wild trails

5 Zombie Hikes Nature Has Taken Back

Editor’s note: As public lands begin to reopen, we encourage you to keep maintaining good social distancing. The Seattle Times has a list of what that looks like on the trail.

Everyone loves a pristine, well-maintained hiking trail. But what if you’re looking for more challenging, wild trails—ones that take you to the Northwest’s darker, more secluded corners? These trails have been taken back by nature, no longer maintained by the people who once blazed them. These trails are zombies.

We’ve scoured the Northwest for a few of these wild trails. They’re often a little more challenging and require solid navigational skills. But the rewards are more than worth it. And despite the “zombie” designation, you won’t be dodging crowds on these wild trails, alive or undead.

wild trails bridge

Snag Creek Loop Hike
Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA
Distance: 10.4 miles roundtrip

Abandoned in the early 1980s, Snag Creek Trail is now a lightly-trafficked hike that’ll take you through pockets of old growth forest and down former logging roads. The first half-mile or so of the trail is pretty straightforward, but it soon becomes more difficult to track the old path. You’ll pass by old signs, rotting benches and abandoned bridges, with the ultimate reward of gorgeous views of Mount Hood, Three Corner Rock and the Cascades.

Lake Isabel
Location: Central Cascades, WA
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip

The hordes aren’t likely to overrun this pretty little mountain lake anytime soon from the sheer fact that it’s hard to reach. Part of the trail is overgrown. Some is steep. Downed trees can be an issue, and wayfinding needs to be among your strong points. Despite all that, it’s a worthwhile trek that’s among the most scenic wild trails in the Northwest.

Barnes Creek
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA
Distance: 10 miles roundtrip

Most people hop on this trail to take in Lake Crescent Lodge or Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park. But head on past those cutoffs and the unmaintained trail winds deep into soaring old growth forests and along a crystalline creek that’s occasionally joined by silent side streams.

wild trails barnes creek

Starway Trail
Location: Southwest Washington
Distance: 9.8 miles roundtrip

With its proximity to the Portland metro region, you’d be forgiven for hiking the popular Silver Star Mountain plenty of times without visiting this trail. This steep, abandoned route requires some bushwhacking and offers up refreshing views that you won’t find on the hike’s more traditional trails.

Mazama Trail
Location: Mount Hood, OR
Distance: 8.8 miles roundtrip to Cairn Basin

A severe windstorm in the 1980s destroyed part of this ridgeline trail on Mount Hood, rendering it impassable for years. But this zombie hike is unique among the region’s wild trails. In the 1990s, Portland mountaineering club, The Mazamas, celebrated its 100th anniversary by resurrecting the trail, rechristening it and giving hikers a stout and scenic way to access the mountain’s upper meadows, forests and expansive views.

wild trails forest

Find Peace and Quiet in Washington’s Most Remote Escapes


Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."

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