Washington Hikes for Visitors of All Abilities

in Trails by

As hikers, we feel compelled to send out pictures of the beautiful places we’ve seen in our backcountry travels. As hosts, we feel compelled to take our guests to these places if they’ve requested to see them. But as hikers we’ve all struggled to find the right hikes for our visiting friends and family with varying fitness levels. Fear not, we’ve created a list that will help you settle on a Washington hike that is just right for the wide range of visitors you’ve let move into your guest room.

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If your guest:

Spends most of their days killing aliens from the stained couch of their living room command center, has ordered pizza after midnight at least twice in the last seven days, takes the elevator instead of the stairs up a single floor, considers a trek out to the mailbox the prerequisite amount of physical activity for one day and probably won’t die from a bit of exercise…

Take them to:

Mt. Rainier and do the Borough Mountain hike. This is a late summer hike that starts from the Rainier Gift Shop at the top of Sunrise (plenty of trinkets and bags of Cheetos), wonders by a neon blue lake fed by melting glaciers and ends up on top of Borough Mountain One where the views are monumental. Since it’s an out and back treck, this hike can be as long or short as you want it, so you can always abort if video game withdrawal kicks in. To hike to the top of Borough One prep your guest for about 5.4 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation. Pack a lunch, because you’ll want to stay and enjoy the top for a while and bring an extra set of poles, because lingering snow can make the trail a little sketchy.

Spray-Park-2 copy

If your guest:

Spends most of their days sitting at a desk typing TPS reports, has been to the gym at least twice in the last seven days, has been thinking about running a 10k for the past five years but has never actually gone through with it and orders skinny lattes and sandwiches with no cheese…

Take them to:

Mt. Rainier and hike the Spray Park Loop. This hike opens up after July 4th and is a bit of a drive from Seattle, but it’s worth the car time. The hike starts at Mowich Lake, a huge alpine lake that captures pristine reflections of Rainier. The trail rambles up through an old growth forest to an alpine meadow at the base of the mountain where the wildflowers are as dense as tourists at the original Starbucks; and not once will you encounter a PC Load Letter error. To reach the alpine fields you’ll cover a distance of roughly 7.0 miles and gain about 1,000 feet of elevation.

Park-Butte copy

If your guest:

Spends most of their days gardening or knitting, remembers the days of external frame backpacks and canvas tents, likes to tell you stories of how they used to run seven miles a day when they were your age, and still has that mental toughness to bag a fairly difficult hike…

Take them to:

Mt. Baker and hike the Park Butte Trail. The hike starts low and winds through some beautiful open scenery, then crosses a glacial stream and begins gaining elevation pretty quickly. This is a steeper hike, so you’ll need to take it slow, but once you exit the forest the views open up on Mount Baker in all its glory. To get to the top you’ll cover 5.0 mile and gain 2,000 feet of elevation. Again this is an out and back trek so you can turn around if your guest decides they’d rather be knitting than panting heavily. If they’re still feeling great once your reach the top, you can branch off at a fork in the trail to Railroad Ridge Grade and hike up to a ridge that peers down into the expanse carved by a glacier.

Indian-Bar copy

If your guest:

Has the ironman symbol tattooed somewhere on their body, drinks beverages that look like ground up moss, runs 5 miles before you’ve changed out of your pajamas, and is currently training for their next trip to Leadville…

Take them to:

Mt. Rainier and hike the Wonderland Trail to Indian Bar/Cowlitz Divide. This is another late summer hike, but is far enough out of the way that the crowds are manageable the few months it’s open. The trail begins from the Box Canyon trailhead and climbs precipitously from mile one to mile three. After about three miles you’ll crest the ridge and the climbing will be mostly over. The next four miles you’ll wonder along the ridge with only the views of Rainier to occupy your time. Depending on daylight, you can make this hike as long as you want it to be. If you hike the backcountry ranger station at Indian Bar and turn around you’ll end up tallying about 15 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Bring something to wash down the huckleberries, because they are thick and untouched in this area.

James is a serial day hiker, backpacker, camper, traveler, hobbyist and gear junkie. He and his wife moved from Oklahoma to Seattle five years ago in pursuit of a passion for the great outdoors. James has lived and hiked extensively in Colorado and Washington. He's also hiked a bunch in Oklahoma, but that's nothing to brag about. James' most recent obsession is photography; he maintains a photographic hiking log with trail trips for northwest hiking on Instagram (you can follow him @hikinghabit ).

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