A Hiker's Guide to National Park Week
Today marks the start of National Park Week, and to celebrate, the parks have waived entrance fees Apr. 22-26. With three amazing National Parks here in Washington and a week of good weather predicted, it's the perfect time to explore the parks.
As a bonus, Washington State Parks will be celebrating alongside their national counterparts by offering fee-free days on April 27 and 28.
Where to go in Mount Rainier National Park
Play in the snow: Still want to play in the snow? Mount Rainier's still got plenty of it (16 feet are currently on the ground at Paradise). Go play in the snow or squeeze in a late-season snowshoe (checking weather and avalanche conditions and with the rangers before you head out).
The Mazama Ridge snowshoe starts at the Paradise visitor center, following the Stevens Canyon Road - and if you're lucky enough to have a clear day, views of the mountain are stupendous. Depending on conditions, avalanche danger on this trail is moderate on the climb to the ridge, but otherwise low.
Hike: Explore the Carbon River Road, a former road-turned-pedestrian path in the northwest corner of the park. From the guard station, it's five miles of hiking or biking to the Isput Campground, with a few side trails, like the one to Green Lake to check out along the way.
Where to go in Olympic National Park
Hike the Hoh: Explore the temperate rainforest of the Hoh River Valley. Walk the short interpretive Hall of Mosses loop or any number of miles along the Hoh River. Massive trees, enormous ferns and a chance of encountering elk will make you feel like you're in another world.
Hike a rail-turned trail: Enjoy scenic views of Lake Crescent and the surrounding Olympic Mountains while hiking the historic and family-friendly Spruce Railroad Trail, which travels along the lake’s north shore.
Where to go in North Cascades National Park
Hike Thunder Creek: In Day Hiking the North Cascades, Craig Romano calls the Thunder Creek trail "one of the deepest, wildest, and most accessible wilderness valleys in the North Cascades National Park Complex." Even better, you can hike this trail -- up to a 12-mile roundtrip -- right now.
A short family loop: If you're stopping in at the North Cascades Visitor's Center, stretch your legs on the Skagit River trail, 1.8 mile loop leading through the forest, past the Newhalem Creek Campground and alongside the river.
Tips for safe hiking in spring
- Rapidly-changing weather, lingering snow, rain, rising rivers, mud, blown-down trees and bad roads are all potential spring hiking hazards. Use our tips for spring hiking, and learn how to handle them.
- Every hiking party should carry the Ten Essentials, including maps, a compass and a refreshed First Aid kit. Throw in some extra clothing (especially rain gear) and extra food and water.