Summertime Lunch Break Workouts

Most of us barely have an hour for lunch on work days. Transporting to and from the gym, getting in that workout, showering afterwards and then making it back to your desk in time pretty much allows for a 5 minute workout.

We have some ideas for non-sweat workouts (so you can skip the shower) and get you outdoors on these gorgeous days instead of in a hot gym. Try some and let us know what you think!

  • Walk a hill. You likely don’t have to go too far to find a hill or even some stadium stairs not too far from your workplace. Walking on an incline will get your heart rate up in a shorter period of time than on the flat. Just before you start to break a sweat, slow it down, cool down a bit, then take it up a notch again. Your metabolic rate after your walk will be higher than a longer, same-paced walk on the flat.
  • Lunge walk. Similar to the hill walk mentioned above, but if you do only have flat ground near your work place, walking lunges give your legs and tush a really great workout! Add some arm raises or arm swings with dumb bells and you can target your arms as well.
  • Tube it in the park! Get yourself a resistance band or two and go for this 20 minute workout at a local playground. This one hits all the major muscle groups and the instructor does a good job or teaching good form. You can download the printable version of it here.
  • Bike it! Pack your bike along and do a quick change into comfy cycling clothes at the office. Again, just take it at a pace until just before you start to break a sweat and then back off. Do this for 30 -40 minutes and you will have plenty of time to put your bike away and tidy yourself up a bit before your return to the office.
  • Yoga Mat in the sun! All it takes is a quiet corner in the park, your yoga mat and a peaceful playlist on your phone and you have just cleared your mind and beat the office stress. You will return refreshed and ready to be productive the rest of the day.

No matter which approach you take, your boss and co-workers will see a new and energized you after a regular commitment to your do-able lunch time routine.

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Necessary Gear to Get You Started with Cycling

Beginning any new sport or activity requires some consideration of gear and the costs to get started. Cycling is no different, but as with most sports, you can keep it very simple and affordable or spend top dollar and go for high end, professional gear and bike. Let’s just start with the basics and once you take a few rides and can tell this is for you, you can always add more gear as you discover what your needs are.

  • Bike: Well this is obvious, but as your most expensive investment, your bike is critical to your comfort and the success of your venture into the world of cycling. Talk to plenty of cyclists and not only ask their advice, but ask them to share what has worked and not worked for them in regards to a good quality, affordable bike. Someone is always upgrading to the latest, greatest high tech machine out there and needs to off-load their older but quality model. REI has some great detailed tips here to help you learn what to look for when shopping around.
  • Helmet: Most states and cities require helmets by law, no longer leaving this optional. Consider your helmet an insurance policy of sorts. Make sure to not only try it on for fit and comfort, but adjust the straps to see exactly how much adjustment is possible. There are different styles for road biking, racing, mountain biking, commuting, and recreational. Options such as additional padding for custom fit, removable liners for all season riding, and removable visors are considerations depending on your cycling focus. If you think you will be doing some distance riding, weight and construction material. This post by REI gives detailed points to consider before your purchase.
  • Eye Protection: Sunglasses or clear lenses are a must to protect your eyes against the damaging UV rays as well as the wind, dust, and insects you are sure to encounter. Proper eye gear is a safety and comfort consideration, so choose wisely. Wrap around frames protect from wind and debris and keep your glasses snugly in place. Choose lenses with 100% UV protection and made of tough polycarbonate plastic.
  • Moisture wicking clothing: Although padded bike shorts sure make things comfortable on longer rides, the moisture wicking properties of shorts and shirts is of higher consideration. You will likely be working up a sweat and wicking that away from your body keeps you more comfortable longer.
  • Water bottle or hydration pack to keep you hydrated on your rides.

In addition to this gear mentioned, you may want to consider padded gloves, a jacket or vest if you expect to cycle in cooler or wet weather, tights or leg warmers, and cycling shoes with clip/pedals.

Don’t get intimidated by the pros out there with the high tech options, start with the basics and get on the road/trail and enjoy yourself!

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Top National Parks Hikes for Your Summer Vacation

Millions of Americans take to the road each summer to enjoy our beautiful National parks. There are some of the best and most uniquely photogenic scenic points in the entire world to experience right here in our own “backyard”. The hikes listed below are considered in the intermediate range for difficulty unless otherwise noted. If you are new to hiking and not sure if you are up to the challenge, Google each park to find trip reports for less strenuous hikes that offer similar breathtaking views.

Here are the top national parks for you to check out as you plan your hikes for your summer vacation:

  • Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona offers incredible south and north rim day hikes with views to last a lifetime. All hikes are steep, of course, but you have a wide range of distances of to choose from .5 – 12 miles. Special Use Permits are required for rim to rim camping and extended day hikes.
  • Zion National Park has a huge collection of classic, family day hikes of less than 4 miles, more challenging and strenuous, and even through-hikes of 35-87 distance hikes along the Hayduke Trail. However, Angels Landing is a classic and rugged8 mile hike with 1500 feet of elevation gain over 2.4 miles, with the reward of the Angels’ Landing viewpoint. The final view has been the subject of many stunning landscape photographs, so be sure to bring your camera.
  • Yosemite National Park’s beauty also makes it hard to choose just one hike. Upper Yosemite Falls is a doable 7 miles round trip with 2,700 feet of elevation gain in 3.5 miles. The pinnacle finds you at the top of the tallest cascade waterfall in North America. For those less inclined to “summit”, you can view the middle cascade at the two-mile point
  • Catskill Forest Preserve, NY is not a part of our national parks, but just a few hours from Manhattan it offers hard core hikers the 6 mile Devil’s Path, or similar views but more realistic 6.87 round trip hike on Giant Ledge & Panther Mountain. This approximately 5 hour hike will offer a good, but not too strenuous workout with some of the best views of the Catskills at the Panther summit at 3,500 feet elevation. Try to target this one in the fall to appreciate the colors as seen from the multiple ledges along the trail.
  • Acadia National Park in Maine is another one to target in the fall to capture the rugged mountains and fall colors. Hike and experience “the mountain meeting the sea” along the 5 mile Sargent Mountain Loop Trail. This hike offers an elevation gain of 1,173 feet as you move from the Jordan Cliffs, finishing with a view of Mount Desert Island.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park offers the famous Continental Divide Trail. The entire trail spans 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, but we suggest the Shadow Mountain Lookout Trail. At 4.8 miles and 1,533 elevation gain, this one is do-able for those in moderate conditioning. Fantastic views from the historic lookout tower at the summit await you.
  • Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming also gives you rugged through hike options or stunning day hikes in one of our most loved national parks. Taggart and Bradley Lakes Loop Trail is a pleasant hike of 4.8 miles with a minimal elevation gain of 520 feet. What this hikes may lack in elevation gain is made up as it showcases cascading creeks, peaceful mountain lakes, and a canyon view at Garnet Canyon located at the base of the Grand Teton.
  • Great Smokey Mountain National Parks in North Carolina and Tennessee is the most visited national park in the US. It is a great place to taste a portion of the Appalachian Trail or Abrams Falls located along Abrams Creek in Tennessee. At 5.2 miles round trip, this is one of the most popular hikes in one of the most popular parks, for many stunning reasons. It is also listed as one of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the US due to the abundant rainfall that causes hazards in the park’s many streams and waterfalls. It is recommended to hike early in the day or in the off season to avoid the busiest crowds.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah features uniquely rugged desert sandstone pinnacles stunningly captured in the early morning light and radically changed at day’s end. Make sure to capture both, if you can. Enjoy it along the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail. A day hike of 3 miles captures the mesmerizing geology of the rocco hoodoos.
  • Mount Rainier National Park, WA gives you the option of a ten-day, 93 mile loop to circumnavigate one of this country’s most majestic mountains. However, Pinnacle Saddle Trail is a 3.5 mile short but stunning hike not far from Paradise Inn. This quintessential Cascade Mountain experience hike provides 1,150 feet elevation gain up alpine forest to the base of the Tatoosh Range with a stunning view or Mt. Rainier to one side and Adams, St. Helens, and Mt. Hood to the south.
  • Yellowstone National Park, Idaho/Wyoming/Montana. Cover this 27 mile moderate backpacking trip in 4 days or try any one of the many day hikes ranging from 2 to 7 miles as described in this sampler. One of the most strenuous, Purple Mountain, climbs 1,500 feet over 5.2 miles and offers gorgeous views of the Madison and Gibbon Rivers

Americans are blessed with over 84 million acres of protected national park lands spanning over 400 parks. Located in over 27 states as well as the American Samoa Territories and US Virgin Islands, they were created and preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Get out and enjoy them this summer…they are yours!

Featured photo source:, showing a view in the Olympic National Park.

Pre-Hike Stretching and Warm Up

Pre-hike stretching, is it really needed? I mean we are just talking about hiking, how difficult can it be, right? I mean, hiking is pretty much walking…uphill…in the woods, right? Wrong!

Hiking usually means some elevation gain, and on tougher trails, it can mean a scramble over rocks, boulders and uneven terrain…uphill. Proper stretching and warm up pre-hike will help to prevent injuries as well as post hike soreness and pain.

Try not to stretch completely “cold”, or static. This means to do a little light jogging or jumping jacks, to get your muscles moving a bit before beginning to stretch.

  • Hamstrings

Lying Hamstring: on your back, extend one leg straight up to the ceiling. With both hands, gently pull towards you and hold the stretch when you get to the point of uncomfortable (not painful, however). Repeat on the other leg for one set, do 3 sets.

  • Glutes, Hamstrings, and Hips

Lying Piriformis: On your back with both feet flat on the ground with bent knees, cross your left ankle onto your right quad. Deepen the stretch by your left hand should gently pressing your knee away from you.

  • Quads

Standing quad stretches: while standing, grab the top of your ankle from behind you. Pull toward your rear end gently. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other leg. Repeat this set 3 times. Use a stationary object or wall for balance, if needed.

  • Low back and Glutes

Lying Spinal Twists: Lie on your back and feet flat on the ground with bent knees. Keeping your knees together, gently drop your knees to the right with your left arm extended straight out to your side along the floor for balance. You can deepen the stretch by pressing your knees closer to the floor with right hand against your knees.

  • Calves

Runner’s Stretch: Standing with your arms extended and keeping your back straight, place palms on a solid surface such as a tree, wall, or your vehicle. Extend one leg behind and the other forward in a lunge position as you keep the heel of your back leg down. Slowly bend your elbows to bring you closer to the wall and feel the stretch in your back extended leg. Hold for 10 seconds and switch legs for one set. Do 2-3 sets.

  • Shoulders

Deltoid stretch: Standing upright with feet hip-width apart. Cross left arm over chest with left fingers pointing away from your right shoulder. Using your right hand, pull your arm closer to your chest to deepen the stretch. This one is especially helpful when carrying a heavy pack.

The above are just a few of the basic stretches to get you going. Check out these 10 conditioning exercises to do year round to get you ready for and injury free on the trail. Happy trails to you!

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Rainy Day Fitness Safety

Admittedly, we are enjoying a stupendous spring, but we still have our share of wet spring days and all the safety considerations that accompany working out outdoors.

There is no need to shelve your outdoor fitness plan due to rain or other less than desirable conditions. With a bit of forethought and a few inexpensive pieces of gear, you can be ready to go with fitness safety, regardless of the conditions.

  • Running/Power Walking

Be sure your shoes can handle puddles or slippery pavement and take extra caution as you run on variety of surfaces that may differ in their traction. If it is gray or cloudy or otherwise dark, make sure you are as visible as you can with some reflective clothing as well as a blinking strobe. Additional precaution or gear that you may need is a breathable, waterproof jacket. Especially if you are planning on a longer run, you may want to do all you can to keep dry so you don’t get chilled.

  • Cycling

Easily attachable fenders not only keep you welcome with other riders, but more importantly, they will deflect any spray from your wheels that can impede your vision. A mountable helmet mirror is indispensable for keeping an eye on traffic coming up behind you without needing to turn your head. And of course, similar reflective gear as mentioned above for runners applies to cyclists.

Extreme caution around corners and uneven roads is advised in raining conditions. If a thunderstorm is nearby, get off and away from your bike and wait 30 minutes after the storm has abated to resume your ride.

  • Hiking

Due to the longer duration that hiking calls for as compared to running, not only should your outer shell be breathable and water proof, but make sure it has “pit zips” to help you vent off some steam when slogging those steep inclines that can cause your temp to rise. Alpine gaiters are not just for snowy conditions, but keep your lower legs dry when hiking wet, brushy trails.

A headlamp is always required for safety even if you do not anticipate hiking in the dark. You never know what conditions or situations may make your hike longer than you intended, and the ability to get back down the trail safely with no sprained ankles in the dark cannot be stressed.

As always, pack the 10 essentials for the same surprise situations that can arise.

  • Watersports

The most obvious safety concern for all water sports is to get out of the water if there is a threat of thunderstorms. Lightening is conducted by water and is drawn to the metal on kayaks, canoes, and motor boats. So don’t hesitate and immediately get out of the water. Regardless of how calm and sunny the day is when you start your water adventure, bringing along personal floatation devices for all participants is a must. In the case of diving or open water swimming, an understanding of current conditions to your specific location is required prior to getting in the water.

Remember, a little rain never hurt anyone and as long as you are comfortable, working out in the rain can actually be refreshing! With these tips you can continue to enjoy your outdoor fitness activities and stay on track.

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Spring Maintenance Checklist for Your Bike

Most of you cyclists have already hit the road, taking advantage of this amazing spring we have been enjoying, but just in case you have not yet conducted your annual bike maintenance, it is not too late. You will enjoy more miles uninterrupted on the road and your bike will thank you for taking the time now to tend to these tasks.

There are always some basic checks you should do before each ride, preferably the night before so that you can take care of any issues that arise and still get on the road for that fabulous ride you have planned.

  • Be sure to have spare tubes, tools, air cartridge and pump in case of flats
  • Test brakes for proper “grab” and that your brake pads are in proper alignment to make contact with the rims and not the tires. Brake pads should also be in good condition.
  • Check tire pressure and adjust, if needed
  • Inspect tire tread for thin spots and any objects that could lead to a puncture
  • Check wheel releases to be sure they are tight
  • Be sure wheels are true by spinning and looking for wobbles
  • Check and lube chain

If you are just pulling your bike out for the first time this season, in addition to the above, make sure to conduct these seasonal checks:

  • Wipe and degrease chain and cassette cogs with a clean rag and degreaser
  • Check (and replace if necessary) all cables for binding, fraying, or rust
  • Check pedals and cleats to be sure there are no loose screws or bolts
  • With a wrench, test and tighten crank arms, seat and post bolts, handlebar bolts, pedals and chain ring bolts.
  • Maintain and lube suspension components
  • Wipe clean the frame and wax to protect against rust
  • Clean the drivetrain using biodegradable solvent.
  • Replace brake pads and rubber brake hoods, as needed.
  • Check wheels for cracks or worn tread and sidewalls.

If you are unsure how to address any of the above, check out REI’s Bike Maintenance Basics class for tips on routine care. YouTube also has endless videos to learn basic care for your ride. In no time, you will be up to speed on basic bike maintenance and taking to the road with confidence that your bike is well cared for and reliable.

If you have some helpful resources for bike care, we would love to hear them!

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Thinking About Getting into Hiking? Here is what you Need

Now that you are motivated and ready to take you fitness activities to the outdoors, it is important to consider the basic gear needed for those fun, new adventures that await you! Hiking is a wonderful outdoor fitness activity that most people can do just about anywhere.

10 Essentials: In the greater Pacific NW, although we have some wonderful trails very close in that are easy to get to and start hiking, don’t let that proximity lead you to not being prepared.  Getting lost late in the evening on one of the trails can mean an overnight and you need to be prepared.

A pack: If you are not planning on hiking the back country, you don’t need to invest in a highly technical overnight pack. A decent day pack that can hold your ten essentials, some extra food and water, and your water repellant clothing is all you need. Many day packs on the market have “camelback” style water bladders engineered into the pack and help you to hike hands-free.

Water: Carrying a water bottle is fine for short hikes, but you will soon appreciate a water bladder incorporated into your pack to not only keep your hands free, but allow you to carry up to 3 liters for those longer and overnight hikes.

Base Layer clothing: In warm weather, synthetic t-shirt and shorts are all you need.  An extra shirt to change into at the summit or when it turns dark is a welcome addition for your comfort against chills. No cotton

Warm, insulating layer: fleece jackets or pullovers or a light wool sweater for warmth. Again, no cotton.

Water repellant jacket and pants: These are a lifesaver when caught out on the trail and it starts to rain. Avoid getting the chills by staying dry

Hiking socks: Choose socks for cushioning and breathability, avoiding cotton tube socks.

Hiking boots or Sturdy Trail shoes: Although you can find trails that are smooth forest floors, you will still encounter plenty of rocks and roots embedded in the trails.  When descending trails with significant elevation gain, your feet will thank you for investing in the appropriate, supportive footwear.

Keep in mind, this is just a basic list of the necessities you will need to start some hiking.  As you get more serious about hiking, you will likely need to invest in more gear to keep you not only comfortable, but safe.

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The Perks of Outdoor Fitness for Your Mind and Your Mood

We all know we feel better when we get outside and play in the great outdoors, but science and medicine is backing it up. Benefits to the mind and mood from outdoor fitness were corroborated in a study published in Psychosomatic Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine. The study showed the relationship between exercise and reduced need for anti-depressant medication. But wait! There are even more benefits to getting active outside:

  • Boost vitamin D levels and beat serious disease. The Health benefits for combatting a range of diseases from heart disease to cancer has been linked to those who get out and boost their vitamin D levels through sunshine. People with lower vitamin D levels double their risks to heart disease. Our society and lifestyle has dramatically reduced the amount of time we spend outdoors. Just 20 minutes outside with no sunscreen on provides the daily dose of critical vitamin D needed by most individuals. Just be sure to apply your sunscreen after 20 minutes, and of course if you are in hot climates or it is the height of summer, this should not be done at noon.
  • Fresh air: Most of us work in such climate controlled environments or our homes are so tight and energy efficient that we get very little fresh air. Sorry, walking through the parking lot or from your bus stop in the city really doesn’t qualify as “fresh” air. Taking a little extra time to walk through the park or along the lake front boardwalk will fill your lungs with some of that good, fresh oxygen! Better yet, find some local hiking spots and hit the trail.
  • Enjoyment: It is just plain more fun to exercise outside! It takes us back to those carefree days in our youth, and memories of recess at school (assuming you had GOOD recess memories?). There is just something about getting active outside that feels a whole lot more like play than is does work, so take advantage of that. When it just feels so much better than working out in a gym, it most likely IS!
  • Self-esteem: Just getting out and doing something outside boosts our self-esteem, we feel we have done something positive for ourselves and it feels good. We all know the good feelings that come with completing a good workout those feelings are increased when exercising outdoors. Taking that 20 minute walk outside on your lunch break is certainly going to leave you feeling better about yourself than if you stayed in the lunchroom.
  • We work harder and longer: When people walk outside as opposed to indoors on a treadmill, they tend to walk harder and longer. Working out outside, their rating of perceived exertion is reduced and surprisingly, they feel more energetic and less taxed even though they worked harder. The fun factor makes things feel less difficult, therefore people tend to work harder and for longer duration outside.

So get on out there today and breathe deeply, turn your face to the sun and PLAY!  What benefits are you seeing in your life as a result of getting active outside?

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5 Daily Workouts and Workout Sets to do in 30 Minutes or Less

We are all striving to enjoy life and simplify things a bit, right?  Well here are some great, full body workouts that can be done in 30 minutes or less.  Do yourself a favor and work one or two of these workouts into your weekly routine and free yourself up to get out there and play. While all of these plans have the option to purchase DVD’s to follow along, it is not necessary.

  • The Perfect 30 minute workout by Craig Ballentine. This metabolic resistance training routine builds muscle and burns fat and is easy to adopt at home. All that is required is a pair of dumbbells, a bench, and utilizing your own body weight. Prevent injuries and keep correct form by familiarizing yourself with some of the moves such as Bulgarian Squats, Split squats and dumbbell incline presses.
  • The Total Body 30 minute workout featured in Fitness magazine teaches you to work several muscle groups at once while also elevating your heart rate to boost your metabolism. This workout has 3 plans for beginner, intermediate, or advanced athletes.
  • The 30 minute workout Routine featured on Web MD utilizes short-bursts of high intensity moves to spike up your heart rate while working major muscle groups. The only change I would suggest is to add in a few more high intensity moves into about every 3 sets of the strength training sets. This is key to cardio training.
  • The 30 minute total Body Burner Workout from BeFit GO on YouTube is great to add to your mobile device and do it from home or take with you to the gym. The mix of strength training, core work, and cardio blasts pumps you along with some great workout music.
  • Blast Calories and Build Muscle in 30 minutes with this routine from Shape magazine. All that is needed is two pairs of dumbbells, a jump rope, and a suggested rowing machine. However, if you do not have access to the machine, you can substitute the rowing segments with Plyometrics, a run around the block, or any other cardio blast activity.

That should give you plenty of variety to keep you moving and challenging your body for weeks!  Let us know workouts that work for you in 30 minutes or less.

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My 3 Go-To Pacific Northwest Local Hikes

If you live in the greater Seattle area, it is no secret to you that some of the most beautiful hiking trails are just a stone’s throw (or less than an hours’ drive) away. Hiking has grown in popularity in the US from 29.86% of the population in 2006 to 34.38% in 2013. In Washington State, 72% of us hit the trails each year.

Virtually any of us can get out and walk.  Getting out on a forest trail, leaving the traffic noises and street lights behind takes walking to an entirely different experience than strolling around the neighborhood after dinner.  Very little equipment is needed other than a decent pair of hiking boots, moisture-wicking clothes, a pack, water proof jacket (we are talking Seattle, after all), and a headlamp.  It is recommended that hikers carry along the 10 essentials even if you are doing trails close in.  They are easy to assemble in a small baggie and it never hurts to be prepared.

Before going, check online to see if your hike requires a Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass to park at the trailhead.

The following are just a taste of what awaits you with the many choices for Pacific Northwest local hikes along the I-90 corridor, or known as the Issaquah Alps located in the Snoqualmie Corridor east of Seattle.

  • Rattlesnake Ledge: My all-time favorite moonrise hike to take right before sunset on a full moon evening. 4 miles round trip with a full 180 degree view, Rattlesnake Ledge looks over Rattlesnake Lake, the Cedar River watershed, Mt. Si, and Mt. Washington.  Be forewarned, this hike has a sheer cliff edge as well as crevasse in the rocks at the top, so keep a sharp eye and not advised for hiking with young children. Weekends and evenings after work it can get pretty crowded. Best to target weekdays. Make it a 9 mile total hike by continuing on to the East Peak as noted at the sign at the trail junction at the top. Total elevation gain 1,160 ft.
  • badass hiking chicks

    Badass Hiker Chicks!

    Cougar Mountain Red Town Trailhead: A part of the King County Parks System, this is not one hike, but a maze of many options. It is a great, close in series of hikes and trail runs located in Issaquah on Cougar Mountain.  Check out the map for the 4 trailheads and multiple viewpoints. My favorite is near anti-aircraft along the E-1, Shangri-La trail where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the Bellevue skyline, best enjoyed at night, hiking with your headlamps!  For best mileage and more elevation gain over your total hike, consider starting at the Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trailhead and enjoy the multiple stream crossings and deep forest feeling. Total elevation gain varies, but approx. 900-1,200 ft.

  • Rampart Ridge/Rampart Lakes: For a bit more of an escape, as well as a more strenuous hike, drive up to Snoqualmie Pass to start this gorgeous all day alpine lakes hike. I first enjoyed this hike on a stunning early October day and plan to do it again! The collection of crystal clear pothole lakes is breathtaking. Start early in the morning at the Rachel Lake Trailhead for an 11 mile round trip hike. Or consider a shorter, but steeper elevation gain starting at the Lake Lillian trailhead, approx. 9 miles round trip.  After enjoying Lake Lillian, continue around the east side of the lake climbing steeply up to Rampart Ridge. Follow the trail up until you find yourself hiking along Rampart Ridge. Total elevation gain 2,200 ft.

For those of you outside of the greater Seattle area, check out the US Top 100 trails listed here and try one close to you. In each state there is at least one statewide organization such as the Washington Trails Association that is a great resource for hike maps, trip reports, and other hiking and backpacking resources.

So put on those boots and get out in the fresh air and go for a ramble!  Please share with us some of your favorite hikes.

Featured photo: My hiking group on Rattlesnake Ledge.