High alpine hikes full of sunshine and amazing vistas are great for late spring, summer and early fall in the Northwest. But when the clouds and rain start to roll in, down low — among the protection and grandeur of the region’s remaining old-growth trees — is the place to go.
Though most of the Northwest’s giants met their maker in the form of an axe or chainsaw long ago, many lofty groves still stand tall. And not only do old-growth trees offer relative shelter from the rain this time of year, but they can drop jaws to the ground in amazement, as well.
Here are some of our favorite old-growth hikes within striking distance of Seattle and Portland.
Old-Growth Hikes Near Seattle
Length: 2.4 miles or more
Seattleites searching for a taste of old-growth are lucky — they don’t even have to leave the city to get their fix. Instead, they can head to Seward Park, a 300-acre gem of a peninsula that stretches out into Lake Washington. The park is home to a 120—acre swath of old growth Doug firs and other native species, as well as a 2.4-mile circuit trail and a network of interior trails perfect for year-round ambles.
Rockport State Park
Length: 3 miles roundtrip
At just over two hours outside of Seattle, this one might be more long-weekend than day trip, but it should definitely be on the list for old-growth fanatics. By some estimates, the giant trees here date back between 400 and 600 years. The gentle, 3-mile roundtrip hike on the Evergreen Trail is the perfect way to see them.
Length: Up to 8.5 miles roundtrip
Not only do hikers get enormous trees along this very Northwest-feeling river hike, but there are a least three scenic waterfalls along the way, as well. It gets wet and slippery alongside this rushing river, but with care there’s nothing but cascading water and giant old trees to look forward to here.
Old-Growth Hikes Near Portland
Length: 5 miles roundtrip
It may be windy and wet when you get to the Pacific vista at the end of this coastal hike, but along the way you’ll be dwarfed — and somewhat sheltered — by the soaring sitka spruce and hemlocks overhead. Keep your eyes open, as well, for a plaque along the trail marking the spot near where a B-17 bomber crashed in 1943.
Length: 4 miles roundtrip
Somehow spared by the chainsaw, the old-growth firs and cedars that tower over this wending trail along the Salmon River evoke a wild, primeval place. Throw in a crystalline river and it’s easy to forget that you’re just an hour outside of Portland.
Length: Up to 8 miles
Old-growth trees inside the city limits of a 600,000-person West Coast city? There aren’t that many, but Portland’s Forest Park has some of the real granddaddies sprinkled among its 5,100 forested acres. There are also plenty of massive second-growth firs that are impressive in their own right. Try the Maple-Wildwood hike to experience some of each.