trail

I haven’t had a lot of time to hike over the past few months, so when a long weekend came around, I was more than a little excited to hit the trails. Since I was hiking this one alone, I decided to do a hike with fairly steady foot traffic and went with Ira Spring Trail, an out-and-back trek along the I-90 corridor. Recent trip reports indicated that I could leave my microspikes behind, and so I packed my bag with the usual: first aid kit/survival tools, an extra layer, water, snacks and my camera. I met a friend for breakfast before driving out to the Ira Spring trailhead, so I didn’t end up getting to the lot until after 10AM. A big thanks to all the people who worked on the road leading up to the trailhead–there were hardly any potholes, and it was a pretty smooth drive all the way up.  There were already too many cars in the lot, so I parked 0.3 miles up from the trailhead on the left/drop off side of the gravel road.

The trail from the parking lot starts off very flat and wide, an easy walk for over a mile. Almost a mile in, I crossed this waterfall, which apparently used to be a creek crossing before they built the bridge in the picture below. Had the bridge not been constructed, I doubt I would have attempted to cross on my own. Around 1.5 miles in, there’s a clear trail leading up where the “real” hiking begins. I was unprepared for the trail to be as relentlessly steep as it turned out to be! It actually reminded me of Mailbox Old Trail, albeit much more maintained. I leapfrogged with several groups of hikers on my way up, and many faster parties passed me on the long incline.

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Teneriffe Falls (Part Two)

Over a year ago, I hiked Teneriffe Falls for the first time and promised I would hike it again. Since my dad was visiting this past weekend, I decided to share with him one of my favorite waterfall hikes in Washington. Last week’s weather was such a nice reprieve from the dreary spring we’ve had so far, and my hopes were high that the forecast would be wrong about the weekend (it wasn’t). Luckily for us, we came prepared with layers and raincoats and arrived at the trailhead by 9:30am, where there were only around 10 cars. The new parking lot is one of the nicest I’ve seen, and has completely replaced the old lot, which has since been closed to the public.

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Bishop Peak – San Luis Obispo

Spring is here! I admit I’ve allowed an insane amount of time to pass without going out and hiking, but in my defense I haven’t had a free weekend in what seems like forever. Between skiing, going home to Oregon, catching up with friends, hosting family, and seeing the Olympics in Korea, I have been much too busy to hike over the past few months. Luckily, on my trip down to see my sister in California, we were able to squeeze in a trek up to Bishop Peak. While the out-and-back hike is only 3.4 miles long, it is quite steep and the peak is the tallest of San Luis Obispo’s Nine Sisters.

We started from the Foothill side of the peak, where we parked in a small dirt lot on the side of the road. A huge difference between hiking in the PNW and hiking Bishop Peak was that there were almost no trees. While we had a little shade closer to the middle and end of the trail, the California Oaks were significantly smaller and sparser than I am used to seeing on my hikes. We could see the top of the peak from the start of the hike, and made our way up the initial clearing and eventual switchbacks. The dry dirt path made it easy to slip, and I was amazed to see one brave hiker going barefoot down the trail.

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Little Si

This weekend, I finally made it out for a much-needed hike up Little Si. This was my second time doing this particular hike, and it hasn’t disappointed yet! I chose Little Si for a few reasons: it’s relatively short (coming in at a little under 5 miles round trip), the incline is enough to feel like a workout, and all the recent reports indicated the hike was still snow-free. We arrived at the trailhead around 9 AM and managed to snag one of the last 4-5 parking spots in the small, paved lot at the start of the trail (Note: this lot requires a Discover Pass, and the restrooms at the trailhead are still operational). The first section of this hike is steep, but is short and doable even for those somewhat new to hiking. Once the trail evens out, it’s an easy walk through dense forest and huge boulders.

We had a steady drizzle for the first hour or so, but the trees provided enough cover that we hardly needed our hoods. Luckily enough, the weather cleared up by the time we reached the end of the trail—the views at both the viewpoints were well-worth the last steep push. There were only a few other people when we arrived at the top, where we stopped to take pictures and eat. We didn’t use trekking poles on the way down, but for anyone who has issues with their hips or knees, I would highly recommend bringing them. We saw many more hikers on our way back to the parking lot, and when we got back to the trailhead around 11:30 AM, and the lot was completely full—it’s a popular all-season trail!

Icicle Gorge

We’re in December now, so of course I had to go on another snow hike this weekend. My friend and I packed our bags and headed off to Leavenworth for a couple of days to see the tree lighting and eat brats. Although we were certainly looking forward to enjoying the town, we were equally excited to explore Icicle Gorge, which is one of the more popular trails in the Leavenworth area. Since it was so cold and we wanted to be back in town by noon, we did the short version of this already-short hike, just going a mile out to the overlook and turning around from there. The Icicle Gorge trailhead was only 15 miles from our Airbnb, but it took much longer to drive to the parking lot than we expected–the 24° weather kept Icicle Road slick in places, and the last few miles to the trailhead were fairly bumpy. We saw two coyotes on the drive up, although they were skittish and ran quickly into the forest. Since there was only one car in the lot when we arrived around 9:30AM, we had the trail mostly to ourselves for the short hike. Continue reading

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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