Frenchman Coulee — This Canyon above the Columbia River C’est magnifique!

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Looking west across Frenchman Coulee.

Quick Facts:

Location: Columbia River Basin

Land Agency: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Roundtrip: 4.0 miles

Elevation gain: 100 feet

Contact: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area (Moses Lake)

Notes: Discover Pass required

Access: Follow I-90 to Exit 143 and head north onto Silica Road driving 0.8 mile. Turn left onto Vantage Road and follow this road into Frenchman Coulee to the trailhead located on your right in 3.6 miles.

Good to Know:  snow-free winter hike, kid friendly, dog friendly, spring wildflowers

 

Marvel at imposing basalt walls, sculptured rocks, and a plummeting waterfall. Summer can be blistering hot and winter bone-chilling cold here in the Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington. But spring is simply divine with agreeable temperatures, ample sunshine and a canyon floor alive with dazzling wildflowers.

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An old road track heads up the coulee.

Starting on a shelf at the edge of the Columbia River, head east on an old jeep track. Managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Frenchman Coulee is part of the multi-unit 192,000 acre Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, consisting of outstanding shrub-steppe ecosystems. A popular hunting area in fall, wildflower admirers and bird watchers flock here in the spring.

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Waterfall at the end of the coulee.

Bear right at a junction at 0.2. The trail parallels the old highway for a short distance, before the road starts climbing out of the coulee. The old jeep track stays pretty level as canyon walls flanking the north and south rise precipitously.  At .8 mile continue right at another junction and skirt the base of some steep stark basalt cliffs littered with rusting car parts and other debris. Look up at the old highway blasted into ledge and spanning deep chasms. Try to envision back in the 1930s and 40s cars puttering up the highway under a scorching hot sun to soon pull over in distress, steam spouting from the radiator cap.

The tread now gets a little sandier and softer. Skirt big talus slopes harboring reptiles and small mammals. Now well below the highway and away from popular climbing spots, engine and human sounds are replaced by wind and birdsong and the falling water from the nearing cascade.

Pass beneath high tension wires and begin angling north toward a creek cascading from the coulee rim. At 2.0 miles reach the base of the cascade near a big talus slope. The flow is regulated by runoff and irrigation needs from above sometimes rendering the cascade dry. Admire ravens and raptors riding the thermals above it. Marvel too at the depth and scope of the coulee from here deep inside it. During springtime delight in the dazzling display of floral carpeting.

For detailed information on this hike and 124 others east of the Columbia River, consult my (co-written with Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington guidebook.Day Hiking Eastn Washington

 For places to stay and other things to do in the Moses Lake Area, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

 All content and images on this site are copy written material and MAY NOT be used without the written permission of Craig Romano, owner of Hike of the Week.

 

Index Town Wall –Steep and stunning hike above the Forks of the Sky

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Stunning view of Index and the rugged peaks of the Wild Sky Wilderness

Quick Facts:

Location: Skykomish River Valley near Index

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1,300 feet

Green Trails Maps: Alpine Lakes Stevens Pass Map 176S

Contact: Washington State Parks 

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east for 36 miles. Turn left onto North Fork Road (Index-Galena Road) and continue for 1.0 mile. Turn left onto 5th street. Cross river into Index and proceed to second stop sign turning left onto Index Ave. Follow for  .3 mile (road bends south to become 2nd Street) to stop sign. Turn right onto Ave A and follow .6 mile (road becomes Reiter Road) to parking area on right.

 

Good to Know:  snow-free winter hike, exceptional view; steep drop-off -exercise caution especially with children and dogs

 

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The Index Town Wall is imposing from below.

The only landmark more stunning and impressive rising above the little town of Index than Mount Index, is the Index Town Wall. Forming a 1,200-foot backdrop of sheer granite cliffs, the Index Town Wall is imposing and awe inspiring. Renown among climbers for its 50-plus routes and some of the best vertical in the Northwest, a not-so-well known hiking trail also leads to its top.

Washington State Parks has acquired much of the wall guaranteeing public access. Part of the Forks of the Sky State Park, this fairly new park consists of over 1,400 acres at the confluence of the Skykomish River and its North Fork. Paddlers, picnickers, and anglers have much to be thankful too with this park. While it is a separate park unit, it is currently being administered by Wallace Falls State Park.

From the parking area, walk up a service road and immediately cross (use caution) a set of railroad tracks. Straight ahead a series of climber paths diverge through a new addition of the park, thanks to the Bullitt Foundation. Continue right on the service road (staying off the tracks as it is an active line) listening to climbers clambering above. About a .25 mile from the parking area you’ll come to a picnic table in front of a big steel door in the cliff face. Behind this door is a 200 foot bore created to test a machine used for tunneling under the English Channel.

Locate the trail to the top of the Index Wall to the right of the picnic table at forest edge. While unmarked—it’s obvious. Now begin a steep grunt, ascending nearly 1,300 feet in just over one mile. The trail is fairly well built though, marching up steep slopes; and ducking under, around and over overhanging ledges. The entire way is forested and not exposed. Climbing paths diverge from the main path and you’ll want to avoid these lest ending up in a spot you’d rather not be. Just keep following well placed arrowed signs leading the way.

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The “mystery” door!

After 1.2 miles you’ll reach an old rocky skid road that doubles as a creek bed. Stay to the right of a cable fence and follow this rocky route .1 mile to the top of the wall. Exercise extreme caution approaching the edge of the cliff. Then clutch your heart and catch your breath taking in an absolutely amazing view. Gaze directly below at the town of Index perched along the North Fork of the Skykomish River against a dramatic cloud piercing backdrop of Wild Sky Wilderness Peaks; Gunn, Merchant and Baring. Stay for awhile fully mesmerized—you earned this view!

 For information on lodging and other attractions near the Index Town Wall, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For detailed information on other hikes nearby and along US 2 from Everett to Wenatchee, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

 

All content and images on this site are copy written material and MAY NOT be used without the written permission from Craig Romano, owner of Hike of the Week.

Hamilton Mountain — Breathtaking views from above Beacon Rock

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Oregon’s Nesmith Point and Washington’s Beacon Rock as seen from the Hamilton Mountain Trail.

Quick Facts:

Location: Beacon Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 8.2 miles

Elevation gain: 2,100 feet

Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Contact: Beacon Rock State Park 

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs permitted on leash.

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

Good to Know: dog-friendly, snow free winter hike; exceptional wild flowers, historic

Access: From Vancouver WA, follow SR 14 east for 35 miles to Beacon Rock State Park. Just beyond park headquarters, turn left toward campground reaching trailhead in .3 mile.

 

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Hamilton Mountain’s impressive basalt cliffs.

One of the finest hikes on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge; Hamilton delivers breathtaking views, dazzling wildflowers, and a pair of dramatic waterfalls.  Amble below, along, and above basaltic cliffs peering up and down the dramatic gorge spread before you. And delight in the trails and bridges leading you to all of this; showy legacies of the 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). While Beacon Rock is the crown jewel of the 5,100-acre state park of same name; Hamilton Mountain is where the real hiking action is in the park. But don’t expect solitude—for all of the aforementioned reasons, this is a popular hike.

The trail starts at a lovely picnic area graced with structures built by the CCC. Beacon Rock is one of over 800 state parks nationally that was developed and enhanced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Tree Army” during the Great Depression. Enter a grove of large firs and immediately start climbing. At .4 mile, bear right at a junction with a trail leading to the campground. Continue climbing through attractive forest decorated by snowy-white Pacific dogwood bouquets in spring and garnished with golden vine maple leaves in autumn.

At 1.1 miles, come to a junction with the Hardy Falls Viewpoint spur. Affording not the best vista, the spur drops steeply 50-feet to a platform above the falls. Better waterfall viewings are ahead—so carry on .1 mile to another junction. Left leads to Rodney Falls, an impressive 50-foot cascade that thunders through a tight chasm into a punchbowl basin named the “Pool of Winds.” “Pool of Mist” is what I prefer to call it—and you’ll realize why soon enough!

After literally soaking in the view, continue on your way to Hamilton, dropping fifty feet to cross Hardy Creek on a hardy bridge. Then, steeply climb reaching a junction with the Hardy Creek Trail at 1.6 miles. You’ll be returning left, so continue right steadily climbing; switchbacking beneath and around steep ledges and cliffs. Views begin. Beacon Rock and the Bonneville Dam lie directly below. Mount Hood peeks above Oregon’s steep and impressive Gorge Face. In late spring and early summer, paintbrush, phlox, larkspur, and others decorate Hamilton’s steep slopes. At 3.4 miles crest Hamilton’s 2,438-foot summit. Brush obscures viewing to the south and west, but views are good east especially to impressive Table Mountain.

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Rodney Falls

Now, hike along Hamilton’s north ridge enjoying excellent views of Hardy Ridge. Emerge on an open flat saddle. By this point, crowds have thinned out considerably as many Hamilton hikers travel out and back instead of making the loop.  At 4.3 miles reach a junction with an old fire road. Follow it left slowly descending through forest, passing Don’s Cut-off and reaching the Upper Hardy Creek Trail at 5.3 miles. Continue left and soon afterward veering left onto the Hardy Creek Trail.  Now paralleling Hardy Creek gently descend through lush forest occasionally passing remnant burnt snags arriving back on the Hamilton Mountain Trail. Turn left and retrace familiar ground 1.6 miles back to the trailhead.

 For more information on this hike (including maps) and others in Beacon Rock State Park as well as 100 other hikes in the Columbia River Gorge in both Washington and Oregon; check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge.

 Columbia River Gorge Cover

For information on family-friendly places to stay and other things to do and see in the Columbia River Gorge, visit Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Bridal Veil Falls — Visit after heavy rains for a bridal shower!  

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The falls are quite impressive up close and personal!

Quick Facts:

Location: US 2 near Index,

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 4.4 miles

Elevation gain: 800 feet

Green Trails Maps: Index WA- No. 142

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

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east for 34 miles to just before Skykomish River Bridge (near Milepost 34). Turn right onto Mount Index Road (FR 6020) proceeding 0.3 mile. Turn right on spur-road signed “Lake Serene Trail 1068,” reaching trailhead in 0.1 mile.

Good to Know:  Exceptional waterfall, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike

 

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Steep but well built steps on the way to the falls.

Viewed from US 2, this fanning cataract emanating from Lake Serene below the stark towers of Mount Index does indeed look like a bridal veil. Draped over granite slabs, tiered and tumbling for hundreds of feet, this popular Skykomish Valley landmark is an impressive sight. But to really appreciate this plummeting waterway, you need to lace up your boots and hike up to the veil. Hear it roar. Feel its refreshing mist against your face.

In late summer and autumn, the falls appear as silver slivers. But in the wet winter and spring months, Bridal Veil overflows with runoff. Bursting with energy it thunders down the steep slopes beneath it. Start your hike by following an old road lined with mossy maples and alders. Cross a series of minor tributaries, which after a heavy rainfall display some pretty cascades as well.

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The roar is deafening.

Gradually ascending, the trail works its way up a thickly forested slope. In 1.7 miles, come to a signed junction. The trail left continues on, heading to Lake Serene tucked in a deep basin beneath the Index spires. In most years, snow buries the lake basin from late fall to early summer. Avalanches tumble off of Mount Index depositing snow in the basin even during years of light snowfall.

Head right to Bridal Veil Falls. They can be heard in the distance, bellowing down its vertical course. The trail steepens utilizing a series of short switchbacks and stairways. They can be slippery when wet, so take your time and use caution. Cross several creeks and expect wet feet. Pause for a moment to take in views of the Skykomish Valley spread out below.

By now the falls’ roar is deafening. Don rain parka and set out on a drenched boardwalk to embrace the full force and beauty of the falls. Bridal veil? From this proximity it’s more like a bridal shower. Literally! The folks down below on US 2 don’t know what they’re missing!

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near Bridal Veil Falls, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more detailed information on this hike and many more along US 2 from Everett to Wenatchee, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

Heart Lake– A perfect destination for a St. Valentine’s Day hike

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Placid Heart Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Fidalgo Island

Land Agency: Anacortes Parks Department

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles

Green Trails Map: Deception Pass/Anacortes Community Forest Lands No. 41S

Elevation gain: 160 feet

Contact: City of Anacortes Parks and Recreation; Friends of the Forest  

Notes: Dogs must be leashed; some trails open to bicycles, horses.

Access: From Exit 230 on I-5 in Burlington, head west on SR 20 for 11.7 miles to junction with SR 20-Spur. Continue left on SR 20 and after 1.8 miles turn right onto Campbell Lake Road. Follow for 1.5 miles bearing right onto Heart Lake Road. Continue 2.0 miles to trailhead at boat launch on left.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow free winter hiking; exceptional old-growth

 

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The Anacortes Community Forest Land trails are well signed.

Grandest of the bodies of water within the 2,800-acre Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL), Heart Lake has its paddling and fishing admirers. But hikers take heart for this heart-shaped lake’s finest feature isn’t its size; it’s its enveloping old-growth forest—one of the finest stands in the Puget Lowlands.

Heart-shaped and sitting in the heart of Fidalgo Island, this 60-acre lake makes for a perfect destination on St. Valentine’s Day. Hikers in love, longing for love, or lovelorn, all will love the wild nature of this hike located just minutes from bustling Anacortes. Hike through a stand of ancient Douglas-firs and western red cedars hundreds of years old and growing upwards of a hundred fifty-feet tall.

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A hiker admires Heart Lake’s ancient forest.

Trails nearly encircle the quiet lake making for a nice loop. From the boat launch head north on Trail no. 210 immediately passing several large Douglas-firs and soon reaching the first of many junctions. Bear left continuing on Trail no. 210, here an old woods road. There are over 50 miles of trails within the ACFL. A good map is necessary to help navigate its maze of paths

Cross Heart’s outlet creek enjoying good views out across the lake to 1,044-foot Sugarloaf, second highest summit in the ACFL. Bear left leaving the old road but continuing on Trail no. 210 and stay left again at the next junction continuing to the lake’s marshy southwestern cove.

At just over one mile bear left again (still on Trail no. 210) traversing magnificent ancient groves of giant cedars and firs. Reach Trail no. 212, turn left and shortly afterwards come to the Heart Lake Road. Now either walk the road (use caution)  back to the trailhead or—better yet cross the road proceeding to the Sugarloaf trailhead and picking up trail no. 215. Walk a short distance and bear left onto trail no. 320 and start climbing. Bear right onto Trail no. 21; climb some more—then turn left onto Trail no. 313 and follow it downhill back to the trailhead to close the loop.

If your love for the outdoor s is still burning—consider extending your hike on any of the radiating side trails.

For more details on this hike (including maps) and many other hikes near Anacortes, pick up a copy of my new Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands book. It includes 136 hikes including a chapter on Victoria BC.Day-Hiking-San-Juan-and-Gulf-IslandsNEW

For information on other things to do and places to stay in Anacortes, consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15