The Olympic Peninsula is one of the last bastions of wilderness. Rugged and untamed, the forests, rivers and mountains surrounding Olympic National Park are some of the most impressive forests in the nation. Despite over a century of logging, the Olympic Peninsula’s wilderness areas have thrived, providing countless hiking, backpacking and fishing opportunities for visitors from around the world. Tucked away in the rainy, forgotten corner of the Pacific Northwest, the six wilderness areas are spread out around the region, each waiting to inspire your wanderlust. Whether you fall in love with the wilds of Olympic at Lake Constance (pictured above) or find yourself in the complete solitude near Wonder Mountain, Olympic is sure to inspire a love for natural beauty.
Toward the end of Spring, Doug and I explored one of Mt Rainier National Park’s many forgotten corners, the Westside Road. We hiked up to the Mt. Tahoma Suspension Bridge and from there, trekked along a portion of the Wonderland Trail to Emerald Ridge and back along the Puyallup River and Round Pass. In whole, it was just shy of a 20 mile day in balmy pre-Summer heat with glorious and surprising views of the mountain.
Summer is finally here and after a record rainfall over the past winter, Pacific Northwest residents are drying out and are getting ready for wilderness exploration. School is out, summer vacation is just getting started and families from all over the nation are flocking to the great state of Washington to experience the natural beauty of America’s greenest region. The start of the summer means a lot of things, from the return to hiking and camping to exploring our backyard National Parks and experiencing the serenity of nature. Our little corner of the world is blessed in endless beauty and the return of summer gives us a much needed connection to nature. Luckily, we have thousands of options, but no place in America is as saturated in beauty as the trails around Olympic National Park.
Mount Ellinor is quickly becoming one of the iconic day climbs in Washington State. Averaging over 25,000 hikers a year, the panoramic wonderland that is the summit is one etched in the midst of generations of hikers and climbers. High above Lake Cushman in Mason County, overlooking the majority of Western Washington, Mount Ellinor is one of Olympic National Forest’s most popular trails. While most know Mount Ellinor’s breaking views during the snow-free months, one of the most incredible experiences comes when you can stand atop this majestic peak in the winter, surrounded by mountain goats, snowy summits and the entire Pacific Northwest at your feet. We had though we had seen the mountain in ever possible way. That is, until we saw the following video.
In Olympic National Park, bridges serve many functions. They obviously help us cross rivers, keep out feet dry and get us from Point A to Point B, but they also do so much more. They act as gateways; serving as portals to wilderness and adventure over deep ravines and stunning box canyons. The bridges of Olympic National Park are as unique as the destinations they lead to, each with as much personality and beauty as the rivers themselves. Those of us who hike here often have our favorites and we all keep striving to find more and more of them, hoping to further being inspired to hike further and reach deeper into America’s favorite wilderness. For beginners and those visiting Olympic, the bridges act as catalysts, encouraging longer hikes and a deeper connection with the nature of the area.
Long before the giant yellow orb in the sky makes its triumphant return, residents around the Pacific Northwest start to buzz with sunny anticipation. On TV news stations around the region, anchors and meteorologists exchange flirtatious banter, hinting at something great looming on the horizon. I swear, Seattle TV news anchor Dennis Bounds once even winked seductively at the camera, his lip quivering before saying that ‘we’d get to see the seven day forecast after the break.’ The forecast brought smiles to our faces; numerous days of sun and warmth were coming, something the region hadn’t seen for half a year.
Everyone loves the LaPush region of the Olympic Peninsula. From amazing sea-stacks, salmon, whales and eagles, to some of the most beautiful sunsets on the planet; the remote, rugged beauty of the LaPush has been and will attract visitors for all of human existence. Most didn’t know LaPush even existed until the “Twilight Phenomenon”, but for those part of the Quileute community and residents of the Olympic Peninsula, LaPush has always been an incredible area. The Quileute made a living off of fishing and whaling along the coast in relative isolation until a little over a century ago. Now, the secret is out. Each year, tens of thousands visit Rialto, First, Second and Third Beaches, but few know that the area used to house scores of amazing cedar buildings, totems and was mostly isolated from outside influences until the 1860s.
As the gray covers the Pacific Northwest, negative attitudes about the weather become as commonplace as raindrops. When the clouds and dreariness return, a collective sigh is emitted, and pictures of the summer make #tbt that much more special. It seems like years ago that we were in swimsuits (hell, even in shorts) on the beaches or lakes, standing on top of mountains and drinking beer around campfires. We were cuddling in tents, tired after long days of exploring ever inch of of glaciated basins and tide pooled beaches. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were outside, falling in love, connecting with our friends, family and smiling in the wilderness. Then the gray returned.
Twenty miles south of the Canadian border and twenty miles east of Bellingham, there is a gathering of America’s flying mascot. Along the shores of North Fork of the Nooksack River, hundreds of bald eagles feast upon the schools of returning chum salmon. As the chum slowly start to decompose after arriving in freshwater and spawning, eagles from around the Pacific Northwest flock to the region in hopes for serious sustenance. Visible from the road, this amazing display of nature is the perfect weekend trip for residents of the Pacific Northwest.
“Every so often, I feel like a condensed version of a Jack London novel. I answer the call of the wild, but I can only get away for a weekend.”
Those of us lucky enough to live in the Puget Sound region know that are spoiled. Within a few hours drive, we can be sleeping at a volcano, relaxing on the wilderness coast, set up on majestic mountain or slumping deep in the rainforest. Often, I find myself needing to get away from it all, longing for a nature-filled oasis of wonder and beauty. While summertime camping trips tend to lead many of us to the beaches and mountains, the off season destinations are more often than not to the beautiful rainforests, with campgrounds ready for backpackers and car campers alike.
Residents of Washington State are spoiled with beauty and probably more spoiled than anywhere else in the nation. Washingtonians have access to the most incredible scenery in America, just 90 drive minutes away from nearly every major city. To the north, south, west and east, we have no shortage of jaw-dropping destinations. Even often over-looked Eastern Washington is full of amazing places to see, explore and discover. Yet, when most people think of Washington State, they think of the westside: the wet side, the green side… You know, the side with the mountains.
Raindrops are falling once again around Olympic National Park. The endlessly glorious summer ended long ago, and amazing warm, blue skies are a thing of the past. The days are growing short, like baby boomers, while the sun hides behind gray clouds, giving us a mere shadow of its potential. The rain is here for awhile, hopefully, and we should be rejoicing. Our life force, the blood of Cascadia, is water. The rain has arrived, and I want it to dump buckets and buckets on the region, giving us the shimmering green we all know and love. This is the Evergreen State. We live in the land of rainforests, wilderness coasts and snowy mountains dotted with glaciers. Without rain, we are nothing.
There are more classic hikes around Washington State than can be listed, though many authors try. It seems like early every road, from the gravel ones in the forest service to the paved ones in the National Parks, leads to a trail that is incredibly, jaw-dropping and beautiful. Around every bend, and in every corner of the state, the classic hikes in the Pacific Northwest are timeless. Many hikes lead to incredible views, and the hike to Summit Lake Trail above the Carbon River by Mount Rainier is one of the greatest.
There are hikes serious hikers are afraid to admit they enjoy.
Maybe it is ego, or maybe it is the expectation that each time they go out, they need to crush 15+ miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain, but talk with hikers tends to be about their most epic hike. Comparing where you have hiked helps establish a supposed hierarchy of experts, which I have no problem with. Imagine if you know someone and they are sharing with you these incredible peaks, difficult climbs and remote destinations you only daydreamed about visiting. Now imagine in the same breath you hear that last weekend, they only hiked the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park. You might raise an eyebrow.
The naming of Olympic National Park’s Maiden Peak is under debate, but the most likely story of why the area is called as such comes from the book Gods and Goblins. In the book, it is said that Maiden Lake and Maiden Peak got named in the summer of 1913, when a bunch of young men and women from around the PNW decided to make it their summer camping destination. For a few weeks, the group camped along the shores of the lake where they were rumored to often skinny dip. According to the oral history of the region, one of the “maidens” hooked up with a local, and the region was forever named for her, including the 6,432ft Maiden Peak.
The region in and around Olympic National Park is known throughout the world as being a wet, damp, and sometimes dreary place. With an average rainfall in some locations of over 14 feet, it is easy to see why we have that reputation. During the summer months, especially in the last couple of years, the rainforests, beaches and ridges of Olympic National Park and forest have been ridiculously dry, with forest fires and other drought symptoms starting to plague this normally lush environment. As temperatures start to increase around the Pacific Northwest, I felt it was time to share a few of my favorite places to stay cool on the hot summer days in and around Olympic National Park. From the rainforests, to the beaches and even some rad little waterfalls, cooling off in the hot summer heat is perfect in and around Olympic National Park.
There is a mountain peak on the Olympic Peninsula and it has been staring at me, beckoning me for many years on clear skies from almost every corner of the Puget Sound. That peak is a beautiful mountain with great exposure and it sits right next to one of the most hiked mountains in the Pacific Northwest. That mountain is called Mount Washington. At 6255ft. it’s the couple-hundred-feet-taller bigger sibling of the well-loved Mount Ellinor. Mount Ellinor gets all the hype and traffic, Mount Washington deserves equal, if not more praise.
People love wildflowers. Actually, that is an understatement. People go crazy for wildflowers each and every summer, flocking to the high-alpine meadows around Mount Rainier, hoping for a chance to witness every colorful petal. Each summer, visitors from around the world for a chance to see, smell, and take in the gorgeousness of the flowery fields. Mount Rainier National Park is often viewed as the best place in the world for wildflowers, and after spending a summer day here, you will agree.