Memorial Day weekend hiking and camping tips

419187374_244fb2442b_b-2Thanks to arbyreed for the great photo.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Thank you to all those who served or serve in our Armed Forces.

For many people around the country, Memorial Day weekend also marks the start of the summer camping season. If you do plan on camping or hiking this weekend, Washington Trails Association offers some excellent tips and advice on where to go in Washington and how to prepare. Some important takeaways from the WTA article: check the snow levels in the high country and prepare accordingly, especially if you plan on hiking or camping in the Northern Cascades/Mt. Rainier area, where snowpack often exists until mid summer. For finding a camping spot: don’t be afraid to wing-it and try dispersed camping (make your own camping spot) in National Forest lands. Just follow these Forest Service guidelines. If you plan on visiting Olympic Peninsula and find the Olympic NP sites all filled up, check out some of the lesser-known state and national forest campgrounds, such as Cottonwood and Hoh Oxbow (state land) on the west side or Hamma Hamma and Lena Creek (national forest) on the east side. Or try hiking into a wilderness camping site. The WTA article also identifies some great hikes around Washington, from the Columbia River Gorge and Olympic Peninsula to the Central and North Cascades and Washington’s Central and Eastern areas. If you have a to-do list of Washington hiking destinations, definitely check out some of these WTA suggestions.

For more news and information on Memorial Day hiking destinations and all things hiking and camping in the Pacific Northwest, check out Pacific Northwest Pathfinder’s PNW Trail News and Photos page. The news page features articles and photography from outdoor-oriented media outlets and blogs based in Washington and Oregon. Each week, the page offers new content to explore and share.

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Kalaloch Campground, Olympic NP, Makes the List

A recent Travel+Leisure article by Sarah L. Stewart identifies “America’s Prettiest Beach Campsites” and you’ll never guess which Washington State camping area made the list: Kalaloch in Olympic NP. Stewart’s description of Kalaloch aptly sums up this scenic Pacific Ocean-side campground. She states:

“Lose yourself in the wild beauty of the Olympic Peninsula at this 175-site outpost perched on a bluff high above the Pacific. Bald eagles and sea gulls fly overhead, whales occasionally spout offshore, and emerald-green sea urchins populate the rocky pools revealed at low tide.”

No disrespect to Kalaloch (pronounced Kah-lay-lock) – the campground is beautiful and nicely pressed up against long sandy beaches that stretch far in either direction. My only opposition to it is how quickly the campground fills up (largely by RVers) on summer weekends and long holidays. I’ve found that Mora Campground, located just an hour north of Kalaloch, doesn’t seem to attract as large of crowds (or maybe it was just when I visited?). Also Rialto Beach (a mile down the road from Mora) is just as spectacular with a little more peacefulness and ruggedness (see my photos).

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Looking southward on Rialto Beach.

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Lastly, another Pacific Northwestern campground made Stewart’s list too: Cape Perpetua Campground in Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest. Cool – time for a road-trip to Oregon’s coast!

For more trail news and information from the Pacific Northwest, check out Pacific Northwest Pathfinder’s PNW Trail News and Photos section.

Review: 5 Reasons to Climb Mt. Rose (Maybe Just Once)

Mt. Rose in the Mt. Skokomish Wilderness presents a challenge for even the most seasoned hikers. Much of the only trail to its summit, Mt. Rose Trail #814, ascends rather steeply for most of the way. Within a mile of the summit, hikers take a loop path; here they can choose the steeper Summit Route to the left or the longer and slightly more gradual Ridge Route on the right. Along the summit ridge, the trail offers fantastic southern views of Lake Cushman and the Olympic NF peaks on the lake’s southern border. Looking northward on the trail presents glimpses of the popular Mt. Ellinor, as well as Mt. Washington, Mt. Pershing, and other major peaks in the Skokomish Wilderness. For all its difficulty and limited views though, Mt. Rose does beckon some and present opportunities for other hikers.

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View from the top

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Scenic Washington Coast-Area Hikes for M-Day (or Any Day)

Happy Mother’s Day! Take time to enjoy the day and get outside (if that’s what mom wishes, of course). Douglas Scott of GraysHarbor Talk offers some suggestions for great Mom’s Day hikes in Western Washington’s Grays Harbor area. I’ve explored a couple of the areas Scott mentions and each one delivers. The Maple Glade Trail and connector trails offer a beautiful stroll through moss-draped old-growth trees. Kalaloch and Ruby beaches are always fun to explore – and they are some of the few places in Olympic National Park where dogs can visit (on-leash). Not to leave out Oregon residents, I found this article on some of the top 20 hikes in the Beaver State. Either way, you can’t throw a rock in the Pacific Northwest without it landing on a stunning trail or hiking area. Take advantage of it!

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Kestner-Higley Homestead, Kestner Homestead Trail, Quinault Rain Forest Ranger State, Olympic NP

Review: Cape Alava and Ozette Triangle

Some Washington hiking areas give you a chance to meander through magnificent old-growth forests and under massive evergreens draped with moss and lichens. Others offer you the opportunity to explore Washington’s coasts, letting you pick your way along gravelly shores littered with beach wood and see precarious sea stacks standing tall just off shore. Cape Alava’s 9.4-mile Ozette Triangle loop in Olympic National Park lets you experience the best of both worlds.

I visited Cape Alava for the first time a few weeks ago. I was use to hiking along Washington’s Pacific coastline, having hiked at Ruby and Shi Shi beaches and from the Hoh River outlet up to Rialto Beach. However, Cape Alava maintains a reputation as one of the best coastal hiking areas in Washington and the Pacific Northwest. To say the least, I was excited about this trip, and it did not disappoint.

The Ozette Triangle (also known as the Ozette Loop) begins at the northern end of Lake Ozette near the Ozette Ranger Station and Ozette Campground. Park at the trailhead just past the ranger station on the right side of the road. Hikers have the option of taking either the Cape Alava or Sand Point trails to the coast. The coastal section follows the last three miles of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. This section isn’t so much a trail as it as a hike along the shore. However, at high tide, hikers will need to take two overland trails, identified by black-and-red (often faded red to the point of being white) impassable headlands signs. Both the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails are well maintained, and either one will work for the hike out and hike back. I personally recommend the Cape Alava Trail because it will allow you to rest at and enjoy Sand Point, a scenic rocky outcrop, before heading inland at the end. When I hiked the Triangle with my family, we saw deer grazing on the Sand Point headland.

Taken from Cape Alava: Ozette Island and Tskawahyah Island in the background.

Taken from Cape Alava: Ozette Island (far left) and Tskawahyah Island (far right) in the background.

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From the Trail: Ozette Triangle, Cape Alava

This weekend I hiked the Ozette Triangle (aka Ozette Loop) at Olympic National Park. The weather wasn’t really participatory. My family and I camped at the National Park’s campground on Lake Ozette. It was raining when we arrived and partially raining while we broke camp the next morning. Then it continued raining as we hiked the 3-mile Cape Alava Trail to the coast. Once at the coast though, the sun came out and the clouds disappeared for a few hours as we hiked south along the coast to the Sand Point Trail. There, we were hit with rain, and some hail, as we headed inland towards the ranger station at Lake Ozette. The hike was beautiful though. The approx. 9-mile hike traverses lots of boardwalks in the woods and follows beautiful ocean coastline (and the Pacific Northwest Trail) for about 3 miles. I can not wait to return later this year to this spectacular hiking area. All-in-all an excellent trip. Stayed tuned for my review later in the week.

Ozette Triangle

Review: Flapjack Lakes Trail, Olympic NP

Alright, time for an overdue review! A few weeks ago I took an amazing hike up to Flapjack Lakes in Olympic National Park. This was my first major hike in Olympic NP and I got to the trailhead really late in the day (1 p.m.). That said, I was blessed with some great weather the entire hike and made it out just as the sun was setting. All told, the hike was 15 miles out and back, plus I think I hiked around the lakes for at least a mile. The scenery at the top was amazing with the Sawtooth Mountains rising up behind these alpine lakes and creating a gigantic natural amphitheater.

Western Flapjack Lake with Sawtooths.

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