Outdoors writer Craig Romano updates an iconic collection from Mountaineers Books.
Like Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” “100 Classic Hikes in Washington” sat on the desks of many Seattleites of a certain age.
Following in the boot steps of Louise B. Marshall’s seminal “100 Hikes in Western Washington” guide from 1966, the popular 1998 “Classic Hikes” collection by the late Ira Spring and Harvey Manning became a generation’s introduction to the wilderness before Google became a verb.
Now, the publishers of Seattle-based Mountaineers Books have assigned one of their senior writers, Craig Romano, to give this classic a reboot. In his recently published “100 Classic Hikes Washington” (Mountaineers Books, $21.95), Romano replaced half of the previous “Classic” hikes with trails in parts of the state ignored in the 1998 guide, including Eastern and Central Washington, the Columbia Gorge and the islands.
Although “100 Classic Hikes” was assumed to be statewide, the early editions focused on the Cascades from Mount Rainier to the Canadian border, with a handful of Olympics and South Cascades hikes, Romano said.
The Mount Vernon resident wanted a book that covered the entire state in all of its glory — from the ocean beaches and rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the arid, desertlike features of the southeastern corner — to say nothing of the mountains, alpine lakes and evergreens in between.
“I wanted this to be 100 Classic Hikes in Washington.”
Below, in his own words, Romano describes 10 of his favorite hikes from the updated guide, listed in no particular order of preference.
Turtleback Mountain, Orcas Island; round-trip loop 5.7 miles; 1,295-foot elevation gain; level of difficulty: moderate
Stand atop Turtleback Mountain’s head for one shell of a view — it’s one of the best in the San Juans. Stare out at a flotilla of islands extending to British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. En route, stop at the Waldron Overlook for a look at that reclusive island’s impressive cliffs and British Columbia’s golden-faced Saturna Island behind it. Come in spring when brilliant wildflowers make this peak a painted turtle.
Olympic National Park; round-trip loop 20.5 miles; 4,175-foot gain; strenuous
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This classic loop to one of the most famed places within the Olympic Mountains has it all: sparkling alpine lakes, resplendent alpine meadows, breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, primeval forest and inspiring waterfalls. Hike along a lofty ridge high above the Hoh Rainforest and within the shadows of glacier-cloaked Mount Olympus — the highest and snowiest summit in the Olympics. Ira Spring first hiked here in 1929 at the age of 11. I first hiked it in 1989. It instantly became one of my favorite backcountry destinations.
Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area; round trip 9 miles; 2,900-foot gain; strenuous
Rugged and spectacular, Gothic perhaps. This stark and mysterious basin harbors hidden tarns and disappearing waterways and is surrounded by spiraling peaks. A difficult hike on steep and rocky terrain, Gothic Basin with all its rich beauty can’t keep hikers away; just as it couldn’t keep miners away a century ago with its lure of riches. It was those hardy folk who built this path. It’s been upgraded since — somewhat. The splendor of the basin, however, can’t be improved one bit. Past glaciers and the agents of erosion have left it pretty darn near perfect.
Sourdough Mountain Lookout
North Cascades National Park; round trip 11 miles; 5,100-foot gain; very strenuous
One of the most challenging trails in the North Cascades, the arduous haul to the historic lookout atop Sourdough Mountain is worth every ounce of sweat you’ll expend. And you’ll expend plenty. A mile vertical climb within 5.5 miles of trail; can you say steep? But a priceless panorama of craggy, spiraling, glacier-cloaked, cloud-piercing, unbelievably breathtaking peaks is the payoff. And directly below, an added scenic dividend: Diablo Lake’s sparkling, surrealistic turquoise-tinted waters.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness; round trip 9.2 miles; 2,600-foot gain; strenuous
Cradled in a high, barren basin beneath the rocky facade of Ingalls Peak, Lake Ingalls is a sight to behold. When its icy waters lay calm, capturing reflections of the sheer rock face of 9,415-foot Mount Stuart, one of the highest nonvolcanic peaks in the state — the view is striking. When surrounding alpine larches set the basin aglow in gold, the scene is simply spellbinding.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument; round-trip loop 32 miles; more than 7,500-foot gain; very strenuous
Hike around America’s most famous volcano, experiencing its many facets. Traverse primeval forest, old lava flows, new mud flows, pumice plains and flowered meadows. Difficult river, creek, gully and lava-bed crossings, as well as water and campsite scarcity — and long stretches exposed to the elements — make it a tough and challenging backpacking trip. But what a journey it is, across one of the most fascinating landscapes in the country.
Spray Park-Ipsut Creek Loop
Mount Rainier National Park; round-trip loop 16.2 miles; 4,375-foot gain; strenuous
Ancient cathedral forests, silver strands of cascading water, the snout of a massive glacier, fields of dazzling wildflowers, parklands teeming with deer, bear and marmots, and stunning in-your-face views of the mountain reflected in pretty alpine pools; this loop captures the very essence of Mount Rainier National Park and what makes it so special.
Silver Star Mountain
Gifford Pinchot National Forest; round-trip loop 5 miles; 1,440-foot gain; strenuous
The four-volcano view from Silver Star is stellar. So, too, is the view over the Columbia River to Portland. Starting from a lofty trailhead, saunter up slopes that were scorched clean of timber in Washington’s big burn of 1902 but are now shrouded with alpine meadows bursting with brilliant wildflowers. The shortest of the many routes to this old lookout site, this loop includes a pass through a rock arch.
Crowell Ridge-Gypsy Peak
Salmo-Priest Wilderness; round trip 14.4 miles for Crowell Ridge or 8 miles for Gypsy Peak; 3,900-foot gain and 3,350-foot gain, respectively; both strenuous
Hikes start from the same point. On Crowell Ridge you can roam along one of the loneliest high-ridge trails across alpine meadows and subalpine forest, savoring views of the rugged Selkirk Mountains and deep Pend Oreille Valley. One of the last bastions in the state for grizzly bears, Crowell Ridge is one of Washington’s wildest places.
At Gypsy Peak head off-trail over steep grassy knolls and talus slopes to the highest summits in Eastern Washington, admiring a rugged scene of stark cliffs and sparkling tarns in hidden basins.
Mount Spokane State Park; round trip 5.8 miles; 800-foot gain; moderate
Rising above the Spokane Valley and Idaho’s Rathdrum Prairie, 5,883-foot Mount Spokane is a prominent local landmark. This well-rounded mountain of the Selkirk Range, with its thick forest and granite outcroppings, looks like it could be in the Appalachians. Rife with history and loved by area hikers, skiers, equestrians, trail runners and mountain bikers. More than 100 miles of trail traverse this 13,900-acre state park. The hike to the historic Vista House on the mountain’s summit is a classic.