The Pacific Northwest is an area of the country that is known for its outdoor adventure opportunities. Washington State in particular, with its rugged mountains, alpine valleys and glacial lakes, offers a hiking experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Washington has over 2.2 million acres of land managed by the state and includes more than 1,100 miles of marked trails. No matter where you live in the state, there is a trail full of breathtaking beauty located a short drive from your home. This makes hiking in Washington a perfect weekend activity for families, friends or just those who want to get away from it all for a short time.
The diverse Washington trails are celebrated by recreational enthusiasts as well as biologists from across the country. High elevation trails like those found in Enchanted Valley offer mossy forest and snow (depending on the season) which is an entirely different flora and fauna experience then the beach trails of Great Olympic National Park. From sea level to over 6000 feet, as well as extraordinarily high rainfall gives Washington trails some of the most diverse vegetation and wildlife in the country. Tours are offered on most trails and provide detailed information about the importance of each habitat, as well as the dangers of losing valuable pieces of the ecosystem to global warming and human intrusion.
The Washington Trails Association (WTA) is an organization that works to preserve the trails in Washington and also promotes hiking and outdoor activities. The organization manages a large network of volunteers who work to keep Washington's hiking trails clean. The WTA also works with state and local government agencies to make sure that adequate funding is available to make these hiking trails available for public enjoyment. In addition to these activities, the organization also organizes guided hiking tours, and publishes a hiking magazine under the name "Washington Trails".
It is important to consider that a number of trails in Washington are weather dependent, especially those hikes around beaches. High tides and storms can completely swallow routes like the Cape Alva Trail. Fortunately, most beach trails have tide charts at the trailhead.
Although all trails provide a fun experience year-round, some trails are better suited to particular seasons. Trails with large amounts of deciduous trees, for example, provide a more enjoyable experience during autumn, such as hiking along the Hoh River in Olympic National Park (near Forks). Low elevation trails with a lot of streams may be better suited for the spring thaw, such as the trails found in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Trips to waterfalls and to scenic views from high vantage points are great for summer hiking. Twin Falls State Park and Cedar Falls are excellent choices for this type of hike. Those who brave the winter elements may want to consider the snowshoe hiking opportunities that Mount Rainier provides. There is an abundance of hiking opportunities that are enhanced by particular seasons. You can get more detailed hiking guides for the current season by following the "Seasonal Hikes" link in the Resources section.
The trails that run through land owned by the state fall under the management of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR office offers an abundance of resources centered around the recreational use of public lands, including hiking trails. They maintain a complete list of recreational opportunities on Washington's trails, as well as important information, such as what months the trail is open, whether pets are allowed on the trail, and if there are currently any weather related hazards forecasted for the area. Contact the Department of Natural Resources when planning your hike, in case there are concerns of which you may not otherwise be aware. You can contact the DNR headquarters in Olympia, Washington, by calling (360) 902-1000.
Article Written By Wirnani Garner
Wirnani was born in the Philippines, where she had constant access to a rural jungle environment. In addition to exploring the island jungles, Wirnani spent much of her youth interacting with local wildlife, swimming in the Philippine Sea and rafting on the Davao River. She also routinely went on backpacking trips along the trails of Mount Apo, the highest peak of the Philippine Islands. Wirnani currently lives near the Ozark Mountains of Northern Arkansas. The location provides an abundance of hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing opportunities. When she's not spending time outdoors, Wirnani enjoys studying biology and human health sciences.