Sum­mer is here and that means it’s time to check your tires, get an oil change, and hit the open road. While fly­ing by the seat of your pants with the wind as your guide sounds idyl­lic, a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion will send you on the best road trips that will not disappoint.

Sea-to-Sky Adven­ture (Van­cou­ver — Squamish)

Sea to Sky View
Upon leav­ing Van­cou­ver, a city that has per­fect­ed the mar­riage of city and nature, you cross a stun­ning bridge to North Van­cou­ver (a sleepy ver­sion of Van­cou­ver prop­er with nature tip­ping the scales). The high­way twists and weaves around the mas­sive North Shore Moun­tain Range replac­ing the city lights with pris­tine islands scat­tered across Howe Sound.


  • Lions Bay, a sleepy and post­card per­fect town that will charm the city off of you.
  • Porteau Cove Provin­cial Park is a per­fect pic­nic loca­tion to enjoy a pur­ple sunset.
  • Shan­non Falls Provin­cial Park is home to the mas­sive 1,100-foot water­fall that can be eas­i­ly appre­ci­at­ed with just a 2‑minute paved walk from the car.
  • Sea-to-Sky Gon­do­la is a great end to a fairy­tale day. Ride a gon­do­la 2,788 feet straight up with a stun­ning view of Howe Sound and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. At the top enjoy a glass of wine or a burg­er then set out for a hike that includes a sus­pen­sion bridge and two over­hang­ing viewpoints.


Banff Nation­al Park

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park
Words can’t do jus­tice when it comes to describ­ing the dra­mat­ic moun­tain-scape and the sur­re­al blues and greens that nat­u­ral­ly occur in Banff’s crater lakes.


  • Lake Louise
  • Emer­ald Lake
  • Takakkaw Falls
  • Vic­to­ria Glacier


Crater Lake

Crater Lake
There is no deep­er sap­phire than that of the majes­tic Crater Lake. The indige­nous believed it was a place of pow­er and dan­ger, renowned as a spir­it quest site, yet also feared for the dan­ger­ous beings resid­ing in the lake. Your first view will sure­ly take your breath away and leave you in silent admiration.
Cir­cum­nav­i­gate the lake slow­ly with camp­ing chairs and/or a ham­mock in tow. Enjoy a pic­nic and a few refresh­ments along the way.


Red­wood Nation­al & State Parks

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
The mighty Red­wood trees demand atten­tion. Their puz­zling red bark and feath­er-like canopy cre­ate a gor­geous back­drop to the con­stant blan­ket of fog that vis­its the giants.


  • Jede­di­ah Smith Red­woods State Park loop from Cres­cent City
  • DeMartin Beach Pic­nic Area
  • Fern Canyon
  • Kla­math Tour Thru Tree


Shi Shi Beach

From Sun­set Cliffs to Cape Ara­go, some of the best hik­ing trails run along the coasts of Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton. Here are sev­en must-hike trails along the West­ern coast.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach, Washington 
The hike on this beach could be one of the most gor­geous walks you will ever take. Sit­u­at­ed on the Wash­ing­ton coast, this stretch of sand fea­tures tide pools, sea stacks, and head­lands, all sur­round­ed by coastal forests. This eight-mile hike round trip starts at the trail­head near the fish hatch­ery on a new­ly refur­bished part of the trail. You’ll even­tu­al­ly cross bridges and board­walks as you descend deep­er into the Olympic Nation­al For­est, Even­tu­al­ly, the sand will dis­perse. After walk­ing anoth­er mile you will arrive at Point of Arch­es, a mile-long parade of rocky sea stacks. Be sure to check in at the ranger sta­tion for park­ing and permits.

Ecola State ParkEco­la State Park, Oregon
This Ore­gon State Park has a net­work of trails includ­ing an eight-mile seg­ment of the Ore­gon Coast Trail, and a two-and-a-half-mile his­tor­i­cal inter­pre­tive route called the Clat­sop Loop Trail. Whichev­er you choose, you’ll encounter tide pools, surfers, elk, bald eagles and drift­wood bleached white by the sun and the salt water. Views are breath­tak­ing and be sure to watch out for migrat­ing whales in the win­ter and spring.

Lost Coast, CaliforniaThe Lost Coast, California
The Lost Coast is so named because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of putting a road through, and even walk­ing over the cliffs and the beach below is a slow-go. For­tu­nate­ly, there are some trails along the coast­line that will get you down to the beach where the sand is both soft and rocky at points. The trail stretch­es 25 miles, from Mat­tole Beach in the north to the vil­lage of Shel­ter Cove in the south. You can walk small stretch­es of the trail in an after­noon or grab your back­pack and take your time. Be sure to watch the tides and the weath­er, because both can put a damper on your hike if you don’t pay attention.

Point ReyesPoint Reyes Nation­al Seashore, California
Just a 90-minute dri­ve from the city of San Fran­cis­co in near­by Marin Coun­ty is Point Reyes Nation­al Seashore. After cross­ing the Gold­en Gate Bridge, you’ll find your­self wind­ing through farm­land with dairy cows and folks sell­ing organ­ic milk by the side of the road. All along the road the trails are marked, and there are plen­ty of them; the nation­al seashore has about 150 miles of hik­ing trails, so there’s a path for every lev­el of hik­er. If you’re up to it, con­sid­er hik­ing the Toma­les Bay Eco­log­i­cal Reserve, a 9.5‑mile trail with 482 acres of salt marsh and tidal flats con­sist­ing of pick­le­weed, arrow grass, gum plant, salt­bush, and salt grass, as well as plen­ty of birds includ­ing Osprey. This is only one of the trails at the nation­al seashore, so if you have a month to wan­der the shores of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, this is the place to be.

Salt Point Bluffs State ParkSalt Point Bluffs Bluffs State Park, California
The panoram­ic views of this 20-mile trail will take your breath away. Pound­ing surf, mas­sive kelp beds, and open grass­land forests can be enjoyed by hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, and camp­ing. The trail boasts six miles of rugged coastal trails that lead to the ocean. Sand­stone from these bluffs were used to make the streets of San Fran­cis­co back in the 1800s. The weath­er in San Fran­cis­co is always unpre­dictable, and even more so along this trail, so pack for cold and wet weath­er even if the sun is shin­ing as you set out for your hike.

Cape FlatteryCape Flat­tery, Washington
This trail is found at the fur­thest north­west tip of the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States and is a won­der to behold. It starts on a grav­el road, and quick­ly leads into a for­est and then onto a board­walk so that hik­ers won’t be stuck in the mud. Make sure you check in at Washburn’s gen­er­al store for a per­mit, which is run by the Makah Tribe. This area is one of the most pop­u­lar on Wash­ing­ton State’s Olympic Penin­su­la and this trail, while short at 1.5 miles, is worth run­ning into a few oth­er hik­ers to enjoy this coastal beauty.

Tillamook HeadTillam­ook Head, Oregon
Like many trails in this area, the Lewis and Clark expe­di­tion was here and the men were awestruck by the grandeur of the Pacif­ic North­west. Upon arriv­ing at Tillam­ook Trail, Clark mar­veled, “I behold the grand­est and most pleas­ing prospect which my eyes ever sur­veyed.” For the best hikes at Tillam­ook Head, it’s best to start at the Indi­an Beach pic­nic area, which is clear­ly marked. After walk­ing 1.2 miles, you will find an area for back­pack­ers with open sided shel­ters and bunk beds. You will also pass a World War II bunker cov­ered in dark green moss, and even­tu­al­ly, end at an aban­doned light­house nick­named “Ter­ri­ble Tilly.” You can return the same way, fol­low­ing some switch­backs that will take you past Clark’s favorite viewpoint.

If there’s any­thing that defines the Pacif­ic North­west, it’s that we camp. And there are plen­ty of places to camp that gives you scenery and soli­tude. But these are the best, the all-time most scenic spots, the most sub­lime. They require effort. And they’re worth it.

Coleman GlacierCole­man Glac­i­er Ter­mi­nus, Mount Baker

The Cole­man Glac­i­er descends the west side of Washington’s north­ern­most ice-cov­ered stra­to­vol­cano. It’s usu­al­ly the last camp climbers use before climb­ing Mount Bak­er via the Cole­man-Dem­ing route. But it’s a great des­ti­na­tion in its own right, with views of crevasse fields, the sum­mit of Bak­er, and Col­fax Peak. In sea­son, look for alpine wildflowers.
Vista Tips: Wake up ear­ly to see the lights of Belling­ham flick­er out as the sun ris­es over Mount Baker.
Hard­ship Fac­tor: You’ll be haul­ing a pack up a steep climbers trail to the base of the glac­i­er. Sum­mit­ing is anoth­er com­mit­ment entire­ly. While Bak­er isn’t as tall as Mounts Adams or Rainier, the ice extends low­er, so more time is spent on glac­i­er trav­el with sig­nif­i­cant ice­falls and crevasses.
Near­est Town: Belling­ham, WA

unnamed glacial tarnUnnamed Glacial Tarn, Cham­bers Lakes

The trail ends at Camp Lake on the east side of Mid­dle Sis­ter. From there, keep on truckin’: go up a ridge toward the moun­tains. Then it’s off-trail nav­i­ga­tion to get to any num­ber of small tarns amidst snow­fields and mini-glac­i­ers. Look for one with a glac­i­er calv­ing into it, and set­tle in for an Alaskan-style camp­ing expe­ri­ence. From there, you can explore one of Oregon’s pre­mier land­scapes, or even climb Mid­dle Sister.
Vista Tips: Set up your tent with a view of the glac­i­er and the lake…but use the guy­lines. Winds tend to plow over the glac­i­er across the lake right at you. It’s worth it.
Hard­ship Fac­tor: Car­ry­ing a pack (and an ice axe) off trail through talus and scree.
Near­est Town: Sis­ters, OR

illumination saddleIllu­mi­na­tion Sad­dle, Mount Hood

Illu­mi­na­tion Rock is perched to the west side of Mount Hood’s Zigzag Glac­i­er, sec­ond in dra­ma only to the sum­mit itself. Not many moun­taineers camp in the sad­dle, which offers high alpine views down the Sandy Riv­er basin, south to Mount Jef­fer­son and the Three Sis­ters, and close-ups of Hood’s sum­mit. And the rock itself is pret­ty darn scenic.
Vista Tips: Pret­ty hard to get wrong
Hard­ship Fac­tor: You can dri­ve to Tim­ber­line Lodge, but there’s still a ton of high-alti­tude snow and glac­i­er trav­el involved. Beware loose rock.
Near­est Town: Gov­ern­ment Camp, OR

Giant’s GraveyardGiant’s Grave­yard, Olympic Coast

Camp on the wilder­ness beach with a gor­geous view of mas­sive sea stacks and off­shore rocks that resem­ble the bones of some huge being. With luck, you’ll also have whales, bald eagles, and otters to watch. Explore the tide­pools at low tide.
Vista Tips: Face west, and make sure your tent is above the high tide line.
Hard­ship Fac­tor: Back­pack­ing down the beach may seem eas­i­er than the moun­tains, but you’ll also be climb­ing over head­lands using rope ladders.
Near­est Town: Forks, WA

zigzagEast Zigzag Moun­tain, Mount Hood

Perch your tent on the tiny flat spot atop a small peak that pokes about above tree­line on Mount Hoods’ South­west cor­ner. Get views of up to four vol­ca­noes: Hood, Adams, St. Helens and Rainier, as well as the Sandy Basin and Burnt Lake. The hike is close to Port­land, but a long rough dirt road to the trail­head keeps the crowds low.
Vista Tips: Face your tent north­west for views of the Wash­ing­ton Cas­cades at sun­rise. Wan­der up the near­by rock slope to watch the sunset.
Hard­ship Fac­tor: Mod­er­ate: a bit of a climb, with some poten­tial for bugs. If you want to burn more calo­ries, include West Zigzag Moun­tain near­by. Melt snow or make a detour to Cast Lake for water: there’s none at the summit.
Near­est Town: Zigzag, OR

catalaCata­la Island, British Columbia

A rugged island on the edge of the Pacif­ic off the west coast of Van­cou­ver Island, Cata­la Island is one of the pre­mier view camp­sites on an island full of pre­mier views. Watch fog burn off in the morn­ing. Sun­sets are mind-bend­ing with the array of off­shore rocks and the wild Pacif­ic kick­ing up waves. With luck, you’ll also have sea otters, por­pois­es, wolves and deer to scan with your binoc­u­lars. The near­by sea kayaking—which is the only way to get there—is fantastic.
Vista Tips: Plan your trip for a full moon for an incred­i­ble night vista
Hard­ship Fac­tor: At least half a day for skill sea kayak­ers to get there in calm con­di­tions. To explore the near­by sea stacks takes anoth­er lev­el of skill and commitment.
Near­est Town: Zebal­los, BC.


The vast, rugged land­scape of Wash­ing­ton state is home to a mul­ti­tude of secrets, hid­den on spec­tac­u­lar high trails above the trees, and open­ing the door to a mul­ti­tude of excit­ing adven­tures. Washington’s fire huts were once the first line of defense against for­est fires, manned by vol­un­teers who would spend sum­mers in iso­la­tion. But now the huts offer overnight lodg­ing and unique van­tage points high above Washington’s crag­gy landscapes.

Here are clas­sic fire huts in the upper left cor­ner of the con­ti­nen­tal U.S.

fremontFre­mont Lookout
With a rel­a­tive­ly easy trail and a breath­tak­ing view of Mt. Rainier, Fre­mont Look­out offers stun­ning vis­tas with a 5.6‑mile round trip trail and just over 900 feet of ele­va­tion gain. The 1934-con­struct­ed hut is one of four remain­ing near Mt. Rainier and plays home to moun­tain goats and black bear. In spring, the land­scape lends itself to col­or­ful car­pets of wild­flow­ers, con­trast­ing near­by Rainier’s icy glac­i­ers. As hik­ers climb high­er, they are reward­ed with an ever-expand­ing sky­line of peaks, stretch­ing for miles in the dis­tance. This is a great trail for casu­al hik­ers or those with fam­i­lies and young children.

Mt. Pilchuck
Con­struct­ed in 1918, Mt. Pilchuck fire hut is among one of Washington’s most pop­u­lar, with an often crowd­ed trail but and spec­tac­u­lar over­look of the North Cas­cades and sev­er­al Washington’s famed vol­ca­noes. The 3‑mile trail, which gains just over 2,100 feet, climbs mod­er­ate­ly steep and rocky sec­tions. Along the way, hik­ers pass the rem­nants of the for­mer Mt. Pilchuck ski area, which fea­tured a rope-tow and chair­lift but closed in the 1970s. The peak is an excep­tion­al climb through­out much of the year, and exhil­a­rat­ing in win­ter, how­ev­er, under the snow, it is prone to avalanches.

Win­ches­ter Mountain
Built in 1935, Win­ches­ter Look­out fea­tures one of the finest sky­lines in the state. With over­reach­ing views of Mt. Bak­er, Shuk­san, Gran­ite Peak, the Pick­ets, plus vis­tas all the way into British Colum­bia. Sit­ting just above Twin Lakes, hik­ers can choose to camp down below and make the look­out a day-trip, or camp inside the look­out on a first-come, first-serve basis. In win­ter, Win­ches­ter makes for a spec­tac­u­lar snow­shoe or Ski-in/s­ki-out expe­ri­ence, with an easy but seclud­ed expe­ri­ence, made only dif­fi­cult by a long approach into Twin Lakes. The loca­tion, plus the remote feel make Win­ches­ter Moun­tain one of the most-loved fire huts in the state.

sourdough mountainSour­dough Mountain
As with Des­o­la­tion Peak, Sour­dough moun­tain has its own lit­er­ary dis­tinc­tion as it was the tem­po­rary home for Beat­nik poets Philip Whalen and Gary Sny­der who occu­pied the space in the 1950s. The vibrant wild­flower-car­pet­ed peak stands proud­ly above Dia­blo Lake, between a sky­line of jagged gran­ite moun­tains and lush pine forests in North­ern Wash­ing­ton. The trail is one of the more dif­fi­cult, fol­low­ing a series of switch­backs that rise well above the tree line to a promi­nent look­out over the lakes, forests, and peaks.

Des­o­la­tion Peak
Set at the heart of the North Cas­cades, Des­o­la­tion Peak is one of the more stren­u­ous hikes in the state and a dif­fi­cult hut to reach. But it has his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, as it was the sum­mer res­i­dence of writer Jack Ker­ouac. In 1956, Ker­ouac spent 63 days in the sum­mer as a fire watch­man. Dur­ing that time, he for­mu­lat­ed his ideas for Lone­some Trav­el­er, The Dhar­ma Bums, and Des­o­la­tion Angels. At the top, hik­ers are offered views high above Ross Lake, includ­ing Jack Moun­tain, and the jagged spire-like Hozomeen Moun­tain. For lit­er­ary lovers of Kerouac’s work, Des­o­la­tion Peak is almost like a pilgrimage.

Three Fin­gers Lookout
Dra­mat­i­cal­ly perched above the Moun­tain Loop High­way, Three Fin­gers Look­out is one of Washington’s most icon­ic and spec­tac­u­lar fire huts, soar­ing high above the glac­i­er. Three Fin­gers is one of the grand prizes of fire look­out excur­sions involv­ing glac­i­er cross­ings, steep lad­der climb­ing, scram­bling, and ulti­mate remote­ness. Get­ting to the look­out involves knowl­edge of tech­ni­cal skills includ­ing ice axes and rope, but the perch allows for overnight stays and one-of-a-kind views and accom­mo­da­tions in the heart of the Cas­cades. Get­ting to Three Fin­gers isn’t for the faint of heart, but at an ele­va­tion of 6,854 feet, it’s cer­tain­ly one of Washington’s most unfor­get­table experiences.

It’s impor­tant to treat the fire huts and his­tor­i­cal struc­tures with care and respect includ­ing avoid­ing over­crowd­ing, denounc­ing and report­ing van­dal­ism, and own­ing a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty and stew­ard­ship for these extra­or­di­nary places. Treat them with the care and respect that any wild area deserves.

If crowds scare you away, these are for you. Far from the madding crowd, and even fur­ther from the “wait in line for the per­mit lot­tery,” these spots will help you escape from the Northwest’s crowds. You won’t have to wor­ry too much about find­ing a camp­site either. Enjoy our list of the crowd-free sum­mer escapes in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Alvord Desert, Oregon

Alvord Desert, OR
This is one of Oregon’s weird­est land­scapes. The Alvord Desert is a dry playa beneath the mas­sive escarp­ment of Steens Moun­tain in the far south­east­ern cor­ner. Sim­ply dri­ve out onto the mas­sive expanse and stop for a unique camp­ing expe­ri­ence. Wake up ear­ly to watch the first rays of sun­shine hit the top of Steens Moun­tain, and stay up late for stargaz­ing. It’s a long dri­ve from just about any­where to the Alvord, but it’s worth it.

Christ­mas Val­ley, OR
South­east of Bend, “Christ­mas Val­ley” refers to a gen­er­al region more than the tiny town that bears that name. The region has a series of geo­log­ic odd­i­ties: the semi­cir­cu­lar ring of Fort Rock, the sim­ply but accu­rate­ly named vol­canic fea­tures called Hole in the Ground and Crack in the Ground, a series of sand dunes, and old-growth juniper forest.

Hope Island, WA
Aban­don land, but don’t aban­don hope—a small island state park in south Puget Sound. The fact that you need a boat of some kind to get here keeps camp­ing may­hem to a min­i­mum. Com­plete with an old orchard, beach, trails, and access to the cur­rents of Ham­mer­s­ley Inlet, Hope island is a great taste of island camp­ing in Puget Sound.

Willa­pa Bay, WA
Anoth­er island par­adise in Wash­ing­ton, Willa­pa Bay sports Long Island, com­plete with camp­grounds and pub­lic tide­lands. Its location—the state’s far south­west­ern cor­ner, a decent dri­ve from any major met­ro­pol­i­tan area—makes it a low-key spot, along with the need for a water cross­ing. Bring your rub­ber boots, shell­fish per­mit, and patience: when the bay dries out at low tide, you’re not leaving.

South Warn­er Moun­tains, CA
A slice of the basin-and-range coun­try of the inter­moun­tain west, the Warn­er Moun­tains cross the Ore­gon-Cal­i­for­nia bound­ary south of Lake­view. The dry moun­tains are great for long ridges with unim­ped­ed views of playas and big skies. The dis­tance from pop­u­la­tion cen­ters means the def­i­n­i­tion of a “crowd” is shar­ing the park­ing lot with anoth­er vehi­cle. The com­bi­na­tion of soli­tude, long dri­ve to get there, and wide-open coun­try makes the Warn­er Range a back­pack­ers’ paradise.

Drift Creek, OR
A lit­tle known wilder­ness in the coastal range near Wald­port, Ore­gon, Drift Creek is a back­pack through mas­sive old-growth for­est to a deep val­ley with a crys­tal-clear creek. While every­one else is head­ed to the beach, few will be here. Although a few hardy fly fish­er­men will hike down to the creek when salmon and steel­head are run­ning, you like­ly to find your­self alone. But bring a craw­fish recipe, just in case.

Your Favorite For­est Ser­vice Road
The best-kept secrets, of course, are close to home. Even near major cities, the vast major­i­ty of nation­al forests have a few pop­u­lar trails and camp­grounds where park­ing lots get full and camp­grounds are reserved months in advance. A whole host of oth­er trails go un-hiked, even on busy weekends.

Find them; scour the pages of guide­books and look at topo maps. Dri­ve down a spur road, find a cool spot that’s not an “offi­cial” camp­ground, and have a great time. Just be sure to leave no trace, use a portable toi­let sys­tem like those used on raft­ing trips, and remem­ber how to find your way out the maze of roads.

If you’ve ever trav­eled through the Pacif­ic North­west, you’ve seen Mount Rainier. At 14,411’, the peak dom­i­nates the Seat­tle sky­line, and it’s no coin­ci­dence that more than 10,000 peo­ple try to climb Rainer’s glaciat­ed slopes each year. If you’re think­ing of mak­ing a sum­mit bid, keep these tips in mind.

Plan Ahead
If you’re climb­ing with one of the guide ser­vices that oper­ate on Mount Rainier, book ear­ly: most sum­mit climbs fill 10–12 months out. Set dates with your part­ners and reserve climb­ing per­mits with the Nation­al Park Ser­vice. Demand is so high that some climbers get turned away on busy weekends.

Get in Shape
Put sim­ply: you’ll want to be in the best shape of your life. Train­ing for moun­taineer­ing can be chal­leng­ing if you work a 9‑to‑5, but be cre­ative. Work on strength and bal­ance at the gym, go for long hikes on week­ends and com­mit to mov­ing your body con­sis­tent­ly. Embrace the chal­lenge: the stronger you feel, the safer and more the enjoy­able your climb will be.

Dial in Your Nutrition
It might sound sim­ple, but con­sid­er this: on an aver­age 12-to-18 hour sum­mit day, you’ll need to con­sume sev­er­al hun­dred calo­ries per hour. There’s noth­ing wrong with nutri­tion bars and ener­gy gels, but chances are good that you won’t feel great if high­ly processed foods are your body’s only source of fuel. Plus, it’s very nat­ur­al to lose your appetite at alti­tude. On long train­ing hikes, fig­ure out what kinds of food you can stom­ach on hour 8.

Prac­tice With Your Gear
Moun­taineer­ing is a gear-inten­sive sport, and sum­mit morn­ing isn’t the time to be test­ing out your sys­tems. Break in your boots ahead of time. Adjust your back­pack so it fits you per­fect­ly. Prac­tice lay­er­ing for dif­fer­ent kinds of con­di­tions. Make sure your cram­pons are fixed cor­rect­ly. Show up with your sys­tems dialed.

Watch the Weather
Sum­mer con­di­tions can vary wild­ly on the Cas­cade vol­ca­noes, and by watch­ing tem­per­a­tures for the week or so before, you climb you can make sure your gear choic­es are well suit­ed to con­di­tions. When it’s hot, bring extra water, lots of sun­screen, and a shirt with built-in SPF. When it’s cold, bring chem­i­cal hand-warm­ers and an extra lay­er or two.

Keep Your Cam­era Warm
Lots of climbers care­ful­ly hoard cam­era bat­ter­ies dur­ing days of climb­ing, only to reach the sum­mit and find that cold temps have drained their lithi­um-ion charge. Keep phones and cam­eras in a warm pock­et until you’re ready to take that sum­mit selfie.

Think Care­ful­ly About How Your Define Success
Moun­taineer­ing is a com­pli­cat­ed sport, and it’s impor­tant to be hon­est with your­self about your goals for the climb. The sum­mit is nev­er guar­an­teed, and expe­ri­enced climbers take the time to straight­en pri­or­i­ties in their head. Hint: it’s safe­ty first, then the sum­mit.


In the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, there are trails that are hard­er than sev­er­al notable near­by moun­tains. And while these trails will kick you hard in the glutes, they’ll also make you feel like a queen or king of the moun­tains. The best part of tack­ling these trails? Besides out­ra­geous­ly fine views and a deep sense of sat­is­fac­tion, you get most of them to your­self. Make sure you car­ry the 10 essen­tials and take a bud­dy. Just con­sid­er mak­ing that bud­dy a human. Steep with plen­ty of expo­sure, these trails beg for dogs to be left at home or at the very least, always on a short leash. Here are 10 of our favorite Gorge hikes on the Ore­gon side of the Colum­bia River.

Mt Defi­ance
It starts easy with pret­ty creek and waterfalls—and quick­ly becomes a big, bad, steep butt-kick­er, eas­i­ly one of the hard­est hikes in the Gorge. Some say it’s hard­er than hik­ing to the sum­mit of Mt. Hood. At 11.3 miles round trip, out and back, with an ele­va­tion gain of 4,935 feet, it’s at least ide­al train­ing for the 11,250 ft. peak. Though it’s fair­ly straight­for­ward, get a map to nav­i­gate this one.

Trail­head: Take I‑84 from Port­land to exit 55 (Star­va­tion Creek State Park rest area).

North Lake
Inter­mit­tent­ly loose scree over hard dirt, with sev­er­al sec­tions of “death ledges,” the route to North Lake fol­lows the Wyeth Trail, march­ing from an old roadbed straight up to the Gorge’s rooftop. It cov­ers 3,800 feet in the first four miles before tem­porar­i­ly lev­el­ing out and then pro­ceed­ing up again. The total gain is 4,220 feet over 11.4 out-and-back miles through lush old growth. Go left at the Gor­ton Creek junc­tion on the Wyeth Trail #411. Switch­back after switch­back with a few long tra­vers­es inter­spersed, you’ll final­ly reach the junc­tion with the Wyeth-Green Point Ridge Trail. The trail descends a series of talus slopes before drop­ping into an old growth for­est. You’ll pass across a wet­land area and then up over Lind­sey Creek. Two tie-spur trails lead back from the North Lake Trail to the Wyeth Trail. Keep left and descend 500 feet before regain­ing the ele­va­tion as you approach North Lake.

Trail­head: East on I‑84, take Exit #55/Starvation Creek State Park and Rest Area (east­bound exit only).

Green Point Ridge
You’ll feel like you’re on a relent­less switch­back­ing stair­case as you ascend 3,840 feet in the first four miles of this 15-mile out and back trail. Pass North Lake where #411 (Wyeth Trail) joins #423 and take the trail south to ascend to the top of Green Point Ridge. Enjoy the view and reclaim your lungs before head­ing back down #418 for 2.8 miles to where it rejoins #411 for the last four miles. The trail is 15 miles with a total gain of 4,400 feet.

Trail­head: Take I‑84 to Exit #51/Wyeth to the camp­ground. Fol­low trail­head signs to the far back of the camp­ground to the park­ing lot.

Nesmith Point Trail
Turn around as you ascend this lung buster and you’ll see that you’re nev­er far from tow­er­ing views of the gorge—another rea­son why this trail should be called steep and steep­er. Start at the Elowah Falls trail­head, con­tin­ue with an easy pace past the junc­tion of the old Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge Trail #400 and fol­low the signs south to Nesmith Point on the Trail #428. From there, you’ll knock off almost 3,000 feet in 2.5 miles. Con­tin­ue on for anoth­er mile and a half to the junc­tion with Trail #425. After this junc­tion, you’re a short, lit­er­al crawl to the top of Nesmith Point and out­ra­geous views across the top of the Gorge’s rooftop. You’ll feel like a loaded bus in neu­tral with no brakes as you head back down a trail that gains 3,706 feet over 5.1 miles (10.2 round trip).

Trail­head: Take I‑84, exit #35/Ainsworth State Park.

Ruck­el Ridge Trail
This is the penul­ti­mate out­door Park­our chal­lenge: at times you’ll bear down on a near 35 per­cent grade, which includes root lad­ders, a nar­row, ele­vat­ed, moss-encrust­ed basalt spine called “The Cat­walk” that begs for sit­ting and scoot­ing on, with lots of expo­sure above Ruck­el Creek. After hit­ting the Ben­son Plateau, take Ruck­el Creek Trail (#405) down (6.5 miles). You’ll wend through a steep but gor­geous Doug Fir rain­for­est bor­dered by neon green rock walls and boul­der fields. The ridge trail scales 3,700 feet in 3.8 miles.

Trail­head: Begins at Eagle Creek Camp­ground, near exit 41 from I‑84, east of Portland.

Bell Creek Loop Trail
This lol­ly­pop loop starts at the Oneon­ta Trail­head, con­nect­ing with Gorge Trail #400 and final­ly Trail #424. Once on it, con­tin­ue past the junc­tion with Horse­tail Falls Trail (#438 at 0.8 miles in). Pass Triple Falls and cross sev­er­al side drainages before final­ly reach­ing the bridge over Oneon­ta Creek. Pass anoth­er bridge before leav­ing and turn north­east onto the Horse­tail Creek Trail (#425), and across the Oneon­ta Creek ford. After that, the grinder real­ly starts: switch­ing back about 20 times in 2.3 miles before mel­low­ing a bit and reach­ing the junc­tion with Bell Creek Trail (#459). Take #459 and cross the foot­bridge over Bell Creek and cruise (for about 1.4 miles) beneath a canopy of Doug fir canopy and along wet­lands anoth­er 1.4 miles to the junc­tion of Oneon­ta Trail (#424) again, bypass­ing a few oth­er junc­tions. This trail ascends 3,300 feet and clicks off a total of 14.5 miles.

Trail­head: From the west, trav­el east on I‑84 to Exit #28/Bridal Veil. Dri­ve east on the His­toric High­way for 5.1 miles to a small park­ing lot on the left/north side of the road, just before the Oneon­ta Gorge.

Tan­ner Ridge, Dublin Lake
It takes a map (look for the Tan­ner Butte trail­head) to find the trail­head. But once you fig­ure it out you’re on your way up, cov­er­ing 3,700 feet in 6.8 miles. At the Tan­ner Ridge/Butte Trail­head, fol­low Trail #401 for about 2.2 miles and up 1,500 feet to the junc­tion with the Wau­na Point Trail #401D. Go west right and con­tin­ue to Tan­ner Ridge. In about 2 miles you’ll arrive at a junc­tion with Trail #448, which descends back down toward Tan­ner Creek. Use it to com­plete a loop. Add the lake to your hike by con­tin­u­ing on to Trail #401 and the junc­tion for the beau­ti­ful lit­tle Dublin Lake, Trail #401B to add 4.2 miles to this hike.

Trail­head: East on I‑84, take Exit #40/Bonneville Dam.

Indi­an Point Loop
Basi­cal­ly, this trail fol­lows Gor­ton Creek Trail out and comes back on the Her­man Creek Trail (#406). Start up the Her­man Creek Trail; in a third of a mile con­nect to the Her­man Bridge Trail. Avoid spurs and stay on the main trail. In 1.2 miles, the trail reach­es Her­man Camp and the junc­tion with the Gorge Trail #400, which tracks north, while Gor­ton Creek Trail #408 tracks east and the Her­man Creek Trail tracks south­east on an old log­ging road. You want Gor­ton Creek Trail. It steadi­ly gains ele­va­tion, cross­ing a few small sea­son­al streams on a few switch­backs. At mile 3.8, you’ll meet the Ridge Cut­off Trail (#437). A short trail leads to the rock spire where you can take in views of Mounts St. Helens and Adams, Wind Moun­tain and Dog Moun­tain. After a breather, head back to the #437 and fol­low it 0.6 miles to the Nick Eaton Trail (#447). Descend north on the Nick Eaton Trail about 1/2 mile a view­point and con­tin­ue down the same trail to the junc­tion with the Her­man Creek Trail (#406). The loop is 8.3 miles total with 2,800 feet of ele­va­tion gain.

Trail­head: East on I‑84 to Exit #44/Cascade Locks. Fol­low signs to Her­man Creek Campground.

Mult­nom­ah Falls – Franklin Ridge Loop
Eas­i­ly the tamest of the bunch, it’s still a chal­lenge, espe­cial­ly because you’ll have to nav­i­gate crowds of peo­ple at the start at Mult­nom­ah Falls. Head up to the high­est view­point at Mult­nom­ah Falls and con­tin­ue on up to its feed­er, Mult­nom­ah Creek. Turn east at the Franklin Ridge junc­tion, and fol­low it up to the junc­tion with Oneon­ta Gorge. Descend to Oneon­ta Gorge and fol­low the creek past Triple Falls to the junc­tion with Gorge Trail #400, before head­ing back to Mult­nom­ah Falls. You won’t see many hori­zon views but you’ll have gained 2,660 over the 12-mile loop.

Trail­head: Mult­nom­ah Falls exit 28 to His­toric Colum­bia High­way 30 East to Mult­nom­ah Falls Lodge.


©istockphoto/kanonskyTime march­es on, they say.  It’s easy to com­plain about more crowd­ed trails and longer lift lines. But at the heart of it, things aren’t so bad. Here are some things out­doors-lovers in the Pacif­ic North­west can be hap­py about.

It’s back. After the hottest and dri­est sum­mer and worst fire sea­son on record, rain is back. Rivers have water in them. There’s snow in the moun­tains. Skiers and pad­dlers are hap­py. After two years of drought, it feels like the North­west again.

A New Kind of Bridge
In late 2015, Port­land opened the Tilikum Cross­ing Bridge, span­ning the Willamette Riv­er in down­town Port­land. It’s the first major bridge built in a US city that car­ries light rail, street­car, pedes­tri­ans and cyclists…and no cars. Things still look dif­fer­ent here.

The Low Car­bon Movement
Oil com­pa­nies have been look­ing for ways to export tar sands oil from the upper Mid­west and Cana­da. They’ve looked to the Pacif­ic Coast: Port­land, Van­cou­ver WA, Belling­ham, Van­cou­ver BC and the Great Bear Rain­for­est. Pro­posed pipelines and oil trains would bisect the Cas­cades and tankers would ply the seas, mak­ing places like the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, the San Juans and the Cen­tral Coast of British Colum­bia exposed to the poten­tial for an Exxon Valdez-size oil spill. But thou­sands of cit­i­zens have tak­en a stand—and con­vinced their local gov­ern­ments, includ­ing the City of Port­land, to oppose ter­mi­nals and dan­ger­ous shipping.

Back­pack­ing is Back
For years, peo­ple have pro­nounced back­pack­ing as the most doomed of out­door sports. Par­tic­i­pa­tion had been declin­ing, with plen­ty of rea­sons thrown around: com­pressed sched­ules, an aging pop­u­la­tion, inter­net addic­tion and urban­iza­tion. But rumors of its death were great­ly exag­ger­at­ed: back­pack­ing grew by 11 per­cent in the lat­est out­door par­tic­i­pa­tion sur­vey . Explor­ing the wilder­ness by that most basic of ways—with one’s own two feet—is with us again.

©istockphoto/RyanJLaneThe Wolf at the Door
After being near­ly exter­mi­nat­ed in the west, wolves are back in Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. While humans debate whether they belong, the wolves have vot­ed with their paws. They’ve re-inte­grat­ed them­selves into north­west wilder­ness­es in east­ern Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton, south­ern Ore­gon and the north Cas­cades. The famous jour­ney of OR‑7, who wan­dered from Wal­lowa Coun­ty to near Susanville, CA in search of a mate, has a hap­py end­ing. He found love in south­ern Ore­gon, shacked up and start­ed a fam­i­ly. And Red Rid­ing Hood is doing just fine.

Bend’s New River
A few years ago Bend vot­ers fund­ed a new white­wa­ter park where the dan­ger­ous Col­orado Avenue Dam had stood. The new white­wa­ter park is now open: the first on the west coast, thanks to the com­bined efforts of pad­dlers, con­ser­va­tion­ists and city staff. It sports a float­ing chan­nel for sum­mer tubers and play waves for white­wa­ter boaters, con­trolled via high-tech inflat­able blad­ders to adapt to dif­fer­ent water lev­els. Suc­cess with the Col­orado Avenue Dam has built momen­tum for remov­ing the aging and unsafe New­port Avenue Dam on the north end of town. A free-flow­ing riv­er through Bend may not be very far away.

Whales Get­ting It On
Orca are some of the most pho­to­genic crit­ters around. So what could be cuter than a baby orca? Try six baby orca. The endan­gered Puget Sound Orca pop­u­la­tion had six kids born since the end of 2014, four to J pod, which has the most suc­cess in rear­ing kids. It’s a need­ed boost to the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of Puget Sound. Drone pho­tos of the pod indi­cate that oth­er whales may also be pregnant.

The Return of Big Adventure
Two adven­tur­ous women chal­lenged the idea that epic adven­tures are a thing of the past. Last win­ter Sarah Out­en (since knight­ed as Sarah Out­en, Mem­ber of the Most Excel­lent Order of the British Empire for her efforts) pad­dled under London’s Tow­er Bridge and com­plet­ed a 4‑year “London2London: Via the World” jour­ney by kayak, bike and row­boat that the words “big adven­ture” couldn’t pos­si­bly sum up. And Ger­man Freya Hoffmeis­ter com­plet­ed a 3‑year cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of South America.

©istockphoto/deebrowningThe UGB
The what? The UGB—Urban Growth Boundary—is an invis­i­ble line sur­round­ing every town in Ore­gon. It keeps sprawl from gob­bling up forests and farm­land. Portland’s UGB has been fought over ever since it was estab­lished in 1979. Now the Metro Coun­cil has vot­ed to keep it intact: we’re able to incor­po­rate walk­a­ble, bike­able neigh­bor­hoods, eco­nom­ic growth and nature with­in the city with­out raz­ing forests and farms just out­side. It’s a win for both play­ing out­doors close to home and head­ing out to the hills.

A Reborn Riv­er Revives a Strait
In 2011, the Elwha Riv­er was set free. Two dams were removed from the steep riv­er on the Olympic Penin­su­la, once home to famous salmon runs. Nobody knew what would hap­pen. Kevin Cost­ner has it most­ly right: if you un-build it, they will come. The salmon returned almost imme­di­ate­ly, and recent stud­ies showed that the riv­er wasn’t just healthy—it was improv­ing the health of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With the sed­i­ment from the Elwha no longer trapped behind dams, beach­es and riv­er deltas rebuilt them­selves in the Strait. After 100 years, the riv­er is doing its work.


©istockphoto/zschnepfHere are sev­en unusu­al things you can do this win­ter to embrace the Northwest’s most maligned sea­son. How unusu­al they are, of course, depends on how unusu­al you are already.

Vary the Ski Routine
Let’s face it, while many of us wait around for the win­ters to be over, a lot of us are secret­ly hop­ing they nev­er end.  While it lasts, we rec­om­mend mix­ing up your ski rou­tine. Are you a die-hard down­hiller? Quit rid­ing the lifts and try back­coun­try free-heel tour­ing. A tried-and true cross coun­try ski­er? Inves­ti­gate skate ski­ing, or try rid­ing the lifts and see what you can do with your heels down. Go dif­fer­ent places. Do dif­fer­ent things.

Hit The Water
Pad­dling might seem like a sum­mer sport, but pad­dling is often at its best in the North­west in win­ter. White­wa­ter rivers are ris­ing after the long sum­mer drought. The Low­er Colum­bia Riv­er Water Trail, which can be crowd­ed in sum­mer, offers soli­tude, bald eagles and hordes of waterfowl.

Hang Out By the Sea
While every­one else is head­ing for the moun­tains, go the oth­er direc­tion. Head for the coast. Raw and rugged , you’ll see things you won’t often see in sum­mer: emp­ty beach­es, big storms, raw ocean pow­ers. Yes, there will be some rain. But we’re Northwesterners.

Get Wet In the Gorge
For­get the skis and go for a sim­ple hike. Lay­er on the rain gear, and don’t for­get that the Colum­bia Gorge and moun­tain foothill trails are at their best in the win­ter. The water­falls will be full, dra­mat­ic, and at their cat­a­clysmic best. Hik­ing in win­ter is just like hik­ing in sum­mer, but with more clothes and a ther­mos of tea.

Try a Weird Win­ter Sport
Go whole-hog into win­ter. Try some weird win­ter sports, like dogsled­ding, ski­jor­ing, shov­el rac­ing, ice-climb­ing or a polar bear plunge. Some of them are just strange, some require spe­cial­ized skills or gear, and may take some hunt­ing to fig­ure out how to do or what they real­ly are. But try one.

Sit On The Porch
We get a lot less fresh air in the win­ter, and that can’t be good for us. Tempt­ing as it is to hud­dle inside, make part of your morn­ing rit­u­al going out­side. Use all that fan­cy out­door tech­ni­cal cloth­ing to do the most basic of out­door activ­i­ties: sit­ting on your front porch. It will be a bit chilly at first, but you’ll be hap­pi­er the rest of the day.

Be A Kid Again
Last but far from least, redis­cov­er the win­ter you loved as a kid. For­get about care­ful­ly tun­ing your skis and go romp in the snow. Have snow­ball fights. Build snow forts. Climb up a hill and tum­ble down or slide down on a makeshift sled. Have fun. Redis­cov­er the sim­ple joys of hors­ing around out­side in the snow.

In ear­ly August 2013 mem­bers from 100 dif­fer­ent native tribes pad­dled 70 mas­sive dugout-styled canoes from all over the North­west and British Colum­bia to arrive at the Quin­ault Indi­an Reser­va­tion in Washington.

They fought their way through storms, fog, rough water, and some incred­i­ble dis­tances. A native tribe from the Palouse region of east­ern Wash­ing­ton pad­dled the length of the Colum­bia Riv­er and up the rugged Pacif­ic coast­line to reach the cer­e­mo­ni­al land­ing site.

As soon as they stepped ashore a six-day cel­e­bra­tion began. This year’s inter­na­tion­al gath­er­ing brought upward of 12,000 peo­ple to join the fes­tiv­i­ties. They sang and danced and feast­ed on elk, crab, and salmon all while exchang­ing gifts.

Enjoy this video from Sam Beebe at Ecotrust who cap­tured the surf land­ing of one of these mas­sive canoes.

View more pho­tos here.

Now Hiring- Where to Move to Work in the Outdoors










It’s every enthu­si­ast’s dream, to get paid to do what we pay to do. Park rangers, advo­ca­cy direc­tors, con­ser­van­cy plan­ners, brand mar­keters, and on and on. The out­door indus­try rep­re­sents a mas­sive amount of employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties if you know where to look for them. To get your dream job, you’ve got to go where the dreams live. Below is a list of the best places in the coun­try for out­door indus­try jobs. Con­tin­ue read­ing

The Good Life Pacif­ic North­west Series is a video doc­u­men­tary that chron­i­cles four of the best ski moun­tains in the North­ern Cas­cades dur­ing a ten-day road trip. Watch as Liam Doran and the pro­duc­tion crew at ONTHESNOW set out to dis­cov­er the throw­back resorts that have devel­oped a cadre of pow­der hounds while attract­ing min­i­mal fan­fare com­pared to inter­na­tion­al­ly-renowned resorts in Utah, Col­orado, and California.

Their jour­ney begins at Mt. Hood Mead­ows in Ore­gon, and then heads north to Crys­tal Moun­tain, Stevens Pass, and Mt. Bak­er in Wash­ing­ton. Each of these four episodes show­case a dif­fer­ent moun­tain, and along the way we meet the local skiers who pro­vide us with an insid­er look at the world-class, but only region­al­ly known, ter­rain. Join us for the next four days as we share one of these videos a day to help define the ski­ing in this often-over­looked region.

In Part 1, Pow­der at Mt. Hood Mead­ows, local ski patroller Jeff Fer­ra­gi shows us the nat­ur­al ter­rain park that is Mt. Hood Mead­ows, which is known as hav­ing the widest range of ter­rain of the hand­ful of resorts on Mt. Hood. While pop­u­lar among Port­landers, the 2,777-foot ver­ti­cal drop and over 2,150 ski­able acres makes it a moun­tain that can keep its secrets.

Watch the whole series!

Part 1: Pow­der at Mt. Hood Meadows

Part 2: Deep Pow­der at Crys­tal Mountain

Part 3: Deep­est Day of the Year at Stevens Pass

Part 4: Zach Grif­fin Tears Up Mt. Bak­er Ski Area