Fleeting Beauties: 10 Alpine Hikes for Wildflowers and Berries
As wildflower season wanes in alpine meadows around the state, berry season begins bursting on the scene. Depending on the snowpack and elevation, berry season can begin as early as June down low and last well into September in the high country.
So where can you still find flower fields abloom or get a head start on berry season? Below are a sampling of trails to try and spot fading floral beauties or delight in the taste of wild berries on your tongue. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Where there are wildflower meadows, there are flies and mosquitoes. Be prepared with appropriate clothing and bug repellant.
- New to berry picking? Bring along a reference guide or invite an experienced berry-hunter to tag along.
- Want to bring a few berries home? Pack a small tupperware or extra Nalgene bottle to ensure your berries make it back down to the trailhead without getting squished in your pack.
- To find more berry destinations, go to the Trip Report search page and do an Advanced Search to see where other hikers have seen "wildflowers blooming" or "ripe berries."
Location: North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
Length: 8.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3750 feet
Best Season: mid-July - early October
The traditional draw of Church Mountain are the lofty views from its summit. You have to work hard for those views, though, which may turn many hikers off of exploring this trail.
But Church Mountain Trail has another side altogether. Only 3 miles in, at 1,400 ft. below the top, is an alpine basin with wildflower meadows that will blow your socks off. So check your summit fever, and enjoy the flower show instead.
> Plan your trip to Church Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide
Tiffany Mountain via freezeout ridge
Location: North Cascades -- Pasayten
Length: 4.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1685 feet
Looking for solitude in high, wide-open country that dotted with wildflowers? Tiffany Mountain is the place to go. While the flowers may have already peaked, there should still be some blue lupine, valerian, and stonecrop and more as you stroll up one of the highest, easily hiked peaks in the state.
> Plan your trip to Tiffany Mountain via Freezeout Ridge using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East
Length: 14 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2700 feet
The alpine meadows of wildflowers stretch for miles. How about lupine, valerian, yellow daisy, purple aster, bistort, lupine, paintbrush? The views aren't bad either. This makes a great overnight backpack trip. Or, connect it with the Little Wenatchee River Trail and the PCT to make a weekend loop through Meander Meadow.
> Plan your trip to Cady Ridge using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: Mount Rainier Area -- NE - Sunrise/White River
Length: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1650 feet
Once the snow melts out at Owyhigh Lakes, a carpet of wildflowers grabs your attention, including lupine, bistort, anemone, aster, paintbrush, columbine, groundsel, and lovage. If you can manage to take your eyes off the field of wildflowers—you'll also notice impressive views of Buell Peak and Barrier Peak above you.
Bear Creek Mountain
Location: South Cascades -- Goat Rocks
Length: 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1237 feet
Before you reach the summit of Bear Creek Mountain, you will cross Bear Creek itself and find yourself in a sprawling meadow populated with an even more diverse array of wildflowers. Look for monkeyflower, daisys, and lupine in addition to those sweet little buttercups.
> Plan your trip to Bear Creek Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide
Berry Picking Hikes
Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer
Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
If you like easy ridge walks and don't mind sharing your huckleberry fields with lots of other hikers, head to the Tonga Ridge trail off Hwy 2 just past Skykomish. The views are nice and the meadows are beautiful. After a mile or so of hiking start looking down in the bushes for the fat, juicy berries. Feast here, or keep hiking another two miles to the meadow for the plumpest, juiciest ones.
> Plan your trip to Tonga Ridge using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Highest Point: 500 feet
A quiet riverside walk in Olympic National Park (the trail enters the park at 1.5 miles) with reports of earlier-season berries that grow as big as the trees in the lushness of the rain forest. This trail makes a good walk later in the season, even if you don't get to snack along the way.
> Plan your trip to the Bogachiel River using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: Eastern Washington -- Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: 10.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 875 feet
Highest Point: 6400 feet
From early flowers to summer berries to fall colors and winter vistas, this trail around Sherman Peak through the Columbia Highlands has something new to offer each season of the year. That makes it a perfect choice when you're not quite sure what to expect in flowers or berries.
> Plan your trip to Snow Peak using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: South Cascades -- Dark Divide
Length: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
Highest Point: 5892 feet
Sunrise Peak’s rocky summit offers enterprising hikers some of the most incredible views of Mount Adams you can get in the state. The trail to these views is steep; but you won't mind, since you'll be too busy sampling the huckleberries along the way.
> Plan your trip to Sunrise Peak using WTA's Hiking Guide
Location: North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
Length: 10.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4870 feet
Highest Point: 5985 feet
This is a challenging route to berry heaven. Reaching the summit means 10.4 miles round trip and 4870 feet of elevation gain, but your reward will be ample. The views from up top are incredible — and the berries aren't bad either. Linger a while at the top and be rejuvenated by the 360-degree views sprawling before you.
> Plan your trip to Sourdough Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide