Looking for relaxed day hikes in northern Washington
April 21, 2022 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some day hikes (7 miles tops) in Washington State that are within a few hours drive of Seattle and likely to be relatively empty in early June. I'll probably want to get a hotel somewhere in the area and do a different hike every day for three or four days. Suggestions?
posted by Tell Me No Lies to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oh there are so many hikes up here in Whatcom/Skagit! If that's where you're looking you will be spoiled for choice. I am eagerly waiting for my local outdoors shop to drop their "Trail Challenge" for this year (do 8 out of 10 hikes on the list, win entry into a prize drawing), but you can look at last year's (the 8 I did -- all but Sourdough and Green Mountain Lookout -- were pretty gentle). Or just check out WTA and sort by rating.

In particular, up here I love Skyline Divide and Heliotrope (two I want to return to a lot and always want to bring hiking-inclined people to), with High Pass/Winchester Lookout, Goat Lake, Church Mountain, and Cutthroat Pass also being really enjoyable from last year's list.

Bellingham wouldn't be a bad basecamp (though I'm biased)-- you have the Chuckanuts very close by, and pretty easy driving distance to the Baker trails (plus solid stuff to do other than hiking). There are a ton of great trails off of Hwy 20 too, and Mt Vernon is a pretty nice town. June will still have snow on the ground at higher elevations, and the road to Artist Point will probably still be closed, making those (like Ptarmigan Ridge and Table Mountain) probably a fair bit emptier. Check out the recent WTA reports on the hikes (or even from the same date in past years) and you'll get a sense of what they're like, weather- and crowd-wise.
posted by supercres at 3:18 PM on April 21, 2022

Here's the Washington Trails Association hikefinder.
It has maps and trail reports. Many trails, or roads leading to trails, still have snow in June, so trip reports can really help with access issues.
Lots and lots and lots of people hike in Wa., don't let crowded trailhead parking lots daunt you, you can find solitude on trails (but maybe not peaks or lakes)
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:49 PM on April 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

I will add that you will want to get a Discover Pass to park at trailheads. the more popular trailheads do get checked and rangers do issue tickets, plus it's nice to support the public lands and the work done to maintain them
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:52 PM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

(nb: Discover Pass is only for state parks. National Forests trailheads like the Mt Baker trails need the Northwest Forest Pass. The WTA page for a hike will tell you which you need, if any. I get much more mileage out of my NW Forest Pass than the Discover Pass. REI has day passes which would probably be better for only a week of hikes.)
posted by supercres at 5:00 PM on April 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

June is a bit early as you’ll still have snow on the trail at the higher elevations of a lot of hikes. The WTA website is good for checking trip reports. As for where, I’d recommend along the south section of the Mountain Loop Highway where there’s a lot of trails. Find a place to stay near Granite Falls. Two low altitude hikes are Lime Kiln and Old Robe Canyon (two short rail tunnels to hike through if like most people you ignore the ‘trail closed after this point’ sign and be cautious). If the ranger station is open in Verlot, you can ask them for advice. Other trails along the Mountain Loop Hwy that I think you’ll do okay with in June are Lake 22, Heather Lake, Mt Pilchuck, Big Four Ice Caves, Perry Creek.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:43 PM on April 21, 2022

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