First and foremost I want to apologize for the brief hiatus in my posting. I was becoming very overwhelmed with my workload and personal life that I decided to take a step back for a little and clear my mind. October is one of my favorite months due to all the fun fall & Halloween activities so I decided to just enjoy any free time I had with my family and friends. I am trying to get a consistent schedule going with my posts on the blog, so please bear with me. I really appreciate all of you that take the time to read my posts, as it makes the time and effort feel validated. I’ve been promising some local content (Tacoma, Seattle, and Washington state in general) as well as the greater Pacific Northwest area of the United States because after all, that is where I am based (for now), but I’ve been severely slacking on it. If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been doing a bit of travelling the last few months and most of my posts have been focused on those international adventures. My blog is geared towards travel and adventures, not just abroad, but within the states and locally as well. I have been meaning to post more content on PNW adventures and local lifestyle content for my readers that are friends and family and those that live nearby, but I really wanted to share some of my international adventures first to appeal to a broader audience.
Well I am finally all caught up for now, with my next big trips not until December and May, and so I am finally starting a new content series. I will be posting all things PNW for the next couple of months! From hikes and other natural/outdoor gems, historical landmarks, local discoveries (everything from nature to food to shopping), unique lodging I’ve stayed in, popular city guides, cool little towns around Washington and Oregon, Canada adventures, and so much more…I have a lot I want to share with everyone from my experiences living here thus far. I’ve lived in Washington since the summer of 2009, so coming up on 8 years now. If you’ve read my bio, you’ll know that I grew up a military brat, so I’ve moved around a lot making Washington the longest I’ve ever stuck around somewhere. I was actually born in Tacoma but I moved when I was 7 so I didn’t have many memories of here when I moved back in 2009. It’s been fun exploring what is essentially my hometown and state, though I don’t really consider myself to have a hometown (if you’re an Army brat, you understand this feeling). Anyways, I feel I’ve done my fair share of sightseeing around here, but at the same time, I feel I have only just scratched the surface. I mean it’s been 8 years and I’ve only been on about 8 hikes total! Well I guess technically more, but what I would consider a hike and more than just a long walk, if you get what I mean. I haven’t even explored Seattle in its entirety and I live only 45 minutes away! My boyfriend Joe and I definitely want to get out there more, especially since we’ve been debating on moving in the next couple of years, so plan on seeing a lot of wonderful PNW content, especially outdoors related content, as we document our adventures on the blog!
If you’ve heard of the Pacific Northwest, I am sure images of vast tall evergreen trees, snow capped mountain peaks, crystal clear glacier lakes, and beautiful (but cold) coastal rocky beaches probably come to mind. You’ve probably heard that the air is crisp and fresh, the seafood (especially the salmon!) is to die for, the outdoor activities are endless, and the culture, diversity, and atmosphere in this little pocket of the states is unlike any other. All of these things are very true! And in the case of Washington State you probably imagine a ton of gloomy rain, a sea of liberal hipsters, Mount Rainier, and the space needle in Seattle. All of these things are prominent as well, but Washington is so much more than that! We may get lots of rain but it makes late spring and summer here absolutely worth it. Hands down some of the best summer landscapes and weather I’ve experienced has been here, and I have lived at and visited my fair share of places. Everything is so green in Washington because of the rain and it all comes to life in the summer. The picture perfect landscapes of mountains, evergreens, and ocean merging in that bright sunshine is unlike any view I’ve seen. And even though it can get pretty depressing in the grey and dreary weather for more than half the year, suddenly the summer sunlight comes out and you wonder why you hated half the year in the first place. You think to yourself, I can wait every year for this no problem! Of course then the doom and gloom comes back to test your strengths…but again and again you prevail through it all for that light at the end of the tunnel. And because of the various landscapes in the area (we even have our very own rainforest!), Washington and the greater PNW offers some of the best outdoor activities. Hiking, diving, snowboarding/skiing, rock climbing, camping, glacial lake swims, kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, biking, marathons…we have it all and depending on what you’re up for you don’t have to wait until the summer to indulge in these activities.
By far my favorite outdoor activity in Washington is hands down the hiking. We have so many unique trails with awesome payoff, whether you want an epic summit view, glacier lake view, coastal view, city view, and everything in between, there is a hike for everyone’s tastes. I really wasn’t sure where I would begin with this series but seeing as the hikes are my favorite I thought I would highlight some of my favorite ones that I have done so far and would highly recommend. Again, remember I haven’t done many which I am hoping to change soon, but I have gone on a couple of the more popular ones and a couple of lesser known ones so hopefully this can help you out a little bit. The categories of the hikes will be a bit broad but I feel that’s kind of how it goes when you’re not an avid hiker and just beginning. I promise as I go forward that these posts will have more of a categorization and uniformity (for example, best hikes under 5 miles, best fall hikes, best hikes near Tacoma, things of that nature). Some of these hikes that I did in the past were before I was into photography and had decent equipment as well so I apologize in advance for some of the terrible photos of these absolutely breathtaking places. Anyways, enough with my rambling, here are some of our favorites that we have done! Keep reading below if you’re interested.
This is the most recent hike I have done, back in August which is telling you something about how often I’m able to fit a good hike in unfortunately. My sister was visiting from Texas and I wanted to take her somewhere where she could get it all. A summit view of the evergreen trees, mountains, and a beautiful Washington lake. This hike fit the bill and was just long enough to get a great workout in and to make it worth the drive, but short enough that it wouldn’t be too tough for beginning hikers. This hike is located in the Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest about 2 ½ hours away from Tacoma. It has amazing views of Lake Valhalla and Lichtenberg Mountain. This hike is great because there are two landmarks you can stop at. There is a part of the hike that kind of splits off and you can either continue down to the sandy shores of Lake Valhalla for the day or start the short (but super steep and slippery) ascent to the summit of Mt. McCausland. You can also fit in both of course, totally doable, just depending on what you want to do for the day! Our main goal of going on this hike was for the summit views so we headed to Mt. McCausland first. By the time we got back down we decided to skip heading down to the shores of Lake Valhalla because we could tell it was getting crowded. Next time I’ll be back for the lake though and will definitely be spending the day tanning and swimming! This hike starts on the Smithbrook trail and is relatively easy and flat with a very moderate and gradual gain the first couple miles. There is a lot to see on the trail, including a rocky cave area that you should definitely take the time to stop at and explore! Eventually you will reach a junction with the Pacific Crest trail, which I thought was very cool, and continue on to the left. The trail up to Mt. McCausland was quite hard for me, even as someone who is very active in the gym (and also does a lot of stairs!). I was out of breath and my legs were struggling! It just goes to show that you can be great at one thing fitness wise but completely horrible at another. I know friends who are not avid gym goers or train the way that I do and wouldn’t be able to keep up with me…but take them on a hike and it’s a total cake walk. They would have left me in the dust going straight up that steep path with hardly any breaks. Just a reminder that we should all admire each others strengths and talents and learn from our weaknesses as there is always room for improvement! You don’t have to go very far up this path to start seeing gorgeous views of the lake and trees below. The most popular photo spot is on this giant rock that I have pictured below. There are also an abundance of berries on this trail. Keep going all the way to the top and head towards the right to the summit rock area. It has a metal box bolted to the rock with letters and notes from past hikers. There is also a view on this side of the very small Dow Lake. We enjoyed lunch here while taking in the epic views. Here are some pictures below. I should also mention that we went on this hike shortly after the Canada wildfires which blanketed Washington in a thick cloud of smoke and haze. This view was still very beautiful but would have been even more magnificent and vast with clear blue skies. I would love to go back soon! One last tip is that people recommended poles on the ascent to Mt. McCausland. I didn’t have any poles and made it just fine but I can imagine it would be harder in wet weather.
Popular photo spot, perfect view of Lake Valhalla
Nap time?! Ha!
My sister & I. If only you could have seen me struggling up this rock!
We went on this hike in the spring of 2015 and I fell in love with this gorgeous lake and the rainforest-like atmosphere. This hike is located in the North Cascades on the Mountain Loop Highway, approximately 1 hour and 45 mins from Tacoma, and is great for beginners. I didn’t find it hard at all and the pay-off you get for being a shorter hike is pretty amazing. This trail has a plethora of beautiful vegetation due to the wetlands. Wear appropriate footwear because there are some wet and muddy areas on this trail. We also heard the sound of waterfalls nearby and got some great views of the evergreen trees below. When you reach the lake you’ll be in awe at just how peaceful it is, despite being a more popular trail. We ate lunch near the bridge and then decided to continue on all the way to the other side of the lake to find a more secluded spot to enjoy our day. There was still snow on the other side of the lake and it was really hard to get over there. We were hiking in tennis shoes (I know, I know, obviously we are hiker noobs) and we kept sinking into the snow and our feet were freezing and soaking wet. Luckily we never slipped, although I saw plenty of people wiping out pretty hard, so do be careful if you happen to go when there is snow. We found a huge flat rock near the water with the most perfect view of the lake. It was awesome to look back at the area we just came from and the peace and the seclusion was definitely worth it. We sunbathed for a good hour and a half before heading back. The descent back to the car was very easy and surprisingly went by very quickly! If you’re looking for a great first hike, this is the one I would recommend!
Probably one of the most picture famous hikes in the area (aside from Colchuck Lake and Diablo Lake). I actually saw this hike on one of those “top hike” lists on a popular website and I instantly put it on my hiking bucket list. The strikingly vibrant turquoise blue tone of the water is something other worldly. This lake is seriously so so so GORGEOUS and worth all of the struggle to get to it. This was the 2nd “big” hike I ever went on in Washington back in 2014 and it is still one of the hardest I have done. I definitely was not ready for this hike but I am glad we did it, especially since I have heard that the access to the trailhead is now washed out adding extra miles to this already tough trail. This hike is located in the Central Cascades/Stevens Pass area and is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes from Tacoma. This hike starts off steep with a very quick change in elevation and doesn’t let up for quite a bit of time. There is so much to see on this trail though and to avoid overly exerting yourself, make sure to take your time and just enjoy the nature around you. I will admit that I thought this trail would never end haha. You’ll even pass a crappy little stagnant lake before you reach the grand finale and I almost killed over thinking that we had been punked and this was the lake hahaha. Fear not, it isn’t, and that’ll teach me to read wta’s hiking guide in-depth. I have some pictures below but they are definitely not great at all. We started this hike very late (I think around 1:30 or 2:00), something I learned that I would never do again (I don’t go on hikes now unless I’m at the trailhead by at least 8 am, but preferably earlier) and it shows in the pictures. We reached the lake around 4:00 and it was already very shady. We had old low quality cellphone cameras and an old low quality Gopro and did the best we could with the low lighting. I promise you this lake is worth it and incredibly beautiful. Don’t go by our pictures. Google Blanca Lake and you’ll see what I mean! I hope to maybe go back one day and get some epic photos this time and also take a dip in the lake. By the time we got back to the car it was almost dark out. It was pretty scary! I was really worried because on the way down there were two girls still headed to the lake and they still had a ways to go. Dusk was fast approaching and I told them they still were pretty far out but they insisted on trekking on. They did not look like they were over-nighting or prepared for nightfall. I’m assuming it went well or they finally turned around because I never heard anything. My advice is to start this one as early as possible.
Mt. Si was the very first hike I ever went on in Washington back in 2013 and my memory is a little fuzzy. The hike is located in the Snoqualmie region about an hour away from Tacoma. This is a very popular hike and almost always guaranteed to be crowded during the warmer months due to the close proximity to Seattle and Tacoma. In terms of difficulty I would say that it’s moderate to difficult but doable for most people. When we went it wasn’t a super clear day but the view was still very pretty. There were a lot of people on the trail and finding parking was difficult. This wasn’t my favorite hike and certainly wouldn’t be the first one I’d recommend but Mt. Si and Rattlesnake Ridge are staple hikes in the area and are two hikes that I feel most people begin with since they are so popular and nearby. You can also stop by Snoqualmie Falls on the way home since it is nearby! I highly recommend checking it out at least once!
This is an excellent very small hike/walk suitable for people of all fitness levels. This hike has big payoff for such a small distance. The hike is located in the Central Cascades about an hour and a half away from Tacoma. The parking area is small but we arrived at the trailhead by 8 am and there were only 2 other cars there. We were back at the car by around 10 am. I would recommend adding this onto another small hike in the area to make the drive worth it. I really enjoyed this well maintained trail though! I thought it was very beautiful and the old growth trees were so tall and stunning. I will say that even though this is a very short hike, it isn’t an easy walk in the park. It’s a decent leg burner and a relatively steep climb. The hike leads to an old watchtower with incredible views of the lush green valley from the viewing deck area. This trail would be great for families, just be careful on the watchtower. On the way home we stopped at the Wayside Chapel which we first saw on the way to Blanca Lake in 2014. It’s this teeny tiny cute little chapel on the side of the highway with little mini bibles and everything! I’m not a religious person but it is kinda cool that travelers can stop here when they are in need of some solace. We also checked out the Reptile Zoo in Monroe! Fun for the kids!
This place is perfect for a little afternoon outdoor outing! This nature reserve is located on the Kitsap Peninsula in the cute little town of Seabeck about an hour away from Tacoma. This drive goes by fast for me because I love driving through the Key Peninsula and beyond. Such a beautiful drive with views of the water and forest. Guillemot Cove encompasses approximately 184 acres according to the wta.org website and there are lots of little trails to explore here! We went on a beautiful sunny and dry day so we didn’t really have to worry about muddy and slippery grounds but I know that it definitely can get pretty wet so wear the appropriate footwear! This place is great for families because of all the relatively flat trails to explore, including a cute little stumphouse and a beautiful little rocky beach to relax on with incredible views of the Olympics. I also enjoyed walking the boardwalk, perfect little setting for a photo op! The star of the show is clearly the stumphouse and next to the little house are huge tree trunks which are also great for a photo op, as you can see below. Definitely recommend this place for a fun little walk in nature. Great exercise with lots of exploring to be had!
I wouldn’t really consider this a hike but it is a great trail for a nice outdoor walk with your dog or friends or even solo. It is located in Dupont about a half hour away from Tacoma and something different if you’re trying to branch out from 5 Mile Drive at Point Defiance or Chambers Bay (one of my favorite little walks in the Tacoma area, but variety is always welcome in my book). The trail is mostly flat and is really beautiful with lots of old growth green forest creating great shade on a hot day. This walk is also great for families as there is an old little railroad tunnel with graffiti art to explore as well as a beautiful little rocky beach on the other side. On the day we went there weren’t many people there and it was very quiet and peaceful. The water was very calm, almost like looking at glass and there are also old railroad lines on the beach. This would be a great spot for a little romantic picnic!
I wouldn’t make any special trip to see this, I’m simply adding it in if you happen to be in the area and would like to see a pretty waterfall with little to no effort. This waterfall is located in the Hood Canal area and we stopped by while we were staying at Robin Hood Village (a lodging that I absolutely LOVE and will be writing about soon). You just park on the side of the road and it’s a very short walk in and boom! There’s a glorious waterfall waiting for you! This would be a perfect spot to have a little lunch with a beautiful view. I’ve even seen trip reports of people swimming in it, although I’m not sure how safe it is. For all the hikes/walks mentioned here you can go to wta.org for further information, but being that this one was a little hard to find if you’re not familiar with the area, I’m attaching the direct link to the area. Just follow the directions on the map or read some of the trip reports for more details. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/rocky-brook-falls
Well I hope you enjoyed my very first post in this PNW series and I hope you continue to tune in for more awesome content in Washington and beyond! Let me know if you’ve been on any of these hikes or if you’re interested in checking them out now in the comments! Also let me know if there is anything in particular you would love for me to check out and write about in the area. I’ll do what I can!! I love researching, investigating, and being as informative as possible so any ideas you have please feel free to message me or leave a comment below and I will do my best to oblige!
Until next time,