Best Wildflower Hikes Washington  by Art Kruckeberg with Karen Sykes & Craig Romano

Best Wildflower Hikes Washington Guide Book

by Art Kruckeberg with Karen Sykes & Craig Romano (The Mountaineers Books)
Best Wildflower Hikes Washington  by Art Kruckeberg with Karen Sykes & Craig Romano
Hiking all four corners of the state, from ocean beaches to alpine meadows and forests and the lowlands in between, experience the beauty if Washington's native wildflowers. They peak only once a year - this guide will tell you where and when you're most likely to find them. Includes: Trips ranging from short and easy day hikes to longer excursions; wildflower "portraits" listing distinguishing features and growth propagation habits; fascinating sidebars on wildflower habitat; all color photography and maps; and charts listing hikes by featured flowers, peak viewing times, and more.

© 2004 Art Kruckeberg with Karen Sykes and Craig Romano/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Wildflower Hikes Washington" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

Forest flowers, meadow flowers watered by a trickle of a stream, and brave and daring flowers fighting for survival on a storm-swept ridge. Views of ridge after ridge topped by Goat Rocks, Rainier, and the truncated cone of St. Helens. Closer are bare moraines and boulder-strewn lava flows, little ponds and waterfalls. Mount Adams towers over the flower-covered meadows, and the Adams Glacier, flowing a vertical mile from the summit, dominates the scene.
Randle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
Ancient Lakes are aptly named— they even feel old. As a matter of fact, they are very old leftover bodies of water from the glacial Lake Missoula floods that shaped the land ages ago. It is almost a sacrilege to hurry here. To tarry is better. There are three Ancient Lakes: two are side by side; the third lake is above and is more hidden. The sprawling terrain invites you to ramble, camp, fish, explore, look for wildflowers, and listen to coyotes sing under the chilly stars. Lower Ancient Lake is practically next door to Dusty Lake, another geological leftover. In May, the air is fragrant with sage and wildflowers. The flowers get an early start on the east side of the Cascades—some begin to emerge as early as April. Enticing paths go hither and yon, some leading to the shores of small lakes nestled behind cliffs of columnar basalt, others leading to lonesome views.
George, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
This trail is best known for the “ice caves” that form at the base of Big Four Mountain. These are not true ice caves but rather accumulations of snow from avalanches that occur in the winter and spring: As the temperature warms up, the snow melts out from underneath, and this is what causes the “caves” to form. The caves are hazardous and signs warn hikers to stay out of them. Near the marsh you may observe wildlife: Beavers have left their mark on gnawed trees and branches, and you may see birds near the marshes, including hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, and kingfishers. As for the flowers, you are likely to see fireweed, thimbleberry, elderberry, foamflower, devil’s club, bleeding heart, skunk cabbage, and a variety of ferns, mosses and lichens. In the forest I also saw bead lily, salmonberry, and false lily-of-the-valley, with its graceful heart-shaped leaves.
Silverton, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
Even in late summer Black Canyon is a lovely hike, despite the lack of blooming flowers, with tall grasses and black outcroppings of rock set against a deep blue sky. Find a breeze and watch the tall grasses ripple like waves across the tawny hills. From the gate, the terrain on the right side of the road consists of grassy slopes with black basalt talus slopes and outcroppings. On the left are aspens, a few ponderosa pines, numerous shrubs, and grasses, indicating a hint of a stream in mid-August.
Wenas, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Spring in the Columbia Basin is short and intense. The air is sweet with the smell of sage and flowers are popping up everywhere. In May, the hills are still fresh and green and dotted with soft, colorful cushions of spreading phlox and balsamroot. Blythe Lake is a gem in May and is just one of several lakes located in the refuge. The refuge is ideal for hikers of all abilities, especially for those with a variety of interests (such as geology, natural history, photography, and birding). You can wander as little or as far as you like. The terrain is open, with columns of basalt towering over sagebrush–steppes and wetlands. Blythe Lake is ideal for birding enthusiasts; sandhill cranes can be seen during spring migrations. In spring, birds and small mammals are busy, and every shrub seems to hold a red-winged blackbird.
McDonald, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Most visitors come to Sunrise to see Mount Rainier, but many hikers know that the other attraction at Sunrise is the wildflower display that begins in mid-June and extends through the summer. Several nature trails take off from the parking lot, but if you have time for only one hike, Burroughs Mountain is suggested. Burroughs Mountain is unusual because this region verges on a tundra-like environment. Here, trees that look “young” are actually hundreds of years old. Their growing season is short and conditions are harsh. In addition to flowers, this trail offers views of Mount Rainier, glaciers, moraines, and the White River valley.
Sunrise, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
There are few hikes that equal this one: Where else can you hike through an alpine setting with close-up views of two major Cascade peaks? If you start the loop from Artist Point, you are facing Mount Baker and on the return you will be facing Mount Shuksan. Best of all are the views from Herman Saddle, the high point (5300 feet) of both peaks as well as the north side of Table Mountain.
Boundary, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 20
Hikers who weary of winter and hunger for flowers will appreciate early flower displays found along Chiwaukum Creek, east of Stevens Pass, in late spring. The flowers begin in late May and continue through the summer, but June is ideal. The Chiwaukum Creek trail is a long valley trail with several options for backpackers, but day hikers can hike as much or as little as they choose. There are generous displays of Lewisia tweedyi at several points along the trail, and in June the path is lined with lupine. In addition to flowers with which many hikers likely are already familiar, I found a display of showy ladyslipper (mountain ladyslipper) a few feet off the trail at about 3 miles. It’s a good thing they were blooming off-trail because it takes these flowers fifteen years to produce a flower, and they are becoming increasingly rare as a result of being overcollected.
Leavenworth, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11
A favorite of Harvey Manning. On a 2-hour walk up the Tenday Creek trail, he noted lupine, strawberry, Jacob’s ladder, groundsel, desert parsley, sunflower, yarrow, cinquefoil, clover, penstemon, camas, thistle, larkspur, speedwell, spring beauty, vetch, phlox, violet, bistort, pussytoes, paintbrush, wandering daisy, forget-me-not, meadow parsley, elephant’s head, white bog orchid, buttercup, monkeyflower, and false hellebore. The flowering begins in May, runs through its repertoire until July, and then the cows take over.
Silver Beach, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 19
Occupying the transition zones between the Cascades and Rockies, the steppe and interior highlands, the Kettles contain incredible biological diversity. A hike to the range’s highest summit, 7140-foot Copper Butte, makes for a wonderful introduction to this isolated range. By way of the Marcus trail you’ll traverse old-growth, fire-succession, and subalpine forests, as well as alpine meadows. Especially meadows. Nearly half of the Marcus trail climbs gracefully through some of the largest and most prolific alpine meadows in the entire range. And where there are meadows, there are flowers—a score of varieties and a near-infinite number of blossoms.
Malo, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.5
Bordering the Pasayten Wilderness to the west and British Columbia's Snowy Mountain Provincial Park to the north, the Loomis is within good company and it deserves your attention. This is a land of incredible diversity. the transition zone between the Cascades and the Okanogan Highlands. Rare fauna, much flora, and a handful of endangered flowering plants can be found here. One of the easiest and more rewarding hikes in the Loomis is the 21.2mile trip around the Disappointment Creek Basin. Despite the name, you won't be. Following an old mine road, the trail winds its way to a 7160 foot summit on the shoulder of Chopaka Mountain, referred to locally as Disappointment Peak.
Chopaka, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Trails in the Columbia River Gorge are favorites of wildflower enthusiasts. The flowers begin from the trailhead in early April and continue all the way to the summit of Dog Mountain as summer progresses. By June the summit is a yellow carpet of balsamroot, and in addition to floral displays there are views of Mount Hood and across the Columbia River to Starvation Ridge, Mount Defiance (identified by towers), and other high points in the Gorge. This trail is steep enough to provide a workout, and that attracts many hikers, as well. Unless you hike on a bitter day in November, you’ll share this summit with other hikers, many with dogs.
Carson, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.5
Spring is a capricious season for hikers from the west side of the Cascades. Hungry for warm days and flowers, they are often driven east by bad weather. It’s a good thing there are sweet gems like Dusty Lake to visit, situated in the same geological neighborhood as Ancient Lakes. Though the hike is short and the drive is long, it is worth it. You may feel as if you’ve gotten away with something when you drive through a late spring storm at Snoqualmie Pass into open terrain where clumps of phlox cast a purple glow against rolling hills and the golden fire of balsamroot warms the heart.
George, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
A favorite spot for flower watchers who are aware of its variety of species is the varied terrain surrounding the 6477-foot Esmerelda Peaks. A dividend is its location in the eastside rainshadow, where in theory it rarely rains—but as we can attest, theory is no match for reality.
Driftwood Acres, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 15
There are several Green Mountains in the Northwest, but most hikers agree this one is greenest. The color is the first thing you may notice when you arrive at the trailhead. As for flowers, you will be hiking through them much of the way, even later in the season when lower meadows are thick with fireweed and bracken. In midsummer, look for lupine, columbine, buttercup, bistort, bleeding hearts, glacier lilies, Sitka valerian, Indian paintbrush, cow parsnip, cinquefoil, tiger lilies, and more.
Bedal, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
The nature trails and the Hoh River trail all depart from the Hoh River Ranger Station on a single trail. The trail immediately crosses a marshy creek and climbs to a split. Before you leave the creek, spend a few moments looking at the aquatics of the stream, which is a brilliant green abstract of rushing water and billowing grasses. Most impressive is a sedge, the small-flowered bulrush. Whether you hike the short loops or continue on the Hoh River trail, you will see that the rain forest is predominated with Sitka spruce, followed by fire-resistant Douglas firs and western redcedar. Bigleaf maples, often festooned with licorice ferns, and vine maple add to the splendor any season of the year.
Fairholm, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 14
This trail is an old forest service road that provided access to the Hurricane Hill lookout when it was in use. The paved trail is wide and easy to follow, staying level for the first 1.2 mile. It is another easy mile to the summit, with moderate elevation gain—but carry water. The trail does not cross any streams. The trail offers great views the entire way. Mount Angeles (east) and Mount Olympus, with its multiple summits, are hard to miss on a clear day. In less than 1.4 mile the Little River trail descends steeply (right). There are good views of the Bailey Range across the valley.
Mount Pleasant, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
For many years the Mason Lake trail had a reputation of being steep and mean. In addition, hikers had to negotiate a large boulder field before getting to the lake. Thanks to Ira Spring’s urging, the Forest Service, with help from Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, have closed the old trail and constructed a new trail that avoids those obstacles. This trail is destined to become one of the most popular trails along the I-90 corridor. The new route provides a more scenic way to lakes within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Having hiked it, I was impressed with the hard work that has gone into the trail, and it is more aesthetically pleasing, with views most of the way. The original trail was built in 1958 so fire crews could reach and battle a forest fire northeast of Mason Lake, and hard-core hikers continued to use the trail.
Garcia, WA - Fishing,Hiking - Trail Length: 6.8
From the trailhead at Stevens Pass, Pacific Crest Trail 2000 switchbacks upward, at times skirting the edge of the ski runs. Despite the trail’s proximity to civilization, flowers are thriving and the area is lush with vegetation. Between 4000 to 5000 feet I saw mertensia, Sitka valerian, yellow violets, lupine, foamflower, bead lily, heather, rosy spirea, and tiger lilies. As the trail approaches the high point of the ridge (5200 feet), bistort, phlox, and mountain ash begin to appear. From the ridge crest, the trail descends on a series of long switchbacks that zigzag down to colorful flower meadows.
Berne, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9
This is a popular bit of the Pacific Crest Trail 2000, climbing from forest to heather meadows, and in between rich flower fields on the steep side of Kendall Peak. The trail immediately enters cool forest and you are hiking in pristine, old-growth forest. Here is a place you should watch your step and forget those interesting, tiny plants tucked in cracks above the trail. The trail generally is wide and safe enough for a pack horse, but do not attempt it if a snowbank blocks the way. There has been at least one fatality caused by a person trying to cross a snowbank here. Once you are safely across, the vegetation ranges from storm-shaped trees, heather, and blueberries to patches of flowers.
Snoqualmie Pass, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.5