With all the incredible hiking opportunities we have here in the Northwest, it seems impossible to pick just five for a must-do list. That said, it’s not that difficult to find five fantastic Northwest hikes – each representing some of the best our region has to offer: mountains, beaches, waterfalls and forests.
Here are five Northwest hikes that we think capture all that — and then some.
1. Eagle Creek
For the classic Columbia Gorge hike, it’s hard to find anything more representative than Eagle Creek. This mild trail winds its way through ferns and deep, lush forest until it opens up high above its namesake waterway along exposed cliff edges. It’s an easy 2 miles to reach Punchbowl Falls, a unique and beautiful cascade unlike any other in the Gorge, but if you’re up for even more scenery and waterfalls, saunter on for another 4.5 miles until the trail slips behind the aptly named Tunnel Falls.
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus via Flickr.
2. Ape Cave
Mount St. Helens is full of unique hikes, thanks largely to its violent volcanic past. One of the most unusual is the hike into Ape Cave, a 2.5-mile-long lava tube. The lower cave hike is a physically easy 2 miles roundtrip that takes you deep into the lava tube and past some intriguing formations. The most challenging part of the hike is navigating the darkness inside. There is no light whatsoever, so headlamps, spare flashlights and lanterns are highly recommended.
Photo courtesy of Greg Schechter via Flickr.
The natural beauty of this quintessential hike on Mount Rainier is practically unsurpassed, but it also comes at a price. The 8.5-mile roundtrip is a kicker, covering close to 3,000 feet of elevation gain, but it’s worth every step. Alpine meadows burst with wildflower vibrancy, mountain goats cling to far-off ledges and Mount Rainier (on clear days) looms large enough to nearly block out the sun.
Photo courtesy of Vineesh Devasia via Flickr.
4. Ramona Falls
Breathtaking mountain views, soaring evergreens and a waterfall so serene you’ll find yourself whispering in its presence. That’s the Ramona Falls hike on Mount Hood’s southeastern side. The 7-mile roundtrip is truly a wondrous walk in the woods, with occasional views out across the Sandy River basin up to Hood’s snowy shoulders. Before you see the falls, which cascade down a sort of jumbled basalt staircase, you’ll hear them off in the distance. And when you do finally see Ramona Falls, don’t be surprised if words escape you.
Photo courtesy of Nickay3111 via Flickr.
5. Ozette Triangle
No list of Northwest hikes would be complete without a stroll along the rugged coastline, and this easygoing 9.4-mile loop in Olympic National Park has it all: cedar forests, boulder-strewn beaches, bald eagles, seals, Native American petroglyphs and much more. You can make it a 6.5-mile in-and-out hike by walking from the trailhead to the beach and turning around after lunch, but the 3 miles of adventurous beach walking are what really makes this a classic Northwest hike, so it’s best not to miss them.
HIT THE TRAILS FOR THE CHANCE TO WIN A $2,500 REI ADVENTURES TRIP!
If you need a little extra inspiration, check out the #YouGotThis Hiking Challenge, where you can win cool prizes from LifeWise and Actively Northwest just for hiking this summer!
Just post a photo of yourself on any Washington or Oregon trail to the #YouGotThis Hiking Challenge tab on Facebook and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win one of 10 weekly prizes. There’s also a grand prize — $2,500 toward an REI Adventures trip of your choice — that will be awarded to one lucky winner in October. You can enter one photo per day. See official rules for details.
Entering is as easy as…
1. Hit the Trails
Hike any of the amazing trails across Washington or Oregon this summer.
2. Take a Photo
Snap a photo of yourself and let us see you out enjoying a hike.
3. Upload Your Photo
Post your pic to Actively Northwest’s #YouGotThis Hiking Challenge tab on Facebook and tell us what you liked about your hike!
See you on the trails!