My 3 Go-To Pacific Northwest Local Hikes

by Alison McIrvin
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.

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