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Sally Jewell Aims to Put Young People to Work on Public Lands

Posted by Loren Drummond at Jan 09, 2014 04:55 PM |
Sally Jewell Aims to Put Young People to Work on Public Lands

A WTA youth crew at work on Quartz Creek earlier this year.

Last October, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell outlined an initiative that would put 100,000 young people and veterans to work outdoors on conservation and stewardship of public lands, forests, parks and trails. This morning, American Eagle Outfitters pledged a million (out of a total hoped-for 20 million from private sources) toward the effort.

Through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), the funds will directly support non-profit corps programs that provide work and training experience to young people and veterans on Interior’s public lands.

Rallying resources in service of public lands

With federal funding budgets for public lands slashed to record lows, the Department of the Interior's engagement of private-sector funding could boost much-needed resources to the maintenance and stewardship of federal lands. At the very least, the effort may help fund jobs and energize a generation in the service of protecting public lands.

Rallying the next generation of trail stewards

Connecting young people with stewardship jobs is only one component of the youth initiative Jewell outlined in a speech last October, where she emphasized the need to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors.

WTA has been a longtime leader for connecting youth to the outdoors on all of Washington's public lands. Last year alone, more than 890 kids and teens volunteered with us on 66 youth work parties, making up 26 percent of our total volunteer crews. We also launched the Outdoor Leadership Training program and gear library to empower teachers and youth workers with the training and resources they need to lead safe and fun outdoor adventures.

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Ice Caves Are Dangerous; Keep Your Distance

Posted by Anna Roth at Jan 07, 2014 05:55 PM |
Ice Caves Are Dangerous; Keep Your Distance

The Big Four Ice Caves pose dangers from collapse and avalanche. Do not approach them or enter them, even in winter. Photo by j brink.

At Washington Trails Association, we're all about helping you discover the natural wonders to be found along Washington's trails. But we want you to return home safely, too.

Signs all around the popular Big Four Ice Caves caution hikers and snowshoers not enter the ice caves that form there, and for good reason -- the area in and around the caves is dangerous all year round.

Ice caves pose unpredictable, year-round dangers

Snow and ice are extremely volatile. Regardless of weather, temperature, or snow pack, ice caves in Washington pose a very real threat to anyone venturing in or near them. No matter how well-compacted or safe the snow may seem, always err on the side of caution and stay out of ice caves.

It is never safe to enter an ice cave, but the caves at Big Four pose a particular danger if you venture beyond the viewing platform at the end of the trail. Just because the caves aren't behind a fence doesn't mean they're safe to approach.

The waterfall that runs behind and through the caves year-round keeps the snow weak, and in winter, it can break free at any time as a loose wet avalanche, flowing downhill and trapping any hiker who had ventured inside one of the caves.

The Big Four Ice Caves have claimed the lives of at least two hikers in the last decade, including a Bothell woman in August of 1998 while she was hiking with her family, and an eleven year-old girl as recently as 2010. Aside from these tragedies, collapsing ice bridges and avalanches have injured hikers on many other occasions, once trapping a group inside a cave and another time crushing a hiker who had ventured in alone.

Never visited Big Four? The trail to view the caves is wonderful and well worth a visit by beginner hikers. Just mind the warnings once you reach the end of the trail, and stay far away from the caves. If you wait long enough, you might even catch a distant avalanche in action across the valley (a sound you won't soon forget). 

Don't tread on thin ice

The ice caves begin to appear as the weather warms, usually around early summer. But higher temperatures makes for weaker snow, and the caves are no less dangerous even when winter's avalanche danger passes.

Hikers who venture onto ice fields that make up the roof of ice caves run the risk of treading on thin ice (literally), breaking through the roof of a cave and crashing many feet to sharp rocks below.

Hike safe, hike smart and keep each other safe

Ice caves are natural marvels, and the temptation to explore them up close can be strong, but be aware of the consequences. Tons of snow and ice can move quickly, and a quick photo op can become a dangerous, even deadly situation in the blink of an eye. The best option is to admire these from afar.

We want everyone to come home from their hikes safely.

When you file a trip report, remember that other hikers may be following in your footsteps. Be sure to mention potential dangers to each other or recommended experience levels for technical trails you report on. If you have any questions about accuracy, liability or monitoring of user-generated content like Trip Reports on our website, please refer to our Terms of Service.

More winter safety resources

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2014: Plan Your Wild Adventures

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 30, 2013 06:05 PM |
2014: Plan Your Wild Adventures

Ridge walking Hidden Lake Peak. Photo by beefeater.

This is one of our favorite times of year, when we reflect on all the mountains we climbed, the trails we helped build and the great nights spent under the stars with friends and family. All that reflection is almost as good as starting to plan the coming year of hiking.

Not sure what you'd like your hiking goal to be? Maybe the list below will spur a few ideas.

Set a hiking goal

Set a number of hikes as your goal. Get out on a trail once a month, or if you're more ambitious, once a week.

Set a mileage goal. On facebook, Christopher Osborn said: My goal each year is to hike at least 100 miles and I hiked 118 this year. I'm thinking about adding an elevation goal next year.

Set an elevation goal. Trip reporter and volunteer, Nutmeg, recently completed 100,000 feet of vertical gain on her 2013 hikes, and we heard from several other hikers who use the same goal.

Need some more inspiration? Look to the Hike-a-Thon hall of fame for more ideas about the kind of goals you might want to set, from hiking to alpine lakes to hiking during the week.

Nights under the stars

Take your first backpacking trip. If you've only ever day-hiked, try your first overnight trip. Add one of these fourteen overnight hikes to your My Backpack.

Take your kid backpacking for the first time. Even if everything doesn't go smoothly, it will be a trip to remember. Have a baby? Get them started young (read this for some tips and inspiration).

Spend a week, or a month under the stars. This year, one of our staffers tried to spend 10 percent (or 36 nights) out under the stars. She didn't quite reach her goal, but she did manage to catch some incredible meteor showers and spend some quality time outside as a result of trying. Tip: signing up for a Volunteer Vacation or volunteer trip is a great way to up the number of your nights outside.

Tackle an epic trail

The long trail. Tackle a section (or two) of the Pacific Crest Trail or the entire Wonderland Trail.

Hike a classic. Try to get to one of these quintessential Washington destinations.

Epic, as in, Hobbits. Try one of these Hobbit hikes.

Get wild

We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014. With 31 unique wilderness areas, Washington state holds some of the most spectacular wild places in the United States. WTA will help you celebrate this special anniversary by showcasing trails you can explore in Washington's amazing wilderness.

Learn a new skill

Want to learn more about first aid or Leave No Trace principles? Whether you want to improve your map and compass skills, volunteer on trail with WTA, or take a course with The Mountaineers or REI, there is no shortage of opportunities to pick up a new skill in 2014.

Get fit

Add these conditioning hikes to your My Backpack, and do the "Daily Dozen" [PDF], a set of hiking exercises from John Colver's Fit by Nature.

Project: trip report

If you feel up for a challenge, try finding trails in the Hiking Guide without any recent Trip Reports and hiking them. Report back to the entire community of hikers on the trail conditions and trip highlights.

Check out state parks

Washington State Parks are all over the state and feature some incredible hiking. Start the year hiking in one, and see how many you can visit by year's end. You can even get started by exploring the 100+ parks open in winter.

Give a trail some TLC

Once you've spent a day (or five) building or maintaining a trail with WTA, you'll gain an appreciation for every step you take on your hikes. Meet some great folks, learn a few new things and have fun with us on trail next year.

Share your plans

What hikes are you determined to do? What's your personal or family outdoor challenge for 2014? Tell us your plans in the comments below. If you haven't settled on any plans just yet, tell us what topics or kind of hikes you'd like to see featured this year. Whatever you're looking for, WTA will help you find it.

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Choose from 15 'First Day Hikes' in State Parks

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 30, 2013 11:49 AM |
Choose from 15 'First Day Hikes' in State Parks

Cama Beach State Park is one of the 15 parks hosting a hike on Jan. 1, 2014. Photo by Chris

Want to spend the first day of the new year outside? This year, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is making it easy. Fifteen state parks are offering guided hikes that range from nature strolls along the coast to dog-friendly forest hikes to snowshoe adventures.

“First Day Hikes are a great way for families and individuals to enjoy, appreciate and support their Washington state parks,” said Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director.

Participants of all ages are welcome, unless otherwise noted and the Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to the parks for the event. Check out the options below and get more information on the Washington State Parks events page.

Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island

Discover winter flora and fauna on Camano Island, and enjoy views of Saratoga Passage during a 1.5-mile hike. Meet at the welcome center near the park entrance at 1 p.m. A free shuttle is available to return hikers to the Cama Beach State Park welcome center after the event.

Camano Island State Park on Camano Island

Hike on West Rim and Cross Island trails at 1 p.m. for a two-mile trek from Camano Island State Park to Cama Beach State Park. Meet at the Lowell Point kitchen shelter. A free shuttle is available to return hikers to Camano Island State Park after the event.

Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor

Participants have two hiking options at Deception Pass. Hike out to North Beach on Discovery Trail at 10 a.m. Then either return on the same trail for a two-mile hike, or continue to Goose Rock Trail for a view of Strawberry and Ben Ure islands on a three-mile trek. The hike starts at Cornet Bay Retreat Center; meet there at 10 a.m.

Ebey’s Landing State Park on Whidbey Island

Explore Bluff Trail at Ebey’s Landing State Park within the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. Meet at 10 a.m., at the picnic tables just beyond the parking lot on the way to the trailhead. Participants of all ages are welcome, though small children may need assistance. On-leash pets are allowed.

Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island

Hike a full two miles along Bluff Trail, or enjoy a shorter, ¾-mile walk that includes views of North Puget Sound and historic military structures. Meet at 1 p.m. in front of the park museum. On-leash pets are welcome. The park museum is open on New Year’s Day.

Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend

Take a stroll up Artillery Hill and walk through multiple coastal defense bunkers for a 1.5-mile hike. Meet at 12:30 p.m. at the “Memories Vault. Those unfamiliar with the park may wish to arrive 30 minutes early and ask for directions at the Coastal Artillery Museum, located next door to the park office. Children ages 10 years and older are welcome. Those who want to explore the bunkers are advised to take along a flashlight.

Goldendale Observatory State Park in Goldendale

This event starts with an evening hike, followed by a stargazing session in the Observatory, led by the park’s interpretive specialist. Meet at 6:30 p.m. in the state park parking lot. Pets on leash are welcome.

Lake Sylvia State Park in Montesano

Hike along Sylvia Creek/Forestry Trail while learning about area logging history, wildlife and plant life. Meet at 1 p.m., at the day-use area parking lot. On-leash pets are welcome.

Lake Wenatchee State Park near Leavenworth

Snowshoe on North Lake Loop for a one-mile excursion of moderate difficulty. Meet at 10 a.m. at the North Park Sno-Park. A Seasonal Sno-Park Permit and a Special Groomed Trail Permit – or a One-Day Sno-Park Permit and Discover Pass – are required for vehicle access to this event. Sno-Park permits are available for purchase online at Participants must be 10 years of age or older to participate. Please leave pets at home. Snowshoes are required.

Millersylvania State Park in Olympia

Walk or run 3.8 miles of fitness trails through Pacific Northwest old-growth forest. Meet at 9 a.m. at Kitchen Shelter 1. Participants are asked to leave pets at home for this one.

Mount Spokane State Park in Mead

Snowshoe along Trail 130 for a 2- to 4-mile, round-trip hike. Meet at 10 a.m. at the snowmobile parking lot. A Seasonal Sno-Park Permit and a Special Groomed Trail Permit or a One-Day Sno-Park Permit and a Discover Pass are required for vehicle access to the event. (Purchase Sno-Park permits online at Snowshoes are required, and pets are allowed, as long as they are on leash.

Nolte State Park in Enumclaw

Explore the forested 1.25-mile-loop around Deep Lake at this 11 a.m. hike through the Green River Gorge. Meet at the state park parking lot. On-leash pets are welcome.

Riverside State Park in Spokane

Take the swing bridge over the Spokane River for a hike on the Bowl and Pitcher River Trail. Participants will see the unique basalt rock formations cut by the Spokane River known as the Bowl and Pitcher. Meet in the Bowl and Pitcher Swinging Bridge parking lot at 1 p.m. Participants should be prepared for any weather conditions; snowshoes may be required. Pets on leash are allowed.

Twanoh State Park on Hood Canal

See the interior of a Puget Sound coastal forest on a 2.25-mile hike. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the park office in the lower parking area. The trail may be muddy; boots or weather-proof shoes are recommended.

Wallace Falls State Park in Goldbar

Hike on Woody Trail to Middle Falls for a 2.3-mile journey to multiple waterfall viewpoints. Meet at 11 a.m. at the Wallace Falls Trailhead. Pets on leash are welcome.

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Photos: A Week of Winter Hiking in Washington

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 23, 2013 12:35 PM |
Photos: A Week of Winter Hiking in Washington

Trip reporter nutmeg caught this stunning view from the Rampart Ridge Loop.

Think winter is a time to hibernate? Not according to WTA's trip reports. From epic sunsets to icy waterfalls, the photos and links below show a week of December trip reports from hikers having great adventures all over the state. Use them to plan a trip, get inspired to get outside, or just to show off your state to any out-of-towners in for the holidays.

File your own adventure. What makes a great trip report? This time of year, snow conditions are always important information to share with others. Are things icy on trail? What about the state of the road, the trailhead facilities and the trail itself? Last, but not least, include your photos of the trail, the scenery or just your hiking buddies!

Winter safety tips:

Sea stacks make a walk on Ruby Beach worth it in winter

Elk crossing along the Hoh River

Big views and bold sunsets at White Bluffs

Spikes up on Snoqualmie Mountain

An honest day's work under a green winter canopy

Where ice meets water on Twin Falls

Blue skies, creek-hopping and mountaintops on a morning hike

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Highest Charity Rating for WTA (Again!)

Posted by Rebecca Lavigne at Dec 23, 2013 11:00 AM |
Highest Charity Rating for WTA (Again!)

WTA's worked on 190 trails in 2013, just one of the accomplishments that earned us a 4-star rating. Photo by Gary Zink.

Charity Navigator, the nation's leading charity evaluator, released a new rating for Washington Trails Association earlier this month. What did we earn?  A 4-star rating—again! That's their highest possible rating.

Accountability, transparency, trust

WTA earns top marks for sound fiscal management and for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

We are thrilled to receive this recognition once again from such a respected source.

So what does this mean for hikers? If you're considering a year-end gift to WTA, you can give with confidence knowing that we'll put your contribution to good use protecting the trails you love.

> Read about what we accomplished with contributions in 2013.

> You can always find WTA's latest financial information, including last year's annual report.

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Santa, Elves Crash WTA Trail Work Parties

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 20, 2013 04:10 PM |
Filed under:
Santa, Elves Crash WTA Trail Work Parties

Santa, Rudolph, and his head elf made it to our Grand Ridge work party. Photo by Anna Roth

At WTA, we're serious about trails. Rain or shine, you can find our dedicated trail crews working hard on new trails, fixing old trails, building bridges and shoring up switchbacks. This year, we fielded more than 105,000 hours of volunteer work on 190 trails statewide. That is some serious trail work.

But just because we mean business when it comes to protecting and maintaining Washington's trails, that doesn't mean we always have to be serious on trail. Case in point: our annual Santa work parties, when things tend to get a little more fun and festive than usual.

This year on the Grand Ridge trail near Issaquah, Gear Aid played the role of elf and provided our volunteers with some extra goodies to help their outdoor gear in tip top shape all year long. And up at the Rock Trail in Larrabee State Park, Santa cheered on volunteers through a rainy day to a party complete with cider and pie.

While we can't promise banjo-led carols and sparkly lights on all our work parties, if you've ever thought about signing up to volunteer on trail or becoming a member who supports our work on trail, we'll do our best to make sure that you have fun.

Hard hats for safety, lights for fun

The big man says a few words

Santa points the way to the work

Packing in the essential tools (and Santa)

Hitching a ride

A merry band led by a banjo

Goodies from the elves at GearAid

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Klickitat County Trails Plan Seeks Input from Local Residents

Posted by Ryan Ojerio at Dec 18, 2013 01:20 PM |
Klickitat County Trails Plan Seeks Input from Local Residents

Lyle Cherry Orchard by Bob Griffith

There is an exciting effort underway to improve hiking opportunities near the city of Lyle in Klickitat County. Associated with the Gorge Towns to Trails project spearheaded by Friends of the Columbia River Gorge. Known as GT2T, the project aims to develop a comprehensive trails plan that would better link trails to Gorge communities to meet the growing popularity of trails in the Gorge, generate tourism revenue, and improve access to trails for local residents.

A plan to link town to trail

The idea to link the Cherry Orchard Trail to the town of Lyle initially garnered support from the School Board and the Lyle Community Action Council who have since reversed their decision. Yet a recent public meeting in the town elicited some unexpectedly fervent concerns. Those opposed to new trail developments worry about property owners' rights, maintenance costs, unlawful activities, and the potential loss of tax revenue. Many also felt that the Friends were imposing a plan on local communities without considering their input.

Residents encouraged to provide feedback

In fact, the trails planning effort in Lyle is being facilitated by the National Parks Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and has involved many local organizations from the beginning. The Lyle Community Trail System Planning Team created a survey specifically to gather input from local residents.

>> If you are a Klickitat County resident, you can take the survey here.

The benefits of a nearby trail

Trail proponents know that hiking trails can offer communities a wide range of benefits, from tourism dollars to easy-access health opportunities for community members.

The Klickitat Trail Conservancy recently issued a statement describing the economic benefits that trails bring to the community including tourism dollars, funds raised by the annual Klickitat Half Marathon, the many hours that volunteers contribute to the maintenance of the Klickitat Trail and the thousands of dollars in taxes paid annually by Friends of the Gorge on the property their land trust owns.

Similarly, there were some local trail proponents who spoke up at the open house for the health and wellness benefits that a trail link to the town could bring.

Washington Trails Association supports the GT2T project and hopes that the stakeholders are able to build trust through the process and ultimately create better hiking trails for all.

More information:

Lyle Trails Planning Info:
Map of the area:

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Take a Guided Snowshoe Hike

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 16, 2013 05:15 PM |
Take a Guided Snowshoe Hike

Take a ranger-led snowshoe hike this winter. Photo by j brink at Big Four Ice Caves.

Guided snowshoe hikes are a great, safe way to get to know Washington's trails in winter. From beginner programs to more advanced outings, the following programs are a great way to try snowshoeing or explore a new area of the state. With an ranger or expert leading the way, learn a new skill (like avalanche awareness or winter photography) or just get outside for the day.

Below is information for guided snowshoe programs at:

  • Snoqualmie Pass
  • Stevens Pass (Skykomish Ranger District)
  • Mount Baker Ranger District
  • Big Four Ice Caves (Darrington Ranger District)
  • Mount St. Helens
  • Mount Rainier National Park

Some private companies and resorts also offer guided snowshoe programs.

Information, Sno-Park permits and more

Whether you take a guided hike or want to plan your own snowshoe adventure, get more information about winter recreation information, current weather and avalanche forecasts, some beginner snowshoe trails, and Sno-Park Permit information.

> More about Sno-Park and permits you need in winter.
> Find more resources in WTA's Winter Recreation Guide

Guided winter snowshoe walks on Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, near Mount Baker and on the Mountain Loop Highway

Get outdoors and learn about winter ecology snowshoeing on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest January through March. No experience is necessary and the Forest Service provides snowshoes. Participants should wear layered and insulated clothing, hats and gloves with sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots, hats and gloves. To offset the costs of the program a donation is requested.


Snoqualmie Pass

Beginning in January, Forest Service Naturalists at the Snoqualmie Pass Visitor Information Center will offer a variety of guided outdoor winter walks and activities. Reservations are required to participate.

To make a reservation, call 509-852-1062 before December 19. From December 20 until the end of the season, the visitor center will take reservations Thursday - Sunday from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled.

Meet 15 minutes before your scheduled walk at the Snoqualmie Pass Visitor’s Center off I-90, exit 52. A donation of $15 is suggested of for adults, $10 for youth 16 and under, and $25 per person for the half-day hikes and photography outings.

Read the hike descriptions provided by the Forest Service, and sign up today:

90 minute walk: 1 mile roundtrip
Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Suggested donation: Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Learn about the winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety on this one-mile loop walk through opulent old-growth forest.

Extended walk: 5 mile roundtrip
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.
Suggested donation: $25 per person
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks. Bring a lunch, a well-stocked day pack, extra clothing and water; you will be out from about 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Photography walk: 4-5 hours
Dates: 2/15, 3/1, 3/15, 3/29 at 9:30 a.m.
Suggested donation: $25 per person
Geared for photography enthusiasts of all abilities. Commonwealth Creek offers intriguing image possibilities with ice falls, cool vapors and swirling dark waters. Your guide will discuss light, composition and exposure. Bring lunch, this outing lasts four to five hours.
Participants are encouraged to bring their own film or digital cameras and extra batteries. In order to reduce your own exposure, please carry a well-stocked backpack with lunch, as this trip usually lasts about 4 - 5 hours.

Kids in Snow! - 90 min. family snowshoe
Beginning January 18, Saturdays at 1:00 p.m.
Suggested donation:  Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow membership and badge! Learn about winter tracking, how plants and animals survive through the winter and check out some hearty winter critters on this approximately 90-minute walk.

Avalanche Awareness Walk
Dates: 2/8, 2/22, 3/8, 3/22
Donations of $15 per participant are suggested for this program.

Join the Northwest Avalanche Center and the Forest Service for a snowshoe walk where the focus is entirely Avalanche Awareness.  Professionals from the Northwest Avalanche Center will be leading and presenting these walks. Call for more details.

Stevens Pass

Both of these guided hikes will be held every Saturday and Sunday from January 4 to March 1. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled.

To make a reservations, call the Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2414 Meet at the Forest Service Guard Station by Parking Lot A at Stevens Pass. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. (Check for fees and schedules.)

Junior Snow Ranger
10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
Suggested donation:  Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow membership and badge! Learn about winter tracking, how plants and animals survive through the winter and check out some hearty winter critters.

Trek with a Ranger
11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Suggested donation:  Adults $15, youth 16 and under $10
Learn about the winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety on this 90 minute guided nature discovery tour along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mount Baker Ranger District

To make a reservation, call 360-599-9572, weekends 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. or e-mail Meet at the Glacier Public Service Center, milepost 34 on the Mount Baker Hwy., State Route 542. Groups will leave from there to the snowshoe walk location along the Hannegan Road, Heather Meadows or another setting in the Mt. Baker District area. Reservations required.

Ranger Guided Snowshoe Walk
Fridays - 10 a.m. Feb. 7, 14, 21

Sundays - 10 a.m.  Feb. 23, March 2, 9, 16

Mountain Loop Highway - Big Four Ice Caves

To make a reservation, call the Darrington Ranger District at 360-436-1155. Meet at Verlot Public Service Center, 11 miles east of Granite Falls on the Mountain Loop Highway, for orientation. Groups will leave from there to Deer Creek and begin the four-mile, approximately five hour round-trip snowshoe hike to the Big 4 picnic shelter. Participants should be age 16 or older and in good shape. Snowshoes are provided. A $20 donation is suggested. Reservations are required

Big Four Ice Cave Snowshoe Walk
February 1 - March 2, weekends, 8:30 a.m – 2 p.m.
This is a great opportunity for those who have never used snowshoes before or anyone interested in learning about the amazing ecology and human history of this low elevation winter wonderland. Pack a lunch and bring an insulated mug of hot chocolate for the Big Four picnic shelter where we can listen for the crack of avalanches cascading off the massive face of Big Four.

Guided snowshoe hikes at Mount St. Helens

The Mount St. Helens Institute is also offering guided snowshoe adventures starting in January. Registration is required ($30) and does not cover the cost of a Sno-Park Pass. Rentals are available.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes at Mount Rainier

Join a park ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals, and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier.

When: First-come, first-served guided snowshoe walks begin n December 24, 2013. Snow conditions permitting, the walks are generally offered on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and daily during winter break from December 24 to January 1.

After early January, walks are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. Walks start at 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center (near the information desk) in Paradise. Sign-ups begin 1 hour in advance of scheduled time.

Distance & Time: Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles in 2 hours.

Group size: Snowshoe walks are limited to 25 people, eight years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis. A sign-up sheet is available at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk one hour before each walk. All snowshoe walk participants must be present at sign-up.

Equipment: For an enjoyable snowshoe walk, you will need to wear sturdy, waterproof boots, dress in layers, and have a hat, gloves, suitable boots, sunglasses and sunscreen. Snowshoes are provided, or visitors may use their own. A donation of $4 per person is asked to help defray the cost of snowshoe maintenance.

>> More information on winter recreation at Mount Rainier National Park.

Winter recreation at Olympic National Park

In the past, Olympic National Park has offered ranger-led snowshoe walks, but due to budget uncertainties, park officials have said they will not offer them this winter.

There are still plenty of great ways to enjoy Olympic National Park in the winter, though, including snowshoeing Hurricane Hill on your own.

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Hobbit Hikes Part 2: Washington's Middle-earth

Posted by Loren Drummond and Anna Roth at Dec 12, 2013 02:50 PM |
Filed under:
Hobbit Hikes Part 2: Washington's Middle-earth

Hike The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug right here in Washington.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters at midnight tonight, and if you've ever hiked in Washington, the awe-inspiring scenery may look familiar. If you're feeling the need to seek out an epic adventure (or a dragon) after watching the movie, WTA's got you covered.

From  Mirkwood's gloom to The Lonely Mountain's craggy peaks, we've found Washington versions of places in the first two films from Peter Jackson's vision of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic tale. Some of the trails you can hike or snowshoe right now; the others will have to wait until next spring and summer.

Can't get enough Hobbit Hikes? Check out last year's blog with hiker suggestions for more ideas. And if you have your own thoughts about which of Washington's mountains is the Loneliest (Mount St. Helens, maybe?), share your Hobbit moments on trail in the comments below.

Snowshoe Artist Point

You'll feel like you're approaching the Desolation of Smaug when you snowshoe under the lofty peaks Mount Baker and Mount Shuskan at Artist Point. >> Snowshoe Artist point.

Hike Oyster Dome

Channel the athleticism and grace of your inner elf as you scale the trail to the rocky top of Oyster Dome, which will give you ocean views not too far off from these in the new film (which we think must be the Long Lake). >> Hike Oyster Dome.

Hike Ape Caves

Mirkwood Forest is so dark you might need to head into Ape Caves (shown below) to get the same effect. On the other hand, venturing under the tree canopy of Rockport State Park or the Hoh River Trail on a gloomy day might offer a similar feeling.
>> Hike Ape Caves (snow may require a snowshoe from the gate, once it is closed for the season).

A late summer backpacking trip (for hobbits)

Take a journey worthy of Bilbo and head into the backcountry for two or five nights next summer. One way to feel like you're approaching the towering heights of Erabor (we think) is to climb up and over Granite Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. From there, you'll take in the red rock views of Tower Mountain (shown below).
>> Add the Snowy Lakes - Golden Horn section of the PCT to your My Backpack.

>> Backpacking 101

Hike Tiffany Mountain

Another hike to plan on for next summer. Take a trip to the Okanogan Highlands and you'll feel like you're stepping into a scene from the first film of The Lord of the Rings. The wide-open, high-elevation rocky grasslands of Tiffany Mountain will have you peeking under every other boulder for a secret passageway. >> Save Tiffany Mountain to your My Backpack.

Hike Horseshoe Basin

You can start to hike Horseshoe Basin in the Pasayten Wilderness as early as June, but you might as well make it a backpack. You'll want to spend time traveling the high plains and tundra that so resembles the high plains of Middle-earth. There are also a few spots, when Horseshoe Basin is particularly lush and full of wildflowers, where its rolling hills looks like nothing so much as The Shire.   >> Save Horseshoe Basin to your My Backpack.

Hike Kamiak Butte (aka The Shire)

Hikers in Washington often have the delightful experience of feeling like they just stumbled into The Shire. In spring, the lush rolling hills of the Palouse as seen from the Kamiak Butte Trail in southeast Washington are a strong contender for Shire-status. The best time to tackle this trail is March-October.  >> Save Kamiak Butte to your My Backpack.

Support our work in 2014 (and make Hobbit Hikes: Part 3 a reality)

Did you know that Washington Trails Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit that relies on community support to make our work possible? If you liked this post, use WTA's website to find hiking ideas information or want to support our volunteers on trail, please consider making a special year-end donation today. Your tax-deductible gift of $15, $40 or more will keep us going strong in 2014. Thank you!

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More hikes » Hike of the Week
Lewis River Trail (Apr 10)

Lewis River Trail

South Cascades

We're at the cusp of waterfall season! With five waterfalls in a 7-mile roundtrip, this Lewis River hike is one to keep on your April-June to-do list. If you're hiking with creaky knees or kiddos, take in the magnificent, close-in Lower Lewis River Falls. If you want a longer hike with some ups and downs, venture all the way to Taidnapum Falls, 3.5 miles in.

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