Top Ten Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest - Page 2

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Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park  (Timonty Hearsum/Digital Vision/Getty)

5. Steens Mountain and Wildhorse Lake
3.5-mile circuit in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, OR
Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon is about as far away from the Northwest clichés as you can get, replacing moss and cedar with rustling grasslands and wild mustangs. The largest fault-block mountain west of the Great Basin, Steens Mountain sits like a 20-mile-long ramp cocked 9,000 feet into the high desert sky. Antelope bound through thigh-high prairie grass while fisherman angle for trout in Montana-esque streams. Below the rocky crest, the mountain gives way to a blistering expanse of bright white sand, an alkali lakebed of the Alvord Desert, which steams with the occasional undeveloped hot spring. Steens isn't a day hike but a collection of them, so it's worth car camping at a place like Page Springs Campground and spending a few days exploring. (The small hotel in Frenchglen might also have a room.) But if you only have a few hours, we recommend a summit hike, followed by a zip to Wildhorse Lake. First up, drive about 20 miles up the fault block to a parking lot close to Steens Mountain's actual 9,700-foot summit. It's a short jaunt up to the high point in the ridge, a one-mile round-trip sprint that offers dizzying views of the block's eastern drop-off. From the same parking lot, take another trail for a 2.5-mile round-trip hike to Wildhorse Lake. You'll lose about 1,700 vertical feet reaching the hanging valley that cradles the twinkling blue dollop of water surrounded by burning pink buckwheat and scores of other wildflowers.

4. Lassen Peak
5-mile circuit in Lassen Volcanic National Park , CA
Almost 65 years to the day before Mount St. Helens blew its top, Lassen Peak, the southernmost active volcano in the Cascades, exploded violently and spewed ash that landed 200 miles to the east. Today, the ninth-highest volcano in the Cascades is dormant, but the scent of sulfur still seeps from its cracks. It also makes for one of the most accessible summit day hikes in the Pacific Northwest. A short-but-steep five-mile out-and-back trip culminates with spectacular 10,457-foot-high views into the destruction from almost a century ago. The trail begins at a parking area at about 8,500 feet up the volcano. Follow a series of switchbacks and steep pitches up the southeastern ridge for about 2,000 vertical feet to reach the airy summit. From there, find a rock on which to kick back and take in the views of cinder cones and the remnants of some 30 volcanic domes that make up the park. The peak can get more snow than many other surrounding areas—upwards of 40 feet—meaning the main road into the park can be closed much of the year. It's best to go in mid-July.
Check out our profile of Lessen Peak—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki

3. Mount Eddy
10-mile circuit in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, CA
You could forgive someone for overlooking Mount Eddy in 2.1-million-acre Shasta-Trinity National Forest, near the northern Californian town of Mount Shasta. After all, the 9,025-foot peak sits in the shadow of the big man, Mount Shasta the volcano, which rears another 5,000 icy feet into the sky. But Mount Eddy is a worthy objective for a full-day hike to appreciate the superb views it offers of 14,179-foot-high Shasta, the second-highest peak in the Cascades. Best of all, should you want to cut the effort short, there's swimming (if you dare) in crisp mountain lakes halfway in. Either way, you'll set out on foot on the Pacific Crest Trail from Parks Creek Pass, looking over the Trinity Alps in the distance. About 2.5 to 3 miles in, you'll reach a family of three alpine lakes, the Deadfall Lakes, shimmering with meltwater. Want to push on? Start working your way up to Mount Eddy's southwestern ridge, gaining a summit trail that switchbacks steadily for 1,800 vertical feet above the Deadfall Lakes. From the top, you'll have the only view of Shasta, to the east, as well as the Trinity Divide and Sacramento River drainage.

2. Conrad Kain Hut
6.2-mile circuit in Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park, BC
In a region covered with so many glaciers, steep ice, and rock, it may seem that mountaineers are the only ones with front-row seats to the high, alpine world of the Pacific Northwest. Not so. A 6.2-mile round-trip hike in Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park, in southeastern British Columbia near Golden, rockets you into the harsh world of moraines, steep drop-offs, and soaring granite bluffs. The trail to the hut will separate the fit from the not-so-fit with a grinding 2,300-foot gain in just a touch over three miles. But the effort comes with big returns at the end: an alpine hut seemingly plucked straight out of Europe and perched among some of the 33,700-acre park's most stunning topography. Climbers flock here to try their hand at peaks like Bugaboo Spire, but hikers can enjoy sounds of groaning glaciers and breathtaking views of the 10,000-foot-high Purcell Mountains just as much. Head back down the way you came, or turn your day hike into an overnight and grab a bunk in the hut. One word of caution: Wrap the perimeter of your car with chicken wire to keep the porcupines and marmots from eating your brake cables!

1. Stawamus Chief
6.8-mile circuit in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, BC
Chances are you'll end up in Vancouver or Whistler at some point, and a hike up "the Chief," the second-largest granite monolith in the world (located right in between the two BC cities), is a straightforward way to explore the area with a few thrills thrown in for good measure. Climbers get to the top by inching their way up a multi-pitch rock face, but hikers can set out to meet them via a 6.8-mile round-trip trail that gains about 2,000 vertical feet. Start about one hour north of Vancouver at a parking area at Shannon Falls, off the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Wind your way toward Oleson Creek before gaining a path of well-worn dirt and wooden steps that takes you through a cool forest and under hanging granite cliffs where peregrine falcons have been known to nest. The Chief is actually three summits—south, center, and north—and all three can be done in a long day. Our suggestion: Keep it simple and do a climb up the closest one, South Peak, to allow for more time to enjoy the views of the Squamish Valley, Howe Sound, and surrounding coastal peaks. The top portion is exposed with chains and ropes to help keep your purchase as you move over the smooth rock. Go on a sunny day (or at least a dry one) and early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Check out our profile of Stawamus Chief—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki

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