5 Hidden Hikes Every Northwesterner Should Explore

Updated March 19, 2019

There’s hardly a better place to be in summer than the Pacific Northwest, especially if you’re hiking the trails in our beautiful mountains.

For those who want an escape from the city and the crowds of well-known hikes, here are five great “hidden” options that offer views, wildflowers, great exercise and yes, perhaps a bit of solace.

Washington Hiking

1. Beckler Peak

The Wild Sky Wilderness Area trail is suitable for families hiking with older kids and has great views of the Central Cascades on the pleasant, yet steady, climb through old-growth forests..

The trail starts out on old logging roads, with wide switchbacks and a gentle climb upwards. At 2 miles the trail transitions off the wide roads and away from distant highway noise, and begins climbing through mature forests with a series of switchbacks up to the ridgeline. The small summit is a perfect place to enjoy lunch while looking out over expansive views. In fact, make sure you snap a few photos before heading back down.

2. Johnson Ridge

  • Location: Central Cascades
  • Basics: Sunrise Mountain: 5 miles round trip, 1500’ elevation gain; Scorpion Mountain: 10.4 miles round trip, 2650’ elevation gain
  • Directions and Trail Information: Visit Washington Trails Association

For those who want a hiking challenge with few crowds, great vistas and wildflowers, head to Johnson Ridge. The trail can be quite challenging, but the 360-degree view from the summit of Scorpion Mountain is well worth the climb.

The trail begins along an old logging road, but quickly transitions to a steep ascent up the ridgeline. At about two and a half miles in, you’ll reach Sunrise Mountain, which makes a fine stopping point for those looking for a shorter hike or something less challenging. For those wanting more, continue hiking on to Scorpion Mountain. The trail winds down the saddle of Sunrise, then shifts to a steep climb straight up. The summit of Scorpion rewards you with unobstructed views of the Central Cascades and surrounding peaks.

3. Crystal Lakes

  • Location: Mount Rainier National Park
  • Basics: 6.0 miles round trip, 2300’ elevation gain
  • Directions and Trail Information: Visit Washington Trails Association
  • Permits: National Park Entry Fee

Mount Rainier National Park offers many beautiful hikes, and the Crystal Lakes Trail is no exception. Surrounded by towering peaks, this hike takes you upward through a series of mountain lakes, with opportunity to see wildlife such as elk or mountain goats. In late summer, you’re also treated to a bounty of wild huckleberries.

The hike starts at 3,500 feet with a moderate climb through the forest. A series of switchbacks begin around 1.5 miles, providing views of Mount Rainier. At 2.3 miles you’ll reach lower Crystal Lake. While not as scenic as the higher elevation lakes, it offers a quiet spot to stop for a quick snack. A half-mile climb to Upper Crystal Lake offers jaw-dropping views of Sourdough Gap, mountain meadows and craggy peaks. This is the Mount Rainier vista you were waiting for.

Oregon Hiking

1. Bonney Meadows to Bonney Butte 

  • Location: Northwest Oregon
  • Basics: 7.1 miles round trip, 2070’ elevation gain
  • Directions and Trail Information: Visit Portland Hikers Field Guide

For those near Portland, the Bonney Meadows to Bonney Butte Trail offers outstanding views of Mount Hood, Jefferson and Ollalie Butte. The trail begins as the Bonney Meadows trail, with a series of switchbacks following the road before entering the wilderness and starting a long ascent through the Buck Burn area, where two massive fires swept through in 1900 and 1930. Emerging from the wilderness area and crossing a forest service road, you’ll reach the Bonney Butte parking area. Continue walking up the road to the observation and birding site. Enjoy great views of Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams and the Three Sisters.

Note that there are several ways to access the Bonney Butte and Bonney Meadows area. Bring a trail guide or map with you to ensure you follow the correct route.

2. Palisade Point 

  • Location: Northwest Oregon / Badger Creek Wilderness
  • Basics: 4.8 miles round trip, 1325’ elevation gain, with an option to extend to Lookout Mountain (very difficult) or Flag Point (somewhat difficult)
  • Directions and Trail Information: Visit Portland Hikers Field Guide

This relatively short hike offers great views across the Badger Creek Wilderness area and of towering rock formations, and can be extended to a much more strenuous hike up nearby Flag Point or the Lookout Mountain summit.

The trail starts out at the Fret Creek trailhead, and immediately enters the Badger Creek Wilderness area. The beginning of the trail climbs up a somewhat dusty path toward Fret creek. You’ll cross the creek at three points, passing through old-growth larch forests, where huckleberries are plentiful in the late summer months. At the top of the ridgeline, there are several access points to reach Palisade Point, with great views of rock formations below.

Stop to enjoy your lunch or continue along the ridgeline for views of Oval Lake. Adventurous types can turn east to Flag Point. For those who want a real challenge, head west to Lookout Mountain.

Erin Burchfield

For Erin Burchfield, a Seattle native, cooking is a passion. She enjoys the art of creating something delicious with simple ingredients, or improvising with whatever is in season, on hand, or looking particularly tempting. Erin strives to be connected to her food, whether by growing her own or developing friendships with producers at her local farmers market. When not in the kitchen, you can find her outside running, hiking or training for her first triathlon. You can find more of Erin’s food writing and recipes can at <a title="www.notesondelicious.com" target="_blank" href="http://www.notesondelicious.com/">www.notesondelicious.com</a> or follow her on Twitter <a title="@burchie" target="_blank" href="http://www.twitter.com/burchie/">@burchie</a>.