Patterson Mountain — Bitterroot and Balsamroot and a bevy of other blossoms  


Arrowleaf balsamroot growing om Patterson Mountain.

Quick Facts:

Location: Methow Valley

Land Agency: WA Department of Natural Resources

Roundtrip: 3.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet

Contact: WA Department of Natural Resources

Green Trails Map: Sun Mountain, WA- No.83S

Notes: Discover Pass Required

Access:  From Winthrop head east on SR 20 for .6 mile immediately turning right onto Twin lakes Road. Follow for 3.0 miles turning right onto Patterson Lake Road. Continue for 4.0 miles to Patterson Lake boat ramp. Park on south side of road in small pull-off. Trail begins on opposite side of road. Additional parking available .6 mile farther north at alternative trailhead.

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, exceptional spring wildflowers


Blossoming bitterroot on Patterson Mountain.

Patterned with lupine and larkspur, bitterroot, buckwheat and balsamroot, Patterson is packed with showy blossoms come April. Wedged between the Methow River and Winthrop’s famous Sun Mountain Lodge, this 3,500-foot mountain melts out early offering excellent springtime wanderings. And while the floral show is the main draw to this hike—don’t discount the views. From the sparkling waters of Patterson Lake to the glistening glaciers of the Sawtooth Ridge, Patterson provides some panoramic pleasures, too!

The hike begins directly across from Paterson Lake’s boat launch.  Immediately begin climbing sun-baked slopes. The trail is in excellent shape—part of an extensive system developed and maintained by the Methow Valley Sports Trail Association. After .3 mile reach a four-way junction. The trail left leads .7 mile to an alternative trailhead near Patterson Lake’s dam. Take the path right. You’ll be returning on the path straight ahead. Steadily ascending, traverse grassy slopes punctuated with groves of aspen. Admire Patterson Lake shimmering below. After passing a lone ponderosa pine come to a junction. The loop continues straight. But, first a mandatory side trip to Patterson’s 3,500-foot summit is in order.

Follow the spur right for a half mile to the broad and wide open summit. Views! Savor them—from the snowy and serrated Sawtooths to the golden foothills embracing Winthrop. And don’t forget to occasionally look at the ground to marvel in the boundless blossoms surrounding your boots!

 For more detailed information on this hike and others in the Methow Valley, pick up a copy of my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books).0486

For trusted information on family friendly places to stay and things to do around Okanogan County, consult Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Ashland Lakes─Solitude and serenity off of the Mountain Loop Highway


Spring time at the Upper Ashland Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 5.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway no. 111SX

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

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east to the Verlot Visitors Center. Proceed for 4.6 more miles turning right onto FR 4020. Follow this rough gravel road for 2.7 miles bearing right onto FR 4021. Continue 1.4 bumpy miles, turning left onto Spur 016 reaching the trailhead in 0.2 mile.

Notes: Discover Pass required.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, backpacking possibilities, solitude

With extremely popular Lake 22 and Heather Lake nearby, the forested Ashland Lakes are oft overlooked by area hikers. While not as dramatic as Heather and 22, the Ashland Lakes are not nearly as crowded, offering a much more serene and wild destination. And the Ashlands often remain snow free longer in the season, allowing hikers an opportunity to journey deep into the backcountry well into autumn.


Board-walked trail through ancient forest.

Nestled in primeval forest within the shadows of Mount Pilchuck, the Ashland Lakes are part of a 9,600-acre Natural Resource Conservation Area administered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Due to lying within a major convergence zone, the Morning Star NRCA is among the wettest regions in the Cascades, receiving between 100 and 180 inches of annual precipitation. Consequently, because of heavy snowfall the area supports an abundance of plants and ecological zones more common to surrounding areas at higher elevations.

Start by hiking along on an old logging road. Traverse bog and former ancient forest and after about a half mile, cross a tannic creek on a sturdy bridge. At about 1.2 miles, leave the old road for real trail and enter old forest. Now utilizing boardwalks, puncheon, and circular cedar cross-cuts (use caution when wet), the trail winds through a saturated forest floor. While the trail has been constructed well, care should be taken on all planking. In rainy weather they can be slippery. After gently ascending a low ridge take some time to admire the surrounding old growth giants.

At 1.7 miles reach a junction. The trail left heads .1 mile to little Beaver Plant Lake, a wetland of sphagnum and peat bog. While appreciating this intricate ecosystem, contemplate what a Beaver Plant is (a factory that builds rodents or a tree that blossoms them?).

A quarter mile beyond the Beaver Plant spur, crest a 3,000-foot divide and reach another junction. The unmaintained and difficult to follow trail left heads to Bald Mountain. Head right instead for a gentle .25 mile to Upper Ashland Lake and yet another junction. The trail left loops around the lake meeting the main path at the outlet. It tends to be brushy, so stay right on nice boardwalks offering great shoreline viewing. A couple of tent platforms along the way make nice sunny napping and lunch spots.

Where the Upper Ashland Loop reconnects, the main trail continues right to the Lower Lake, losing 200 feet of elevation in .25 mile. It is less-visited than the upper lake, but deserves a visit. Flanked by cliffs and talus, the lower lake sits in a more rugged setting than the upper lake. And while the upper lake is usually a quiet place to while away the afternoon, the lower lake guarantees even more solitude.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Ashland Lakes, visit


For more detailed information on this and many other hikes along the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books).0486

Clallam Bay Spit — Explore Washington’s deserted and spectacular North Coast


Deserted wild beach at Clallam Spit.

Quick Facts:

Location: Strait of Juan de Fuca, North Olympic Peninsula

Land Agency: Clallam County Parks and Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: none

Contact: Clallam County Parks

Notes: Dogs permitted on leash

Access:  From Port Angeles follow US 101 west for 5.4 miles to SR 112. Continue west for 44 miles on SR 112 to the community of Clallam Bay. At a sign indicating, “Clallam Bay Community Beach,” turn right into a large parking area and trailhead

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly. Snow free winter hike, beach walking, bird watching



Coast Guard Station at Slip Point.

A wild and deserted “Ocean Beach” on Washington’s “North Coast;” the Clallam Bay Spit on the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a breathtaking beautiful place to catch a sunset or just to wander aimlessly. Never crowded; most likely you’ll only be sharing this wide sandy beach with gulls, sanderlings, oystercatchers and eagles.

From the trailhead, head down the short trail and span the fickle Clallam River to behold one of the finest stretches of ocean beach in the state.  Wander west towards the river. You’ll have to ford the chilly river if you plan on hiking the half mile of beach towards Middle Point. This may be tricky during periods of heavy rainfall. If so, skip the crossing and venture east instead a glorious half mile to the headland at Slip Point, home of a coast guard station and lighthouse. If the tide is out plan on spending some time combing the pools left behind.

The Clallam Bay Spit is the type of destination where you can easily spend hours just walking back and forth or staring into the pounding surf. If possible, try to stick around for sunset. It is absolutely radiant from this wild and stunningly beautiful stretch of beach.


Day Hiking Oly Book

Get your copy today!

For more detailed information on this hike and 124 others on the Olympic Peninsula, pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula (Mountaineers Books). Accurate, in depth and covering trails found in no other guidebooks, it’s no surprise this book is the number one selling and trusted hiking book on the Olympic Peninsula

For trusted information on family friendly places to stay and things to do around the Olympic Peninsula, consult Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Lime Kiln Trail─Hop onboard for an historic hike along the Stillaguamish River

All kinds of historic relics litter the way on the Lime Kiln Trail.

All kinds of historic relics litter the way on the Lime Kiln Trail.

Quick Facts:

Location: Stillaguamish River Valley, Granite Falls

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 7.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Green Trails Map: Granite Falls WA- No. 109

Notes: Dogs must be on leash; park open dawn to dusk.

Access: Follow SR 92 east to Granite Falls. Turn right onto Granite Ave. Continue south for three blocks, turning left onto Pioneer Street. In .3 mile leave the city limits. Pioneer Street becomes Menzel Lake Road. Continue another .9 mile and turn left onto Waite Mill Road. In .6 mile bear left at a Y-intersection onto a gravel road. Reach turnoff for Robe Canyon Historic Park in 500 feet.

Good to Know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, historic, snow free winter hike


Roaring South Fork Stillaguamish River

Developed almost entirely by the Volunteers of Outdoor Washington, this delightful and kid-friendly trail delivers you on a unique journey into the heart of Snohomish County’s 970-acre Robe Canyon Historic Park. This sprawling park protects over seven miles of frontage along the South Fork of the Stillaguamish, as well as an old townsite and a century old lime kiln; a 20-foot tall stone structure once used to cook limestone. The powdered lime was then transported by the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway to smelters and mills in Everett. Built in 1892 and abandoned in 1934, a section of this rail line has been resurrected as part of the Lime Kiln Trail.

Before embarking on this scenic and historic hike, take a moment to read the informative kiosk at the trailhead. It’ll help you more fully appreciate the journey you are about to set off on. The trail, wide and graveled takes off through scrappy forest before emerging onto an old road. After .75 mile you’ll leave the road returning to real trail.


Old Lime kiln

Pass Hubbard Pond, a shallow body of water surrounded by old cedars and thickets of salal. After crossing its outlet creek on a sturdy bridge come to a junction. Here a sign directs you left. Descend into a cool, lush, emerald ravine to a bench high above the roaring waters of the South Fork of the “Stilly.” Then, utilizing an old rail bed, the fern-lined trail travels upriver under a canopy of towering moss-draped maples through a narrow canyon.

Pass scores of historic relics littering the forest floor. Old saw blades, bricks, bottles, stove parts, and bed frames testify that this remote locale once supported a thriving community, Cut-off Junction (please leave all artifacts in place for others to enjoy). The fairly-intact lime kiln lies just ahead.

Beyond the old kiln, continue hiking for another .8 mile to where a rail bridge once spanned the river. Here a short loop path takes off left to a graveled bar on the Stilly. It’s a great place for snacking, resting and reflecting on the surrounding area’s fascinating history and charming beauty.

For information on where to stay, eat, and play in the area: visit Snohomish County Tourism Snohomish-NEW

For more information on this hike and many more off of the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my Best Selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books)


Virginia Lake─Sweet bird watching spot on Sauvie Island


A tranquil wetland that teems with birds and feels like miles away from Portland.

Quick Facts:

Location: Sauvie Island (Portland, Oregon)

Land Agency: Oregon State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Access: From downtown Portland, follow US 30 (NW St Helens Road) west for just shy of 11 miles turning right onto the Suavie Island Bridge. Then follow Sauvie Island Road for 2.7 miles to trailhead located on your left.

Contact: Oregon State Parks

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, bird watching, spring wildflowers


The Audubon Society of Portland has developed bird-identifying signs along the way.

Virginia Lake is the centerpiece of a little known but lovely state park known as the Wapato Access Greenway on rural Sauvie Island. Cooperatively maintained by the Audubon Society of Portland, the greenway has been deemed an IBA—Important Birding Area. Here, you’ll find eight colorful posts displaying native bird species along the way. Be sure to take the brochure available at the trailhead along so that you can stop at each post and learn about the birds in this wetland environment.

Long before French-Canadian Laurent Sauvé began managing dairy farms for the Hudson’s Bay Company, the island now named after him was known as Wapato. An arrow-leaved aquatic plant; tubers from the Wapato were an important staple to First Peoples in the region. Despite much of the island’s land being converted to agriculture, wapato can still be found here. Look for it along shallow Virginia Lake.

Take the entrance trail 0.2 mile to access the Wapato Loop Trail at a picnic pavilion. En route pass the first of the eight IBA posts, this one denoting a Bullock’s oriole. Turn left and immediately come to a junction. Here a spur trail leads right to a wooden viewing platform above Virginia Lake. More of a marsh, the lake dries up by late summer, but birding remains good year round.

Continue along the loop and at .6 mile come to another junction. Here a spur leads left to Hadley’s Landing Dock on the Multnomah Channel. The loop continues along the channel under a canopy of cottonwoods and ash. While the area is peaceful, traffic can be heard buzzing by on US 30 across the channel.

Travel through a savannah-like setting next, crossing a small boardwalk at the northern tip of the Virginia Lake complex. The way then rolls a little, skirting a farm and passing by a couple of big oaks. At 2.2 miles return to the picnic pavilion closing the loop. Turn left to return to your vehicle.

Columbia River Gorge Cover

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For more information on this hike and others within the Portland-Vancouver region check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).

For other things to see and do in the Portland area, consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15