Into everyone's life, the saying goes, a little rain must fall. Which is all well and good, but it would seem that last October's three-day deluge, when up to 10 inches fell during...

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Into everyone’s life, the saying goes, a little rain must fall. Which is all well and good, but it would seem that last October’s three-day deluge, when up to 10 inches fell during one 24-hour period near Glacier Peak, is taking it to the extreme. Especially if you’re a hiker, for whom the aftereffects of the resultant washouts, debris flows, landslides and more mean that this summer’s range of destinations won’t be quite the same.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the $12 million worth of damage done to trails and roads in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the area hit hardest:

White Chuck Trail in the Darrington Ranger District: 3 miles washed away by floods and several bridges destroyed.

Kennedy Hot Springs: Silted out, washed out and filled with debris. The only thing it’s good for now is a mud bath. That is, if you can find it, which you can’t.

Pacific Crest Trail north of Stevens Pass: Multiple mudslides and seven major bridges destroyed, requiring 30 miles of the PCT to be rerouted onto trails and roads in the Wenatchee National Forest.

Mountain Loop Highway east of Darrington: 6 miles washed out, closing this popular mountain road just east of Barlow Pass.

The list goes on.

Atop Lunch Rock, a massive lakeside boulder perfect for a picnic, a hiker marvels at the azure waters of Lake Serene, near Index. Destinations such as this are accessible now.

“A lot of people are going to have to change their plans this summer, says Ron DeHart, public-affairs officer for Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. “A lot of people are going to want to go to the places they always go to and they just aren’t there anymore.”

But not all is lost. There’s still plenty of great hiking to be had — including some trails that are new or refurbished this season. And given the early-season snowmelt — a bane for almost every other aspect of Northwest wilderness, from reservoir levels to salmon health to increased chance of wildfires — opportunities abound to get to places now that generally don’t melt out until July.

For example, the last 2.5 miles of the Hurricane Ridge Road to the Hurricane Hill trailhead saw a first-ever April opening. (It usually doesn’t open until June.) And the last 3 miles of the Mount Baker Highway to Artist Point, which usually isn’t plowed free of snow until late July or early August, is likely to be cleared about the third week of June.

So lace up the boots and head out the door; most of these trails are already snow-free or passable with short stretches of snow (though it’s always best to call the ranger or other information line for absolute latest conditions). This is our list of 10 great places to put tread to trail this summer — without troublesome washouts:

Ira Spring Trail

This re-worked trail replaces the former Mason Lake Trail, an old anglers’ route that was largely a switchbacking scramble, much of it through boulder field, to a handful of high mountain lakes just west of Snoqualmie Pass. No more.

MAY 2004
Few people seem to know how the mailbox or fire hydrant made it to the summit of Mailbox Peak.
While the new trail still gains a fair amount of elevation (2,100 feet to Mason Lake; 2,900 feet to Bandera Mountain), the way-wide new trail follows an old roadbed. It takes its time, climbing gradually across Bandera Mountain’s southern flank and offering views south to McClellan Butte, mounts Washington and Rainier, and of course down into the Interstate 90 corridor.

At about 3 miles, you’re given a choice: Head left and eventually drop down into forest where you’ll find Mason Lake, Little Mason Lake and Lake Kulla Kulla, among others.

Head right at that 3-mile junction and watch that your knees don’t smack your chin making the big steps required for the final thousand-foot-push seemingly straight up to the top of Bandera Mountain. But the 360-degree views from the rocky top are more than worth it. Count the volcanoes — Baker to Glacier Peak to Rainier to Adams, etc. — and views west to Seattle, Puget Sound and the Olympics.

The trail was renamed in memory of Ira Spring, the Northwest hiking author, photographer and trails advocate who died last spring.

Distance: About 7 round-trip miles to either Mason Lake or Bandera Mountain.

Difficulty: Moderately difficult for Mason Lake; difficult for Bandera Mountain.

Getting there: Head east on I-90 to Exit 45, about 14 miles east of North Bend. Go north across the freeway and just ahead turn left onto Forest Service Road 9030. In about a half-mile the road turns to gravel; follow another 3.5 miles to the road-end trailhead.

Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required.

More information: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest North Bend Ranger District, 425-888-1421; or

Dungeness Spit

Most years it seems that May’s decent weather lures you into thinking that June’s will be even better. Yet somehow June almost always seems colder and wetter than May. That’s why you should head to the spit. The same rain shadow that spritzes nearby Sequim with only 15 inches of wet stuff each year keeps this 5-mile land finger poking into the Strait of Juan de Fuca relatively dry. It’s the world’s longest natural sand spit.

A couple of hikers enjoy the view atop Bandera Mountain’s summit ridge. Mason Lake is at the bottom of the snowfield, still frozen over.

Views are jaw-dropping — from the Olympics behind you, Vancouver Island in front of you and Mount Baker and dozens of her Cascade siblings next to you. Then there’s all that water, and shorebirds, and seabirds, and air birds, and more than likely, members of the mammalian world — seals, orcas, raccoons. Oh my!

The first half-mile is wide, barrier-free — navigable for wheelchairs — and leads to an observation deck. Elevation gain is minimal throughout this beach walk. Though the chance for rain might be less, it can be breezy, so pack your rain and/or wind gear anyway.

Distance: Up to 11 miles round-trip to the tip of the spit.

Difficulty: Easy.

Getting there: From Sequim, go west on Highway 101 for about five miles and turn right on Kitchen Dick Lane. Follow the signs to the Dungeness National Wildlife Area, about 3 miles ahead.

Fees: $3 per family day-use fee.

More information: Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, 360- 457- 8451 or

Rampart Ridge (Mount Rainier National Park)

One of the park’s first trails to melt out each year, Rampart Ridge (not to be confused with a place of the same name in Alpine Lakes Wilderness) follows the remains of an ancient lava flow that spewed from the summit of Mount Rainier. Mostly forested and topping out at 4,100 feet, the trail doesn’t offer the grand vistas that many of the park’s other trails do, but for an early season Rainier hike, it’s quite worthwhile. Plus, it’s got that loop thing going and loop trails are always winners in our book. For front-on Rainier views, follow the trail clockwise from Longmire.

Distance: A 4.8-mile loop, with 1,300 feet of elevation gain.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Getting there: Head southeast from Tacoma on Highway 7 to Elbe, Pierce County. From there, follow Highway 706 to the park’s Nisqually entrance, about 5.5 miles east of Ashford. Longmire, where the trail starts, is about 6 miles ahead. The first quarter mile of trail follows the Trail of the Shadows.

Fees: $10-per-car park-entry fee good for up to seven days.

More information: Mount Rainier National Park backcountry information line, 360-569-4453, or

Mailbox Peak

Most of the hike to the summit of Mailbox Peak is straight up a forested hillside, with nary an open view to entice you to the top. But once you’re at the summit, the views appear to stretch to infinity.

Let’s say you need to get in shape for climbing Mount Rainier or for some weeklong adventure race that requires trekking up near-vertical alpine slopes. Or that maybe you’re just in the mood for a day’s worth of thigh-blastin’, lung-bustin’ pain. Then head to Mailbox Peak, the first in the row of peaks on your left as you head east of North Bend via I-90.

This trail climbs 3,900 feet in 2.5 miles — eek! — to its 4,841-foot summit. But it rewards with a 360-degree mountains-to-Sound-to-urban panorama and, when we were there a few weeks ago, one mailbox stuffed with a couple Dr. Seuss books, an Olympian paper box and a fire hydrant. That’s right, a fire hydrant.

Distance: 6 miles round-trip with 3,900-foot elevation gain.

Difficulty: Extreme.

Getting there: Head east on I-90 to Exit 34, about 3 miles east of North Bend. Head north toward the Seattle East Auto Truck Plaza and just ahead, turn right on Middle Fork Road. Follow for about 2.5 miles — going right where the road splits at about .4 mile — and just after the road comes back together, park in the obvious parking areas on both sides of the road.

Fees: None.

More information: The best source of information on this hike is “55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass” by Harvey Manning and Ira Spring (The Mountaineers Books).

Lake Serene/Bridal Veil Falls

From the shore of Lake Serene, about 35 miles east of Everett, Mount Index’s rocky spires rise 3,500 feet into the sky.

A peaceful cliff-ringed cerulean lake, a 100-foot plunging waterfall that feels like it’s dropping down right on your head, and close-up views of Mount Index’s 3,500-foot rock face are just a few of this trail’s calling cards. Stairs, too. Lots of stairs.

A few years ago the Forest Service spent $300,000 rerouting and redesigning the trail and these days it negotiates the most potentially slippery and dangerous sections via many series of stone and wooden staircases.

Both trails start together but split after about 1.5 miles. Go left at the well-signed intersection and continue another 2 miles for Lake Serene, climbing about 900 feet along the way. Bridal Veil Falls is to the right, about a half-mile farther, and only about 300 feet higher than the intersection.

Distance: 7 miles round-trip for Lake Serene; 4 miles round-trip for Bridal Veil Falls.

Difficulty: Moderately difficult for Lake Serene; moderate for Bridal Veil Falls.

Getting there: Take Highway 2 to Milepost 35.2, about 21 miles east of Monroe. Turn right onto Mount Index Road (Forest Road 6020) and in one-third of a mile, right again onto Forest Road 6020-109. The trailhead parking lot is just ahead.

Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required.

More information: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414, or

Hurricane Hill (Olympic National Park)


Guidebooks Detailed descriptions of most of the trails included in this story can be found in one of the following books:

“Day Hike! Mount Rainier” by Ron C. Judd (Sasquatch Books)

“Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula” by Seabury Blair Jr. (Sasquatch Books)

“55 Hikes Around Stevens Pass” by Rick McGuire and Ira Spring (The Mountaineers Books)

“55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass” by Harvey Manning and Ira Spring (The Mountaineers Books)

Damage report

The U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service will provide an overview of damage and plans for trails and roads from 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 7 at the Seattle REI store, 222 Yale Ave. N., in the main conference rooms.

Scheduled speakers are Gary Paull, the trails and wilderness manager for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Tim Manns, the chief interpreter for the North Cascades National Park complex, and Carl Fabiani, trail-crew foreman for Mount Rainier National Park.

Trail dedication

On June 19, the Volunteers for Outdoor Washington will hold an informal dedication for the Ira Spring Trail, formerly the Mason Lake Trail.

Hikers are encouraged to take a stone from a talus slope located at about 3 miles along the trail and add it to a memorial cairn being built a few hundred yards farther along at the junction of the Mason Lake and Bandera Mountain trail spurs.

At noon, members of Spring’s family will be at the cairn to help build the memorial and to share memories of the beloved photographer, guidebook author and trail advocate who died last spring.

Trailhead parking is limited; car-pools encouraged.

For more information, call the Volunteers for Outdoor Washington at 206-517-3019 or see

Head here to see it all — Mount Olympus and all those in her Olympic family, including Mount Carrie, so close across the Elwha River you’ll swear you hear her tummy rumble. (That’s actually avalanches and glaciers grumbling.) River valleys and a sea of peaks extend seemingly to infinity. And beyond. You’re a mile high here. To the north, Vancouver Island and the strait are visible, far, far below.

The first mile or so of the trail is paved and barrier-free. Be aware that despite this season’s early snowmelt on trails such as this one, there are still lingering snow patches. Shady areas and north-facing slopes are likely still buried under snow, so take caution.

Distance: 6 miles round-trip.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Getting there: On the Olympic Peninsula, drive Highway 101 to Port Angeles. Go south on Race Street, which eventually becomes Hurricane Ridge Road, and follow for 18 miles to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Fees: $10-per-car park-entry fee good up to seven days.

More information: Olympic National Park Visitor Center, 360-565-3132, or

Silver Falls Loop (Mount Rainier National Park)

This forested 3-mile loop follows the clear, icy waters of the rushing Ohanapecosh River as it tumbles down from glaciers and snowfields above. While you traipse through the old-growth forest, listen for the konk-konk-konk of woodpeckers.

About halfway along the loop, you’ll reach the falls, among the park’s most impressive: a thundering, 40-foot plunging punchbowl. And this time of year the falls is generally at its most impressive.

Distance: A 3-mile loop.

Difficulty: Easy.

Getting there: Take Highway 410 to the Cayuse Pass turnoff, about 42 miles south of Enumclaw. Go right on Highway 123 for about 13 miles to Ohanapecosh Campground. Park in the day-use area.

Fees: $10-per-car park-entry fee good for up to seven days.

More information: Mount Rainier National Park backcountry information line, 360-569-4453, or

Talus Loop Trail

Though this newly opened (2003) loop on Mount Si’s southeast flank takes you only about halfway up the mountain, it offers some grand Snoqualmie Valley-Central Cascade views in its own right. Compared to the Mount Si trail’s waste-no-time march to the summit, this is a kinder, gentler foray through the woods. Smaller crowds, too.

This trail follows the Mount Si Trail for the first three-quarters of a mile then contours to the right, meandering and gently climbing for 1.5 miles through semi-open forest. It culminates with a short traverse across an open talus slope where Mount Washington, McClellan Butte and a host of like Cascade peaks loom high over I-90 and the entire valley. The loop rejoins the Mount Si Trail just shy of that trail’s 2-mile mark.

Distance: A 4-mile loop.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Getting there: Head east on I-90 to Exit 32 in North Bend. Drive north on 436th Avenue Southeast for about a half-mile to North Bend Way. Turn left and in about one-third mile turn right on Mount Si Road. The trailhead parking lot is 2.4 miles ahead on the left.

Fees: None.

More information: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest North Bend Ranger District, 425-888-1421.

Rattlesnake Mountain (west entrance)

Last year, the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail near Cedar Falls received a makeover. This year the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, a 14-mile point-to-point trail, which spans the mountain’s spine, is nearing completion of its own remodel. At its highest points, the trail climbs to over 3,200 feet, affording panoramic views north toward North Bend and the Central Cascades.

Two years ago, about half the trail was road, says Doug Schindler of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which is spearheading much of the trailwork; now it’s 80 percent trail. Though the trail won’t be complete until next year, it is well-signed and it is possible to hike the entire length. To make the hike a point-to-point, park cars at the west trailhead at Snoqualmie Point and the east trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake.

Distance: 14 miles point-to-point, but you can turn around anywhere along the way. The Grand Prospect, with a view that fits the name, makes a good turnaround point. It’s about 5 miles (one-way), and a 2,100-foot elevation gain, from the west trailhead.

Difficulty: Difficult to moderate for shorter jaunts.

Getting there: For the west trailhead, take Exit 27 from I-90 near North Bend. Go south off the exit; the signed trailhead is about a half-mile ahead on the right. For the east trailhead, take Exit 32. Go south on 436th Avenue Southeast, which becomes Cedar Falls Road Southeast, for about 2.9 miles to parking lots for Rattlesnake Lake and the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead.

Fees: None.

More information: Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, 206-382-5565, or

Gold Creek Pond

This mile loop always reminds us of the line from the Talking Heads song that goes “Once there were parking lots. Now it’s a peaceful oasis.”

Located just east of Snoqualmie Pass, this spot was a one-time gravel pit; now it’s an idyllic mountain lake surrounded by a barrier-free interpretive trail offering everyone the alpine experience. Views extend deep into the Gold Creek Valley and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Take the kids, take some lunch, there’s a large picnic area overlooking the pond.

Distance: A 1-mile loop.

Difficulty: Easy.

Getting there: Head east on I-90 to Exit 54. At the end of the exit ramp, go left for one-quarter mile to Forest Service Road 4832 and turn right. Follow for about one mile to a dirt road with a sign reading “Gold Creek Sno-Park.” Turn left; the trailhead parking lot is about three-quarters of a mile ahead on the left.

Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required.

More information: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest North Bend Ranger District, 425-888-1421, or

Mike McQuaide is a Bellingham freelance writer and author of “Day Hike! North Cascades” (Sasquatch Books).