Sunrise Ridge─What a setting!

A pair of hikers head toward Mount Angeles

A pair of hikers head toward Mount Angeles

Quick Facts:

Location: Olympic National Park – Hurricane Ridge Road

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 5.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet

Green Trails Map: Elwha North-Hurricane Ridge No. 134S

Contact: Olympic National Park

Access: From Port Angeles, follow Race Street south to Mount Angeles Ave to the Heart O’ the Hills Parkway (Hurricane Ridge Road). Proceed 17.5 miles on this road all the way to its terminus at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center. Trail begins at the Big Meadow Parking Lot.

Notes: National Park entry fee; dogs prohibited.

Good to know: kid-friendly, exceptional wildflowers

Most visitors to Hurricane Ridge intent on stretching their legs soon find themselves marching towards Hurricane Hill. The pavedDSC03218 path to the rounded knoll sure delivers some impressive views—and it’s a hike that can be completed by just about everyone. But, if Hurricane Hill is a little too tame and a tad bit busy for your tastes, consider Sunrise Ridge.

Sunrise Ridge delivers the same jaw-slacking far-sweeping views as Hurricane Hill, but without the asphalt and crowds. And chances are good on Sunrise Ridge, especially in the mornings or evenings, of encountering some resident wildlife. Deer, bear, coyote, and the ubiquitous ground squirrel all make themselves right at home along this delightful trail. And in summer wildflowers grow in profusion here; from magenta paintbrush, to spreading phlox, penstemon, lupine, bistort, and larkspur. But a hike here in Autumn has its delight too from swirling clouds wrapping around a panoramic of peaks to horizon-spanning views on those crisp blue bonus good weather days.

From the busy parking lot, head over to the nature trails for the Mount Angeles Trail. Start by following the paved High Ridge Nature Trail. Pavement ends after cresting a small knoll serviced in winter by a surface ski lift. Just beyond in a small saddle, come to a junction. The trail left heads back to the parking area. The trail north leads 0.1 mile to Sunrise Point, a 5450-foot viewpoint on the ridge. It’s a nice spot, but it gets better down the trail. So head right, dropping 200 feet from the saddle, leaving the hubbub of Hurricane Ridge behind.

Gaze north, out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to massive Vancouver Island. Scan the horizon eastward to snowy Glacier Peak rising above rows of Cascades Peaks. Turn your attention south to the Olympic Peninsula interior, to an emerald sea punctuated with craggy summits adorned in ice and snow. Mount Olympus, the centerpiece of this magnificent wilderness setting, dominates the southwestern horizon.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the imposing peak in front of you—the one growing taller with each step, 6454-foot Mount Angeles. In 2.6 miles, the trail delivers you right to the base of this locally-prominent peak. A climbers path takes off to the left while the Hurricane Ridge Trail continues right, skirting the southern slopes of the rocky mountain. This is a good spot to turn around and enjoy all those views all over again.

For more detailed information on this hike and 124 others, check out my best-selling and trusted by many,  Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula Book.Day Hiking Oly BookFor information on where to play and stay on the Olympic Peninsula, consult Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Silver Lake─Precious body of water above old mining district

Silver Lake sits beneath Silvertip Peak.

Silver Lake sits beneath Silvertip Peak.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 12.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet

Green Trails Map: Sloan Peak, WA-No. 111; Monte Cristo, WA- No. 143

Access: From Granite Falls, follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass. Hike begins by walking up gated Monte Cristo Road.

Note: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

Good to Know: dog-friendly, historic, wilderness rules apply, backpacking opportunities, tricky river crossing

High in the craggy peaks surrounding the old mining town-turned ghost town Monte Cristo, are several large lakes. Most require some considerable effort to reach. Silver Lake is one of the easier to hike to, but it still involves a trek of 12 miles roundtrip. You can make the journey a little easier by mountain biking (although the road is rapidly deteriorating making it a tough ride) the old road to Monte Cristo, and then hiking to the lake from there. The downhill return trip from the old mining town will be much less demanding on your bike!

From Barlow Pass, start by hiking or mountain-biking the closed-to-vehicles road to Monte Cristo. You’ll need to negotiate some fairly new washouts. At about one mile and just after passing the trail to Gothic Basin and its spectacular Foggy Lake, reach the South Fork of the Sauk River. It usually must be forded, which usually isn’t too difficult later in the summer. There is always the possibility of a log crossing nearby–and as of July 2016 one was still in place.


Remains of the old Monte Cristo town site.

Beyond the river, continue another 3.0 miles enjoying excellent river and mountain viewing along the way. Pass part of a continual clean up of the old mining town. Then  pass a campground, cross the river on a foot bridge and enter the site and remains of the once booming Monte Cristo. Linger around the old mining town for awhile or get heading to the lake. If you came by bike, find a bike rack near the town’s standing half dozen buildings.

Find the trailhead for Silver Lake near the edge of a grassy flat (once the rail yard). Cross Sunday Creek passing through a white-picket fence welcoming you to the “76” building. Then start working your way towards Sunday Flats following an old water line and passing the ruins of an old concentrator. At .25 mile from the town site reach a junction at the Sunday Falls overlook. Continue right on refurbished tread. The old trail was a curse-inducing steep rocky bed. The newer trail will be pleasing to your boots.

Winding through groves of big old trees enter the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. After a little more than a mile from Monte Cristo, cross Sunday Creek. The way then steepens as it approaches 4,350-ft Poodle Dog Pass. After crossing a small scree gully, pleasurable walking returns. At the pass, reach a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail. Those beautiful lakes are a couple of rugged miles away, so head to Silver Lake instead, a mere quarter mile away. Drop an easy 100 feet through tarn-dotted heather and huckleberry flats to the glistening lake set in a rugged cirque beneath Silvertip Peak. The setting like the metals that were extracted from the surrounding slopes is precious.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Silver Lake, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on this hike and many others along the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books)0486

Mount Defiance─the Undisputed Granddaddy of the Gorge


Mount Adams in the distance.

Quick Facts:

Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 12.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,890 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge-West Map 428S

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Exit 55 to the Starvation Creek Trailhead.

Contact: Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

Good to know: Dog-friendly, wildflowers, wilderness rules apply

Mount Defiance, the Granddaddy Guardian of the Columbia River Gorge, rises nearly one vertical mile above the Columbia River. Highest peak within the National Scenic Area, many a hiker defies Defiance each year accepting the challenge to tackle 4,800 vertical feet. Will you be among them? Do you have what it takes to summit this peak granting sweeping 360 degree views of two states, five volcanoes and countless ridges and peaks.


Mount Hood in the distance.

While there is a much easier and shorter approach to the summit from the north, bragging rights go only to those who ascend this mountain from the river. A loop can be made by utilizing the Starvation Ridge Trail adding some extra distance, but it makes this hike more interesting.

Start on a paved path coming to the Starvation Cut-off in 0.2 mile. Take it climbing steeply on rocky terrain reaching the Starvation Ridge trail in 0.5 mile. Then turn left traversing a grassy bluff beneath a powerline, eventually cresting a narrow bluff. From here the way heads southward into forest entering the Hatfield Wilderness.

Now following a narrow ridge dividing the Cabin and Starvation Creek drainages, sharply climb—insanely steep at times. After crossing a couple of talus slopes, reach the edge of an old cut and a more pleasurable hike now along a broad ridge. Ignore a side trail left just before reaching pretty Warren Lake set in a bowl surrounded by shiny slabs of scree and lined with vine maples.

Then clamber over rock toward Defiance’s broad rounded summit. Views north to snowy Washington volcanoes and endless verdant ridges are excellent. Swaying bear grass lines the way as you enter scrappy lodgepole pine forest. At 5.9 miles reach the Mount Defiance Trail. Turn left and stay left at a close by unmarked junction—you’ll be returning on the trail right. Continue through cool forest crossing the summit service road twice arriving at the tower topped 4,960-foot summit at 6.6 miles. Rejoice! You made it! Congratulate yourself, then leave the summit following trail north across shiny scree to a junction for the best views. Here, Mount Hood stares at you right in the face!

Continue right (the trail left is the easy shorter way to the summit) rounding beneath the summit, gasping at the unfurling sprawling views east and south. At 7.5 miles, return to the Mount Defiance Trail. Turn left and begin the long descent bearing left in 0.2 mile. The grade isn’t too bad at first, but gets much steeper the farther you go along. Pass a couple of excellent viewpoints along the way; then a series of steep switchbacks test your knees for the final descent.

Upon reaching a power line swath, the trail turns east passing beneath lovely Lancaster Falls. Reach the Starvation Ridge Trail .1 mile beyond. Then continue straight dropping into a cool ravine crossing Warren Creek on a bridge below Hole-in-the-Wall Falls (created in 1938 by highway workers to divert water away from the old highway) reaching the trailhead at 12.9 miles. Congratulate yourself for completing such a challenging hike!

For more detailed information on this hike and 99 others in the Columbia River Gorge, consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book.Columbia River Gorge Cover

Order your copy from Amazon, or get a signed copy from the Waucoma Bookstore in beautiful downtown Hood River.Waucoma%20Web%20Logo%20Drupal%207%20Site_0

Looking for places to play and stay in the Gorge, consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

Downey Creek — portal to famous Ptarmigan Traverse

An exceptionally scenic stretch of trail along Downey Creek

An exceptionally scenic stretch of trail along Downey Creek

Quick Facts:

Location: Suiattle River Road

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 13.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1500 feet

Green Trails Maps:  Mountain Loop Highway Map 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or interagency pass required

Access: From Darrington travel north on SR 530 for 7.5 miles turning right onto FR 26 (Suiattle River Road). Follow FR 26 first on pavement, then gravel 20.6 miles to trailhead located on your right just after the Downey Creek bridge.

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth; dog-friendly, Glacier Peak Wilderness, backpacking opportunities, wilderness rules apply

One of the wildest trail-accessible valleys in the North Cascades, Downey Creek is visited primarily by climbers returning from the Ptarmigan Traverse. One of North America’s classic alpine routes, this rugged off-trail traverse across rock and ice begins at Cascade Park in North Cascades National Park and finishes at Dome Peak high above Downey Creek. From there, trekkers make a brutal descent along Bachelor Creek to Downey Creek. It’s then a fairly pain free hike back to the Suiattle River Road.

Hikers need not worry about route-finding and special skills needed for glacier travel if just out exploring Downey Creek. While the elevation gain is fairly moderate, there are some ups and downs along the way into and out of steep ravines. Also in early

The trail ends at this gravel bar on Downey Creek.

The trail ends at this gravel bar on Downey Creek.

IMG_3239season expect to get your feet wet. There are several creek crossings, and a couple of them can be a little tricky. The two most intimidating crossings however are bridged including the one of Bachelor Creek just below a raging cascade. And thanks to recent work by the Washington Trails Association, this trail has received some much needed maintenance. The trail makes for a good day trip for strong hikers or an easy overnighter.

Starting at the trailhead, cross the Suiattle River Road and start climbing. Come to a trail register—and then switchback up a bench above the river soon entering the sprawling Glacier Peak Wilderness. The way then traverses steep timbered slopes high above Downey Creek. The wilderness waterway is out of sight—but not sound. Pass some impressive Doug-firs and cedars as well as younger stands of trees. At a little more than 2.0 miles drop into a ravine and come to your fist potentially difficult creek crossing.

Then climb out of the ravine and begin slowly descending toward valley bottom. At around 3.0 miles reach a spectacular section of trail right along the raging creek. Here embrace the full beauty of the wild waterway. Look up too—up the steep slopes to the west. That’s Green Mountain and if you look closely you can see its historic fire lookout teetering on its meadow shrouded summit. Then continue hiking up valley.

The trail passes through an impressive stand of primeval cedars and utilizes several long boardwalks across saturated sections. At about 4.0 miles come to an inviting campsite. The trail continues, coming to another foot-soaking creek crossing and more good camps. Traverse more impressive ancient forest groves. March across more boardwalks. Cross more side creeks including one rather large one—thankfully spanned by a bridge.

At 6.8 miles cross cascading Bachelor Creek on a sturdy log bridge and come to trail’s end. Here a handful of campsites are scattered tightly among big trees along a steep slope. Here too the long abandoned Bachelor Creek Trail heads straight uphill to the Ptarmigan Traverse. Your best option is drop down to the wide gravel bank on Downey Creek. Soak your feet, watch for dippers and enjoy the surrounding wilderness. After fully recharged, make the long hike back out

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Suiattle River visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on more hikes in the Suiattle River Valley and throughout the area, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.0486

Bear Lake—A bear of a lake but not of a hike!

Bear Lake sits beneath the talus slopes of Mount Defiance.

Bear Lake sits beneath the talus
slopes of Mount Defiance.


Quick Facts:

Location: Mark O Hatfield Wilderness, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 475 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge -West No 428S

Contact: Mount Hood National Forest, Hood River Ranger Station, =

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Hood River Exit 62 turning right onto US 30 (Cascade Avenue). Follow for 1.3 miles turning right onto 13th Street (County Road 281) signed for airport. Continue south on CR 281 which becomes Tucker Road. At 5.1 miles bear right onto Dee Highway, which is still CR 281. Continue for 6.2 miles bearing right (near MP 11) to bridge crossing Hood River (signed for Dee-Lost Lake) then bear right onto Punchbowl Road. After 1.4 miles, continue straight on gravel FR 2820 towards Rainy Lake. Follow for 10 miles to trailhead.

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, wilderness rules apply

This little lake is set in a remote basin beneath the talus sloped summit of Mount Defiance, highest peak within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. One of the prettiest alpine lakes in the Hatfield Wilderness, Bear is an easy hike ideal for children and solitude seekers short on time or energy.

Locate the trail across from the parking area and immediately come to a junction by a kiosk with a nice map. Left leads one 346easy mile to North Lake. For Bear Lake, bear right! On a gentle grade through a nice forest of mountain hemlock with an understory of bear-loving huckleberries bushes, reach a junction after a half mile. Bear left here entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness, named after a long serving Oregon politician and champion of the environment.

After gently climbing a couple of hundred feet and crossing a small scree slope begin descending. At 1.2 miles reach Bear Lake denned down beneath the rocky upper slopes of Mount Defiance. Cradled in a quiet bowl and surrounded by old forest and shiny talus slopes, it’s a pretty spot to idle away the afternoon.

But if at some point you feel the urge to burn more calories, nearby Mount Defiance’s 4,960-foot summit can be climbed by retracing your steps to the previous junction. Then head left and hike just under one mile and 900 vertical feet to some of the best views of Mount Hood.

Columbia River Gorge Cover

Get your copy today!

Order your book online or pick up a signed copy at Waucoma Books in beautiful downtown Hood River!

For information on hiking Bear Lake and 99 other hikes in and around the Columbia River Gorge, check out my  Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book.

For information on places to stay and other things to do in the Gorge, check out Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15