Paths to the Past: 5 Ancient Hikes Inspired by Native American Trails in Washington and Oregon

Hiking Monday, December 28, 2015 Written by

The beautiful mountain vistas, the incredibly wild coastlines and the soaring forests of the Northwest have all been here for much longer than we have. And so have many of the ancient hikes that Northwesterners enjoy today.

Long before a lug-soled hiking boot left an imprint on a Northwest trail, Native Americans made their way across the land and past the same incredible peaks, rivers and coastlines that modern-day Northwest residents relish so much. Experience some of that rich Native American history on these amazing paths to the past in Washington and Oregon.

Duwamish Trail (WA)
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy

The views along this trail, which runs along the west side of the Duwamish River in Seattle, are much different than they were when villagers from the Duwamish tribe lived near here for thousands of years, but the route is still an enjoyable one close to the city. The trail, which can be walked or pedaled, includes interpretive signs about the Duwamish village that existed here long ago.

ancient hikes duwamish

Cape Flattery (WA)
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty:Easy

Long home to the Makah Tribe, this corner of the lower 48 is classic Northwest coast: lush forests, crashing surf and wildlife galore. The hike follows boardwalks and trail sections to a viewing platform with jaw-dropping views of the wild coast, which out here looks like it did when between 2,000 and 4,000 Makah people called this place home eons ago.

ancient hikes cape flattery

Columbia Hills State Park (WA)
Length: 2.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This rolling state park is in Washington, but it’s easily within striking distance of Portland for a day of Native American exploration. The Wishram tribe lived along the shores of the Columbia River near here for ages, and tribes from across the region would gather nearby for trading and fishing. A 2.1-mile hike takes you to the top of Horsethief Butte and back, but other trails pass ancient petroglyphs and pictographs; other such artifacts are also visible during free guided tours.

ancient hikes columbia hills state park

Ruckel Creek (OR)
Length: 6 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Very challenging
No doubt about it, this trail in the Columbia River Gorge is a steep, relentless kicker, which makes it great for a training hike if you’re on track to tackle a bigger peak. But along the way, you’ll also pass some sacred Native American stone pits believed to be remnants of spiritual quests from area tribes.
ancient hikes ruckel creek

Table Rock Wilderness (OR)
Length: Varies
Difficulty: Challenging
Not too far outside of Portland, this lightly-traveled wilderness was once a popular place for Native Americans to gather berries and make their way through on their way to trade with other tribes, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Today, it’s accessed by four different trailheads that give access to tall firs, occasional mountain views and the same stunning rock outcroppings that Native Americans passed by long ago.

ancient hikes table rock

Do you know of any other ancient hikes inspired by Native American trails? Let us know on FacebookInstagram or Twitter!

Table Rock Wilderness images courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management via Flickr.
Duwamish River image courtesy of Robert Ashworth via Flickr.