Lower Gray Wolf River– A nice place to hang out with the pack


A nice riverside stretch on the trail.

Quick Facts:

Location: Northeast Olympic Peninsula

Land Agency: Olympic National Forest

Roundtrip: 7.0 miles

Elevation gain: 900 feet

Contact: Hood Canal Ranger District, Quilcene 

Green Trails Map: Olympics East no. 168S

Notes: wilderness rules apply

Good to Know: dog-friendly; kid-friendly; easy backpacking options

Access: From US 101 near the Sequim Bay State Park entrance, drive 0.9 mile on Louella Road turning left onto Palo Alto Road. Continue for 5.8 miles bearing right onto Forest Road 2880. After 1.7 miles bear right onto FR 2870 and proceed 1.8 miles to trailhead.


Cat or dog? Name your choice!

Hike along the tumbling, churning Gray Wolf River through groves of old-growth conifers. A perfect destination for a spring woodland flower hike—there’salways an excellent chance of spotting a big critter along the way, too.

The way starts on an old logging road. Descending, take in good views of Maynard Mountain and the portal to the Gray Wolf Canyon. Eventually enter mature forest and come to a junction with the Cat Creek Loop Trail.  An alternative route, it takes off left dropping steeply along Cat Creek through an ancient cedar grove, and then follows a portion of the old Gray Wolf Trail to return to the main trail 0.5 mile farther.

The main trail continues right leaving the old roadbed, and entering a cool old-growth forest of fir and hemlock. Now descending to the river, enter the Buckhorn Wilderness and reach Two Mile Camp at 1.5 miles. Traverse a sun-kissed bottomland, then drop back to river level reaching Cliff Camp. Now hike along the river feeling cool breezes funneling down the surging waterway. Continue along the river passing another camp then once again climb above it.

Enjoy good views of the Gray Wolf crashing through a tight canyon gorge. Then descend a little making your way back to river bottom. Here at 3.5 miles call it quits, as the trail ends at a narrow rocky gorge that once housed a high bridge.

Fording the river here is extremely dangerous. If you want to further explore the Gray Wolf Valley, use the Slab Camp Creek Trail. Right now, sit by the lovely waterway, letting its rapids mesmerize and its resident dippers entertain you.

Lower Gray Wolf River is one of 125 featured hikes in my bestselling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula Book. For more details on this hike and others, pick up a copy of this book—the number one selling and most trusted guidebook on hiking in the Olympics—today!Day Hiking Oly Book

For information on where to stay and on other things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, check out Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15





Goat Lake─A family friendly hike for old goats and kids alike!

Folks have been enjoying this view for more than a century

Folks have been enjoying this view for over a century

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 10.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet

Green trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway-No. 111SX

Access: From Granite Falls, follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass and end of pavement. Continue for 3.5 miles turning right onto FR 4080 (From Darrington, follow Mountain Loop Highway 19.5 miles). Follow FR 4080 for .8 mile to road end and trailhead.

Note: NW Forest Pass required.

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

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

One of the first wilderness lake hikes off of the Mountain Loop Highway to melt out, Goat Lake has been a popular destination for more than a century. The lake once hosted a grand hotel and offered workers from a nearby (and long defunct) bustling mining operation a nice respite from the grind. Today hikers of all ages and abilities come to this large body of water within the Henry M Jackson Wilderness. Despite the distance, the walking is easy with a moderate elevation gain. And if the hike is too much for a day, there are a handful of backcountry campsites at the outlet waiting for your tent.

Two trails diverge from the trailhead. The lower trail (right) offers a slightly shorter and more interesting route along Eliot Creek and through old-growth than the upper trail (left) which utilizes an old logging road lined with alders. The upper trail however is easier to travel and offers some nice views. Follow the upper to the lake and return on the lower for a nice 10.4-mile loop.


McIntosh Falls

In one mile come to the Chokwich Trail taking off left to reach the Bedal Creek Trail. Continue right through thinning forest crossing numerous cascading streams. At about 3.0 miles begin a slight descent meeting up with the lower trail at 3.6 miles. Continue straight on the old logging road which soon becomes trail. Enter cool mature forest taking time to admire a handful of humongous cedars. After crossing a braided stream enter the Henry Jackson Wilderness. The trail now climbs hugging a high bank of Eliot Creek and heading along a washed out streambed. Where the trail makes a sharp left turn, look right. Here you can see remnants in the form of cedar puncheon (planking) of the original wagon road that serviced the area. The old mining town was located across the creek from this spot.

Continue up the trail to Goat Lake passing magnificent McIntosh Falls. After marveling at the cascading waters reach the lake. Pass the camping area and head straight for the day use area located just beyond a brushy meadow. Cast your eyes across the rippling waters to snow-capped Cadet Peak hovering above. A primitive path continues a short ways along the lake’s eastern shore offering better vantages of that prominent peak that lured more than its fair share of past fortune seekers.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Goat Lake visit www.snohomish.org


For more detailed information on this hike and many others off of the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook.


Coldwater Lake– Saunter through a healing landscape exploding with wildflowers!


Nothing but new greenery in this once devastated landscape.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Land Agency: US Forest Service

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 550 feet

Contact:  Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Green Trails Map: Green Trails Mount St Helens 332S

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass (or interagency pass) required; No dogs; Trail open to bikes: Off trail travel prohibited

Access:  From Castle Rock follow SR 504 east for 45 miles turning left into the Coldwater Lake Recreation Area. Continue .4 mile bearing left to boat launch and trailhead.

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, exceptional wildflowers


Wander through carpets of dazzling wildflowers along the shoreline of the monument’s second largest lake. Formed when debris and earth from the 1980 eruption dammed Coldwater Creek, Coldwater Lake is now over four miles long and 200 feet deep.  Wildlife is prolific and views are nonstop on this rolling lakeshore trail.


Enjoy spectacular wildflower displays along Coldwater Lake.

Follow the Lakes Trail along massive Coldwater Lake. Hike through former clear-cuts and across the blast zone. Once a devastated landscape, now enjoy flowered slopes and shady emerald groves of alders, willows, and cottonwoods. The way gains no net elevation but plenty of cumulative elevation is racked up along the way rolling up and down bluffs and ledges.

Throughout the hike enjoy good viewing of surrounding Coldwater Peak and the stark southern face of Minnie Peak. Pass the Elk Bench Trail which climbs left to the Coldwater Science and Learning Center. Continue right reaching a wonderful lakeside spot at water’s edge at 1.1 miles. This is perfect spot to call it a hike if out with young children.

Otherwise keep hiking passing some fallen giant firs, reminder of the grand forest that once grew here. Cross the first of many creeks too, eventually coming to one donning a pretty waterfall. Next skirt some cliffs before climbing across some steep ledges high above the lake. Use caution here as the drop off is steep.

Descend and cross another series of creeks reaching a wide rocky outwash. Follow cairns across the open rocky and sandy terrain eventually coming to a daisy dotted flat at lake level. The trail continues, reaching the lake’s marshy eastern end. Look for beaver activity here among the alder thickets. Now following Coldwater Creek the way begins to climb reaching a junction with the Coldwater Trail at 4.5 miles. This is a good spot to turn around—but before doing so just walk a short distance south on the Coldwater Trail to a sturdy bridge spanning the thundering creek. Admire it cascading through a tight chasm—then cast your eyes upward to stone gargoyles peering down upon you from stark faced Minnie Peak.

 For detailed information on this hike and nearly 100 others in and around Mount St. Helens, consult my (co-written with Aaron Theisen) Day Hiking Mount St. Helens (Mountaineers Books). This guide, published in 2015 is the most comprehensive book to Mount St. Helens, covering every trail in the monument including winter trails. Pick up your copy today!download

For information on other things to do in the area and on where to stay, consult Northwest TripFinder.


 For information on some great programs and events going on at the monument, check out the Mount St. Helens Institute

Barclay Lake–placid lake at the base of awe-inspiring Baring Mountain


Baring Mountain towers over Barclay Lake

Quick Facts:

Location: Skykomish River Valley

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 225 feet

Green Trails Map: Alpine Lakes Stevens Pass Map 176S

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

Special Note: Northwest Forest Pass required.

Access: From Everett, head 40 miles east on US 2 to Baring. Near Milepost 41 turn left onto 635th Place NE. Cross railroad tracks and after .3 mile, turn left onto FR 6034. Proceed for 4.2 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, Practice Leave No Trace Principles


Good footbridge over Barclay Creek

A gentle and easy hike, Barclay Lake is a welcoming portal into the rugged terrain of Washington’s newest wilderness, the 106,000 acre Wild Sky. The well-graded and maintained trail gains just over 200 feet of elevation in a little more than two miles, making it an ideal jaunt for children and beginning hikers.

Beginning in an old cut, the trail takes off through a dark tunnel of regenerating forest. But soon enough mature forest is reached. Interspersed with remnant giants and quickly taking on old-growth characteristics, this forest is far more attractive and ecologically viable than the one you started off in. With near rainforest characteristics, this area is blessed with copious precipitation. Thick carpets of mosses cling to and drape from just about everything here.


Awe-inspiring Baring Mountain

Continue up the narrow valley, hemmed in by Baring Mountain to the south and the craggy, rocky summits of Gunn and Merchant Peaks to the north. Soon after crossing Barclay Creek, the lake is reached. Stroll alongside it and try to find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy it. Barclay has its legion of admirers, from scouts to artists, and from first time hikers to the very seasoned. Gaze out across the lake and up to the striking northern face of Baring Mountain. An imposing and well-known landmark visible from much of the Skykomish Valley; viewed from the lake it’s truly stunning.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Barclay Lake, visit www.snohomish.org.Snohomish-NEW

For more detailed information on this trail and many others nearby, check out my Day Hiking Central Cascades Book (Mountaineers Books).

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

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