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Hiking & Climbing


There are an enormous number of possibilities for hikes and climbs in the mountains within a few hours of Seattle.  There are two major mountain ranges (the Cascades to the East, and the Olympics to the West) as well as four dormant, snow and ice covered volcanoes (Baker, Glacier, Rainier and Adams) and one active volcano that is not glaciated (Mt. St. Helens).  The three National Parks and Monuments are:

North Cascades National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
Olympic National Parks
Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument


Climbing the glaciated peaks is a technical and somewhat dangerous undertaking (for example, there is about one death on Mt. Rainier for every thousand people that reach the summit.) It is possible to take part on a guided climb, but is not recommended unless you are quite fit.  Information on climbing Mt. Rainier can be found at the Mt. Rainier National Park web site, above. Find a climber's weather forecast here. 


The snow-free hiking season in the mountains is usually May - November in the lower elevations.  There are also great hikes that can be done year-round on the islands in Puget Sound, and along the wild coastline in the Olympic National Park. There is an extensive set of hiking guides for the area, and you can find some copies (possibly somewhat out of date)  in the program coordinators' office.  Feel free to peruse them, and to copy pages to take with you on your excursions. A great online guide to hiking to the area is found at The Washington Trails Association.  To see what trails are being currently hiked, and what the conditions are, select Trip Reports/Freshest Reports.  At the bottom of each report is a link to a description of how to get to that hike.  There are many other useful features at that site.  Best of the Web - Hiking is another helpful resource for researching hiking on the Internet. Also: ask local people for hike recommendations.

Mountain weather can be very changeable and you should be prepared for the unexpected; however, you can go here for mountain weather reports. 

Equipment for purchase or rental, as well as clothing, maps, food, and other supplies  can be found at REI, Marmot, North Face (nearby in University Village), and other locations.

Note that to park at most trailheads you need to purchase a Northwest Forest Pass which can be had at any ranger station, at REI, and at numerous retail locations along the roads (for example, the espresso stop just beyond Index on US 2).

Especially recommended hikes (first three require Forest Pass for parking)

  1. Mason lake: a moderate summer hike about one hour from Seattle on the way to Snoqualmie pass that takes one to great views of Rainier and an alpine lake that makes for good swimming on a hot day. The intrepid can go on to climb Mt. Defiance on a boot track for even better views. More information here.
  2. Melakwa Lake: another moderate summer hike from I-90 about an hour away to a beautiful alpine lake; after the first mild gentle mile you pass the Denny Creek Water Slide...a place where Denny Creek pours over smooth granite slabs, with pools and slides for kids to enjoy when the water level is sufficiently low. More information here.
  3. Granite Mountain: A strenuous summer hike from I-90 about an hour away from Seattle with spectacular views on a clear day, as well as flowers and blueberries along the way. Can be hot, bring lots of water. 3000'+ vertical gain to an old lookout tower. Information here.
  4. Spray Park: Famous for its flowers with Mt Rainier looming above, about a 3 mile moderate hike in the NW corner of Rainier National Park, about 1.5 hours from Seattle to the trail head at Mowich Lake. The Lake is also beautiful and makes for fine (but cold) swimming. One can hike beyond Spray park up the ridge to amazing views from observation rock (latter part on snow all year round). Information here.
  5. Burroughs Mountain: A tremendous summer hike for views of Rainier along the entire way; moderate/difficult if you go to the end with its glacier overlook. Entire hike can be hot and dry, bring lots of water, sunblock. The parking lot at Sunrise can fill up early (9AM?) on summer weekends, in which case they will not let you enter the park on the East side! About 2.25 hour drive from Seattle. Information here.
  6. Ebey's Landing, Whidbey Island: A delightful and easy 3-mile loop on Whidbey island that can be done at any time of the year. Walk along high bluff with views of Puget Sound, the Olympics and Mt Baker, return along the beach. Enjoy the ferry rides to and from the island, eat seafood in Coupeville or Pizza in Langley. Information here.