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4 dangerous Washington hikes and how to get there

SPONSORED — From rainforests to mountains to lakes, rivers and grassy meadows, it’s no wonder Washington is a hiker’s paradise. In fact, according to Washington Trail Association’s hiking guide, the state is home to nearly 3,400 trails, any of which might offer some fresh air, spectacular scenery and a good day’s exercise.

If you’re looking for a little more than a walk in the park, the state is home several hikes waiting to challenge the adventure junkie. These four trails will have your heart pumping — both from exertion and adrenaline.

Muir Snowfield, Mt. Rainier National Park

If you’ve always wanted to tackle Mt. Rainier but haven’t any climbing experience, Muir Snowfield might just satiate your curiosity. Camp Muir — the endpoint of this spectacular hike — is as high as you can go on the mountain without a climbing permit. Beginning at Paradise, this trail is 8 miles round trip, but don’t plan on making quick progress. Until August, the trail is generally covered in snow, and with an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet, you’ll be huffing and puffing by the time you reach the camp. Save some energy for the last 250 vertical feet, which Washington Trail Association calls “interminable, even for strong climbers.”

Lake Constance, Olympic National Park

If you’re an avid hiker, you’re no doubt familiar with Olympic National Park, home to some of the region’s most beautiful trails. Widely known as the hardest and steepest hike in the park, the Lake Constance Route offers no mercy to novice hikers. A 5-mile hike with an elevation gain of nearly 3,500 feet, the trail can be very steep at times. Hikers will enjoy beautiful views of Constance Creek, Lake Constance, waterfalls and mountains and is best used from June to October.

Granite Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass

No one ever plans to wind up in a mountain avalanche, but if you’re traversing Granite Mountain, you’d best be prepared. In fact, Washington Trail Association recommends hikers have experience with travel in avalanche terrain before attempting the trail, which runs 8.6 miles round trip and gains 3,800 feet – nearly 1,000 feet per mile. Hikers will navigate large boulders and rocky hillside as they climb higher on the trail. Those who reach the summit will be richly rewarded with spectacular views of Mt. Rainier, Kaleetan Peak and Crystal Lake.

Mailbox Peak, Snoqualmie Region

Yes, there’s a mailbox at the summit. No, it’s not easy to get to. Historically, Mailbox Peak was a hike for ultradaring (and possibly masochistic), hikers, but after massive erosion and countless injuries, the trail was rebuilt — though not for the novice. Gaining 4,000 feet in less than 5 miles (the hike is 9.4 miles round trip), you’ll huff and puff your way through nearly 4 miles of steep switchbacks. To get to the summit, you’ll traverse 960 vertical feet in only a half mile, making that mailbox a welcome sight.

Getting there

With hiking the state’s unofficial favorite pastime, you can count on these heart-pumping trails to be busy during the summer and early fall months. Parking spots can be scarce, so beat the road traffic and get on the trail as soon as possible with Shuttle Express service. With casual van service for up to 10 hikers plus gear, coach service for groups of 14 to 55 and even overnight service for weekend hikes, you can relax and enjoy your outdoor experience without worrying about traffic, parking and leaving your car. For more information, visit www.shuttleexpress.com.

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