A beginner’s guide to safe and happy hiking
Summer is here, and if you want to find easy hikes to do with the family, you need not look any farther than a three-hour drive west of Tri-Cities near Chinook Pass along Highway 410.
Each of these easy-to-access locations offers scenic hikes, often with deep forests, great views and cool, inviting water.
As of July 4, there was very little snow left on the trails along the passes, and the patches that were still there were easily traversed without any special gear or micro-spikes.
There are plenty of mosquitoes, so it is highly recommended that you wear long pants and shirts and bring bug spray.
A National Park Pass or Senior Pass is required for access and parking inside the national park.
At Mount Rainier National Park, pets are not allowed on trails, in wilderness and/or off-trail areas, inside buildings or amphitheaters, with the exception of the Pacific Crest Trail on the east side of the park, where dogs can be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
Bumping Lake Trail
The Bumping Lake Trail is pretty much flat, has trees and shade, and goes right along the shores of the lake, with numerous places to stop and relax. The trailhead is located at the end of the road a mile and a half west of the Bumping Lake Campground, 12 miles from Goose Prairie, west of Naches on Highway 410.
The trail follows Bumping Lake, which when full is 3,415 feet above sea level and is rated as easy, although there are a few places where it goes up and over some rocks and occasional tree roots. You can hike as far along the lakeshore as you like and then turn around and return at any time. The trail offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding forest. There are some remarkable sections with some very large old-growth fir trees and some impressive views of the mountains in the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area.
Naches Peak Loop Trail
Naches Peak Loop Trail is a very popular 3.3-mile loop trail with a 634-foot gain. There are two parking areas, both on Highway 410. One is at the top of Chinook Pass and the other half a mile west at Tipsoo Lake.
The trail is rated easy and is pretty much flat — good for all skill levels. If you hike the trail in a clockwise direction, you will head east and then south, where you will meet the Pacific Crest Trail and may meet up with other hikers. You will then go around a bend from west to north and get to enjoy a remarkable mile with a face-on view of Mt. Rainier that is hard to beat.
Sheep Lake Trail
The Sheep Lake Trail is a 5- to 6-mile moderately trafficked out-and-back trail east of Chinook Pass. The trailhead starts at the parking lot at the top of the pass and then heads north along the Pacific Crest Trail. It is rated easy to moderate, has a 780-foot gain/loss, is exposed and offers great views of the valley down the Rainier Fork of the American River. The trail and side slopes are filled with colorful wildflowers.
At 2 miles, you pass over a ridge and can hike down a half mile to Sheep Lake, where, if the weather is nice, you can take a swim or stop for lunch. If you keep going up, you can climb another 600 feet to Sourdough Gap, or take a break and then return.
Grove of the Patriarchs Nature Trail
(East side Mt. Rainier National Park)
Inside Mt. Rainier National Park you will find a unique, easy to walk 1.2 mile nature trail through huge, old-growth cedar and Douglas fir trees along the dazzling Ohanapecosh River. Take a slow walk along this memorable trail to discover the grandeur and peace of this special ecological system.
The gigantic trees have been protected from fire, allowing them to grow to enormous size. Several of them are more than 25 feet in circumference, at least one approaching 50 feet, and some over 1,000 years old. Get there before 10 a.m. so you can avoid the crowds. This is a great place to take young children. .
Silver Falls Trail
(East side Mt. Rainier National Park)
The Silver Falls Trail is a popular 4-mile valley bottom loop trail that goes along both sides of the Ohanapecosh River paralleling Highway 123. It is a beautiful, easy-to-walk loop trail that offers a 700-foot gain/loss over its total length. The trail is well-maintained and goes through a wonderfully cool and green forest. The waterfalls are spectacular, with clear, deep-blue water.
This trailhead is located in the Ohanapecosh Campground. There is a visitor center and available restrooms.
Paul Krupin is an avid local hiking enthusiast, retired environmental specialist, and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (www.IMACNW.org). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.