Washington Outdoors Report August 6th
John Kruse, August 04, 2021
Thanks to the covid pandemic people are recreating outdoors like never before and one of the most popular activities for outdoors enthusiasts whether they be novices or veterans is hiking! While some don’t mind crowded trails many of us hike into the wilderness to enjoy the solitude the experience can give us. With that in mind, here’s some ideas for hikes this summer that will get you away from those crowds.
HIKE MID-WEEK – This one’s a no-brainer. Hiking Monday through Thursday you are going to find a lot less folks on the trail than the weekend. Getting an early morning start can help as well, especially if you want to beat the summer heat.
BACKPACK IN AND STAY THE NIGHT – The vast majority of hikers are day hikers. With that in mind consider an overnight trip. Load up your backpack and hit the trail in the late afternoon when most hikers are returning (or have returned) back to the trailhead. Even if you don’t backpack in a long way, you’ll likely enjoy an evening of solitude at a forested campsite but if you really want to leave the crowds behind, go on a multi-day trip. Just stay off trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, which tends to be very crowded these days. Speaking of which….
AVOID THE MARQUEE HIKING DESTINATIONS – Let’s face it, some of our trails are being loved to death. Exhibit A – The Enchantments south of Leavenworth in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Demand for overnight permits is off the charts and every day of the week (all the way through September) you’ll find completely full parking lots at trailheads and no ability to park outside of them without getting ticketed or towed.
This situation is not limited to the Enchantments; other popular hiking destinations include Lake Valhalla, Heather Lake and Pete Lake in the Central Cascades, Silver Falls west of Entiat, Barclay Lake and Lake 22 west of the Cascade Crest and the Horsethief Butte Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. These are just of the few perennially crowded hiking trails in our state, though most are not nearly as crowded on any random day as just about any trail you’ll find in Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park.
LESS FLASHY DESTINATIONS – Try looking for destinations that fly under the radar. Trails that follow streams instead of heading to lakes are often less crowded. Ingalls Creek off the Blewett Pass Highway and the Icicle Creek Trail at the very end of the Icicle River Road are both trails I’ve enjoyed many times while only seeing a few fellow hikers each time.
OTHER PUBLIC LANDS – Another option is to consider hikes outside of our national forests and wilderness areas. There are a number of trails on bureau of land management land in Eastern Washington worth exploring, and also on several national wildlife refuges. Trails found at the Toppenish, Turnbull, Columbia and Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuges offer not only uncrowded experiences in the summer, but also the chance to see lots of wildlife. Another option to consider are our state wildlife areas. Managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, they are often crowded during hunting season but in the summer many of them are empty of any visitors and like the national wildlife refuges, offer great chances to experience solitude and wildlife.
BE MINDFUL OF CLOSURES – Do keep in mind all state wildlife areas are only open during the day because of fire danger and no shooting or smoking (outside of your vehicle) is allowed. A reminder as well that all Washington Department of Natural Resource lands east of the Cascade crest are closed until further notice due to high fire danger. The Umatilla National Forest in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon also remains closed to all access as well for the same reason. When those areas reopen though, they will definitely be worth exploring.
BE PREPARED – Last but not least, be prepared to help not only yourself, but some of the enthusiastic but completely unprepared people who are giving hiking a go for the first time. In addition to carrying the “ten essentials” for wilderness survival, you might want to bring along a few extra first aid supplies and water too. You just might run across someone who needs them.
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
1. The trail along Ingalls Creek off the Blewett Pass Highway – J. Kruse