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Conditioning Hikes

Have some big adventures planned for summer? Get your body used to the demands of being on trail so you have a lot more fun and you feel more sure on your feet.

What adventure plans do you have for summer?

When you hear the phrase "conditioning hike" you may think of a hiker racing to the top of Mailbox Peak or Mount Si every week. But conditioning hikes can be done on a wide variety of trails. Just revisit a favorite with a little more weight in your pack and voila! A conditioning hike. The key is to get your body used to the demands of being on trail, so when you want to tackle some of those more demanding summer trails, you have a lot more fun and you feel more sure on your feet.

Below are a few hike ideas that are great options for when you need to wait out snow melt in the high country. But the truth is, you can turn any trail into a conditioning hike, if you go in with that focus.


Puget Sound and Islands

Carkeek Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Length: 3.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
High Point: 240 feet

Carkeek Park. Photo by alainab..jpeg
Carkeek Park has beaches, wooded trails and mountain views. Photo by trip reporter alainab.

This urban park is full of a wide range of trails to choose from. Some are narrow and steep while others are wide and gentle. Practice carrying your pack through the wooded trails or take a jog along the beach. You can find a hike to fit your workout at Carkeek Park, but you may need to do a few laps of your route to get your full workout in. 

> Plan your trip to Carkeek Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Pinnacle Peak

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Length: 1.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
High Point: 1800 feet

Pinnacle Peak. Photo by Marley..jpeg

This delightful dayhike in Enumclaw has a few routes to the top, but whichever you choose, you'll get to the same place; a beautiful site of a former lookout with views of the White River drainage and the jewel of the southern Cascades: Mount Rainier. Visitors can hike, bike, run or watch wildlife.

> Plan your trip to Pinnacle Peak using WTA's Hiking Guide

Anacortes Community Forest Lands - Four summit loop

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Bellingham Area
Length: 6.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
High Point: 1300 feet

Four Summit Loop. Photo by QuantumGuru..jpegA moss-covered sign along the trail. Photo by trip reporter QuantumGuru.

Perhaps you have hiked to each of the four named high points of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands or even combined two of these "summits" for a longer hike (e.g. Little Round Top and Sugar Cube, or Mount Erie and Sugarloaf.) So here's a thought: why not do a grand tour that reaches all four named summits in a single loop hike? Intrigued?

> Plan your visit to Anacortes Community Forest Lands - Four Summit Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Margaret's Way

Location: Issaquah Alps — Squak Mountain
Length: 6.5 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
High Point: 1730 feet

Lush forest surrounding the Margaret's Way trail.
Lots of sword ferns to be seen along Margaret's Way. Photo by onemoarstep.

If nature excites you, there's plenty here to be excited about. Cool forest, trickling creeks in deep ravines, and a beautiful new trail built by WTA volunteers await you here. Margaret's Way connects to the Squak Mountain trail system and culminates at Five Corners, where hikers can link to the Chybinski trail, as well as the Perimeter Loop near Debbie's View.

> Plan your trip to Margaret's Way using WTA's Hiking Guide

Forest Park — Everett

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Seattle-Tacoma Area
Length: 4.9 miles of trails
Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
High Point: 370 feet

Forest Park. Photo by muledeer..jpeg
Stairs? Check. Photo by trip reporter muledeer.

With 13 hill climb courses and 4.9 miles of trails, there is something for all fitness levels. Take an easy hike or really get your blood pumping without having to leave the city limits.  In the summer, you can cool off from your workout in the indoor pool or spray park.

> Plan your trip to Forest Park - Everett using WTA's Hiking Guide

Cedar Butte

Location: Snoqualmie Region — North Bend Area
Length: 3.5 miles of trails
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
High Point: 1880 feet

Cedar Butte. Photo by amtn..jpeg
Not too shabby. Photo by trip reporter amtn.

Take a short hike up a forested butte near Rattlesnake Lake to reach a summit with views toward the north, from Mount Si to Mailbox Peak, and several other peaks in between. Some hikers judge Cedar Butte to be a better viewpoint than the much-visited West Tiger 3 summit, and it requires less effort and has smaller crowds, so when you are ready for a change of scene check it out.

> Plan your trip to Cedar Butte using WTA's Hiking Guide

Olympic Peninsula

Ned hill

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Northern Coast
Length: 2.2 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
High Point: 3,496 feet

Ned Hill. Photo by ejain..jpeg
The narrow trail at Ned Hill is a great place to fund solitude while you prep for summer climbs. Photo by trip reporter ejain.

You'll get a workout trudging through the tangle of salal, Oregon grape, and imposing rhododendrons on your way to the site of a former fire lookout. There's not much of a view from the top anymore, since it hasn't been used as a lookout in decades, but it's still worth a visit if you need a quiet leg-stretcher. 

> Plan your trip to Ned Hill using WTA's Hiking Guide

Mount Rose

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Hood Canal
Length: 6.4 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet
High Point: 4,301 feet

Mount Townsend approach
One of the steepest trails in the Olympics, Mount Rose is a good alternative to busy Mount Ellinor. Photo by ZhuckYu.

Stairmasters are fine and all, but why not add spectacular views to your thigh-burning workout? The challenging trail to Mount Rose's summit — one of Olympic Peninsula's steepest — offers both an endurance-boosting, leg-strengthening climb and sweeping vistas of the surrounding mountains and lakes.

> Plan your trip to Mount Rose using WTA's Hiking Guide

Capitol State Forest - Mount Molly

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Olympia
Length: 3 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 908 feet
High Point: 1,950 feet

Capitol State Forest. Photo by Gootster..jpeg
A sunny day in Capitol State Forest. Photo by trip reporter Gootster.

Mount Molly may not be known for its views, but is known as a great, quick workout that be accessed all year round. On a clear day, you'll be able to sneak in a ew peak-a-boo views of Mount Rainier between the trees and maybe even a soaring bald eagle or ruby-crowned kinglets and spotted towhees in the brush.

> Plan your visit to Capitol State Forest - Mount Molly using WTA's Hiking Guide

Southwest Washington

Beacon Rock State Park — Hamilton Mountain

Location: Southwest Washington — Columbia River Gorge - WA
Length: 7.5 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
High Point: 2,400 feet

Hamilton Mountain. Photo by nwroth..jpeg
Small wonders near the summit. Photo by trip reporter nwroth.

More than twenty miles of trails intersect Beacon Rock State Park, so you can combine any number of trails to create the perfect conditioning hike. Of those twenty miles of trails, Hamilton Mountain offers perhaps the best workout-to-scenery ratio, climbing steeply while passing by waterfalls, along cliff-side vistas and next to flowering meadows.

> Plan your visit to Beacon Rock State Park - Hamilton Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide

Bunker hill

Location: Southwest Washington — Columbia River Gorge - WA
Length: 4.4 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 1,250 feet
High Point: 2,383 feet

Bunker Hill. Photo by Rod Hooker..jpeg
A slight view from Bunker Hill. Photo by trip reporter Rod Hooker.

Bunker Hill used to serve as a fire lookout, and the way to the top is steep and direct. But the fire lookout is gone and the trees have grown up, so with limited views from the summit, it’s better suited to your training regimen. It’s a great work out, and you can cool down afterwards on the nearby Whistle Punk trail.

> Plan your visit to Bunker Hill using WTA's Hiking Guide

Larch Mountain

Location: Southwest Washington — Columbia River Gorge - WA
Length: 5.6 miles, roundtrip  
Elevation Gain: 1,150 feet
High Point: 3,496 feet

Larch Mountain. Photo by The Gs..jpeg
Flowers in bloom along the Larch Mountain trail. Photo by trip reporter The G's.

Take a short, rugged trek to a forested summit. Along the way, you'll enjoy beargrass in spring, get some good views of the Silver Star Scenic Area and surrounding peaks, but the best thing about this hike is the workout.

> Plan your visit to Larch Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide

Central Washington

Westberg Trail

Location: Central Washington — Yakima
Length: 4 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
High Point: 3,560 feet

Westberg Trail. Photo by mountain.katrina.jpeg
Sweeping views await hikers on the Westberg Trail. Photo by trip reporter mountain.katrina.

If switchbacks aren't your thing, the Westberg Trail might just be the hike for you. This trail heads straight up a steep mountainside (that's right, almost no switchbacks), allowing you to reach the 3560-foot summit in only two miles for a quick and challenging workout. Make sure you watch your feet as you climb; this is rattlesnake country.

> Plan your visit to Westberg Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Cowiche Mountain

Location: Central Washington — Yakima
Length: 7.0 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 1,140 feet
High Point: 2,970 feet

Cowiche Mountain. Photo by David Hagen..jpeg
Patches of flowers in the foreground of Cowiche Mountain. Photo by David Hagen.

This moderate climb through wide-open country showcases dramatic fields of colorful wildflowers and panoramic views of the surrounding shrub-steppe from an airy 2,970-foot summit. This is a great hike to tack on to your early-season conditioning list before the summer sun gets too strong.

> Plan your visit to Cowiche Canyon using WTA's Hiking Guide

Horse Heaven Hills

Location: Central Washington — Tri-Cities
Length: 6.8 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 1,220 feet
High Point: 1,924 feet

Horse Heaven Hills. Photo by HaroldC3..jpeg
Washington hike? Or Windows screensaver? Photo by trip reporter HaroldC3.

Hike a shrub steppe slope to a high vantage point along the crest of the Horse Heaven Hills plateau. Views around you include the Horse Heaven Hills, dropping to the south, Rattlesnake Mountain to the northwest, and the Tri-Cities toward Wallula Gap. We recommend visiting this trail early in the season when the slope is green and wildflowers are blooming.

> Plan your visit to Horse Heaven Hills using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastern Washington

little spokane river natural area - knothead loop

Location: Eastern Washington — Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene
Length: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
High Point: 3,200 feet 

Little Spokane River Natural Area. Photo by California Girl..jpeg
The calm river running through the park. Photo by trip reporter California Girl.

We know Mount Spokane is the go-to spot, but if you’re looking for somewhere new, Little Spokane River Natural Area is the spot to be. There are a few different trails to choose from, but we recommend the Knothead Loop if you're looking to get some solid mileage during your visit.

> Plan your visit to Little Spokane River Natural Area - Knothead Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Emerald Lake via Deadman Trailhead

Location: Eastern Washington — Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: 7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

Emerald Lake. Photo by HighlandsDan..jpeg

Qpproach a calm, quiet lake on a rugged canyon trail, where wildflowers bloom in spring, and you can rest lakeside in the heat of the summer. Views along this route are of the Kettle Range and the spectacular Hoodoo Canyon. 

> Plan your visit to Emerald Lake using WTA's Hiking Guide

Chief Joseph Wildlife Area

Location: Eastern Washington — Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 10 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet

Green Gulch. Photo by RichP..jpeg
Straight up beautiful scenery at Green Gulch. Photo by trip reporter RichP.

The Chief Joseph unit a lovely area in the southeast corner of Washington State between the Snake and Grande Ronde Rivers, straddling Joseph Creek. It was acquired in 1974 to enhance bighorn sheep, mule deer, and upland game bird populations. The rugged grassland canyons now support populations of deer, elk, bighorn sheep, upland birds, and raptors and make for a truly wonderful hiking destination.

> Plan your visit to Chief Joseph Wildlife Area using WTA's Hiking Guide