Downey Creek Wilderness– portal to famous Ptarmigan Traverse

An exceptionally scenic stretch of trail along Downey Creek

An exceptionally scenic stretch of trail along Downey Creek

Quick Facts:

Location: Suiattle River Road

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 13.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1500 feet

Green Trails Maps:  Mountain Loop Highway Map 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or interagency pass required

Access: From Darrington travel north on SR 530 for 7.5 miles turning right onto FR 26 (Suiattle River Road). Follow FR 26 first on pavement, then gravel 20.6 miles to trailhead located on your right just after the Downey Creek bridge.

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth; dog-friendly, Glacier Peak Wilderness, backpacking opportunities, wilderness rules apply

One of the wildest trail-accessible valleys in the North Cascades, Downey Creek is visited primarily by climbers returning from the Ptarmigan Traverse. One of North America’s classic alpine routes, this rugged off-trail traverse across rock and ice begins at Cascade Park in North Cascades National Park and finishes at Dome Peak high above Downey Creek. From there, trekkers make a brutal descent along Bachelor Creek to Downey Creek. It’s then a fairly pain free hike back to the Suiattle River Road.

Hikers need not worry about route-finding and special skills needed for glacier travel if just out exploring Downey Creek. While the elevation gain is fairly moderate, there are some ups and downs along the way into and out of steep ravines. Also in early

The trail ends at this gravel bar on Downey Creek.

The trail ends at this gravel bar on Downey Creek.

IMG_3239season expect to get your feet wet. There are several creek crossings, and a couple of them can be a little tricky. The two most intimidating crossings however are bridged including the one of Bachelor Creek just below a raging cascade. And thanks to recent work by the Washington Trails Association, this trail has received some much needed maintenance. The trail makes for a good day trip for strong hikers or an easy overnighter.

Starting at the trailhead, cross the Suiattle River Road and start climbing. Come to a trail register—and then switchback up a bench above the river soon entering the sprawling Glacier Peak Wilderness. The way then traverses steep timbered slopes high above Downey Creek. The wilderness waterway is out of sight—but not sound. Pass some impressive Doug-firs and cedars as well as younger stands of trees. At a little more than 2.0 miles drop into a ravine and come to your fist potentially difficult creek crossing.

Then climb out of the ravine and begin slowly descending toward valley bottom. At around 3.0 miles reach a spectacular section of trail right along the raging creek. Here embrace the full beauty of the wild waterway. Look up too—up the steep slopes to the west. That’s Green Mountain and if you look closely you can see its historic fire lookout teetering on its meadow shrouded summit. Then continue hiking up valley.

The trail passes through an impressive stand of primeval cedars and utilizes several long boardwalks across saturated sections. At about 4.0 miles come to an inviting campsite. The trail continues, coming to another foot-soaking creek crossing and more good camps. Traverse more impressive ancient forest groves. March across more boardwalks. Cross more side creeks including one rather large one—thankfully spanned by a bridge.

At 6.8 miles cross cascading Bachelor Creek on a sturdy log bridge and come to trail’s end. Here a handful of campsites are scattered tightly among big trees along a steep slope. Here too the long abandoned Bachelor Creek Trail heads straight uphill to the Ptarmigan Traverse. Your best option is drop down to the wide gravel bank on Downey Creek. Soak your feet, watch for dippers and enjoy the surrounding wilderness. After fully recharged, make the long hike back out

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Suiattle River visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on more hikes in the Suiattle River Valley and throughout the area, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.0486

Bear Lake—A bear of a lake but not of a hike!

Bear Lake sits beneath the talus slopes of Mount Defiance.

Bear Lake sits beneath the talus
slopes of Mount Defiance.


Quick Facts:

Location: Mark O Hatfield Wilderness, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 475 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge -West No 428S

Contact: Mount Hood National Forest, Hood River Ranger Station, =

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Hood River Exit 62 turning right onto US 30 (Cascade Avenue). Follow for 1.3 miles turning right onto 13th Street (County Road 281) signed for airport. Continue south on CR 281 which becomes Tucker Road. At 5.1 miles bear right onto Dee Highway, which is still CR 281. Continue for 6.2 miles bearing right (near MP 11) to bridge crossing Hood River (signed for Dee-Lost Lake) then bear right onto Punchbowl Road. After 1.4 miles, continue straight on gravel FR 2820 towards Rainy Lake. Follow for 10 miles to trailhead.

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, wilderness rules apply

This little lake is set in a remote basin beneath the talus sloped summit of Mount Defiance, highest peak within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. One of the prettiest alpine lakes in the Hatfield Wilderness, Bear is an easy hike ideal for children and solitude seekers short on time or energy.

Locate the trail across from the parking area and immediately come to a junction by a kiosk with a nice map. Left leads one 346easy mile to North Lake. For Bear Lake, bear right! On a gentle grade through a nice forest of mountain hemlock with an understory of bear-loving huckleberries bushes, reach a junction after a half mile. Bear left here entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness, named after a long serving Oregon politician and champion of the environment.

After gently climbing a couple of hundred feet and crossing a small scree slope begin descending. At 1.2 miles reach Bear Lake denned down beneath the rocky upper slopes of Mount Defiance. Cradled in a quiet bowl and surrounded by old forest and shiny talus slopes, it’s a pretty spot to idle away the afternoon.

But if at some point you feel the urge to burn more calories, nearby Mount Defiance’s 4,960-foot summit can be climbed by retracing your steps to the previous junction. Then head left and hike just under one mile and 900 vertical feet to some of the best views of Mount Hood.

Columbia River Gorge Cover

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For information on hiking Bear Lake and 99 other hikes in and around the Columbia River Gorge, check out my  Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book.

For information on places to stay and other things to do in the Gorge, check out Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

Eagle Lake—Tough hike to a raptor’s delight

Marshy meadows and Merchant Peak embrace Eagle Lake.

Marshy meadows and Merchant Peak embrace Eagle Lake.

Quick Facts:


















Location: Wild Sky Wilderness, Skykomish River Valley

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 8.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

Green Trails Map: Alpine Lakes West 176S

Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Access: From Everett, head east 41 miles on US 2 to Baring. Just past Milepost 41 turn left onto 635th Place NE. Cross railroad tracks and after .3 mile, turn left onto FR 6034. Proceed for 4.0 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, wildflowers, backpacking possible, wilderness rules apply

While many a hiker has ventured to Barclay Lake, far less have braved the trip to Eagle Lake. The trail to Barclay is well built and gains very little elevation, while the path to Eagle clambers over talus and heads straight up a steep slope. While Barclay is surrounded by Washington’s newest wilderness, the 106,000 acre Wild Sky, Eagle sits within the newly minted wilderness area. To reach Eagle, warm up by taking the Barclay lake Trail gaining just over 200 feet of elevation in 2.2 miles. The next 2.1 miles however will be a different story!

Start by hiking up a narrow valley hemmed in by Baring Mountain to the south and the craggy, rocky summits of Gunn and Merchant Peaks to the north. Soon after crossing Barclay Creek on a nice log bridge, reach Barclay Lake. Gaze out across it andHOTWeagleup to the striking northern face of Baring Mountain. An imposing and well-known landmark visible from much of the Skykomish Valley; it’s truly stunning viewed from the lake.

Continue along the lakeshore and just after passing the second privy (and just before reaching a creek tumbling into the lake), locate an unmarked trail taking off left. Now the fun begins. Never formally built, this way trail immediately starts climbing up steep timbered slopes. Soon enter the Wild Sky Wilderness. Continue climbing. While the path is fairly discernable, be sure to pay attention as it sometimes fades and there are several large blow downs to clamber over.

After gaining about 600 feet, the way crosses a talus slope. Cairns help keep you on the way. This section is steep and can be treacherous in wet weather. After rock-hopping, the way enters a grove of yellow cedars and hemlocks and the grade eases. But the sailing isn’t smooth just yet. Continue into a forested basin fed by a bubbling spring—then climb steeply once more to a gap draped in old growth forest. After gaining about 1,500 feet in 1.2 miles, reprieve is finally offered at pretty little Stone Lake.


Old Trapper’s cabin at Eagle Lake.

Now make one last climb, albeit an easy one after what you have just hiked and crest a 3,900-foot divide. Then descend slightly into a marshy muddy meadow. A trail right leads down the Eagle Creek Valley. Go left dancing around mud holes and traverse a beautiful meadow awash in flowers and orchids appropriately named Paradise Meadow.

Hop across Eagle Creek a couple of times and then re-enter forest. Eagle Lake lies just ahead. Sit on a log near its outlet or explore the old trapper’s hut on its shore. Stare up at the open slopes of Mount Townsend or the sheer intimidating rock face of Merchant Peak. While Eagle Lake is off-the-beaten path, it receives a fair amount of use—and unfortunately from some who aren’t well-versed in backcountry ethics. Treat this place with care.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Eagle Lake, visit

For information on this trail and more than 120 other hikes nearby, check out my Day Hiking Central Cascades book.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

Mount Muller Loop– Stunning ridgeline hike above the Sol Duc Valley



Bear grass and Lake Crescent.

Quick Facts:

Location: Northwest Olympic Peninsula

Land Agency: Olympic National Forest

Roundtrip: 12.7 miles

Elevation gain: 3350 feet

Contact: Olympic National Forest, Pacific Ranger District, Forks,

Green Trails Map: Green Trails Lake Crescent No. 101

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Good to Know: dog-friendly; wildflowers, exceptional views,

Access: From Port Angeles, follow US 101 west for 32 miles to milepost 216. Turn right on Forest Road 3071 proceeding 0.3 mile to the trailhead.

One of the best ridge hikes in the Olympics—and it’s a loop! It’s a good workout, but you’ll be rewarded with slopes carpeted in brilliant wildflowers, and jaw-slacking views of glistening white Mount Olympus to deep-blue Lake Crescent. And there are lots of surprises along the way too.


It’s a great ridgeline journey to and fro Mount Muller.

I suggest doing this loop clockwise, tackling the steep climb first. The way starts off easy before reaching a series of switchbacks that get down to business. After three long uphill miles, crest the ridge at Jim’s Junction. Here a trail leads left to Kloshe Nanitch and one goes straight 0.5 mile to decommissioned FR 3040. You want to go right climbing through a stand of silver fir and soon coming to Millsap Meadow. Here embrace a glorious view of the emerald wall, Aurora Ridge, and the massive snow and ice heap, Mount Olympus. The trail then descends bottoming out at Thomas Gap before steeply regaining lost ground.

At Jasmine Meadow come to a junction with the new Divide Trail offering a shorter loop option. For Muller continue left through more beautiful meadows. In summer, marvel at all the blossoms: paintbrush, tiger lily, thistle, bleeding heart, vetch, star flower, hawkweed, daisy, bear grass, columbine, lupine, strawberry, bunchberry, queen’s cup, and more.

At 5.5 miles come to a side trail leading  left for 0.1 mile to the semi-forested 3748-foot summit of Mount Muller. Bag it. Then proceed on the main trail to another side path—this one leading right 0.1 mile to Panorama Point. If you think the view can’t possibly get better, wait until you see Lake Crescent sparkling below. Like sentinels, Pyramid Mountain and Mount Storm King guard the fjordlike lake. Mount Baker hovers in the distance.

After soaking up the view, continue up and down along the ridge crest, dashing behind ledges and undulating between forest and meadow. Then drop rapidly to Mosely Gap, before one last uphill struggle. Then begin a long descent back to the valley.

Check out Fouts Rock House, two giant boulders rubbing shoulders. Then pass a horse camp and trail leading left to the Olympic Discovery Trail. Your trail eventually comes to the paved ODT. Head right on it and soon veer right back onto single track and continue on a mostly level route. Reach the trailhead after 12.7 satisfying miles.

Day Hiking Oly Book

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Mount Muller is one of 125 featured hikes in my bestselling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula Book. For a detailed description on this hike and others, pick up a copy of this book—the number one selling and most trusted guidebook on hiking in the Olympics—today!

For information on where to stay and on other things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, check out Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

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Spada Lake–dam nice views of the Sultan Basin


Bald Mountain hovers over Spada Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Sultan Basin

Land Agency: Snohomish County Public Utility District

Roundtrip: 1.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop HIghway No. 111SX

Access:  From Everett follow US 2 east to Sultan. At a traffic light just past Milepost 23 turn left onto Sultan Basin Road. Follow for 13.2 miles (pavement ends at 10.4 miles) to an information kiosk. Stop and sign-in acknowledging that you understand the rules and regulations for visiting the Sultan Basin which is Everett’s public water supply. Then bear left at a Y-intersection and continue 1.6 miles to parking area and trailhead.

Contact: Snohomish County Public Utilities District no. 1 

Notes: Register (no fee) at kiosk at watershed entrance; dogs permitted on leash

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly


Enjoy great views of the Sultan Basin from the Culmback Dam.

This is a great little family-friendly hike to a forested picnic area just beyond the Culmback Dam. While the dam’s Spada Lake is not open to swimming, it’s still pretty refreshing to look at on a warm afternoon. Spada provides drinking water for Everett and a good part of Snohomish County, so it’s imperative that you help keep this resource clean.

From the Gateway Parking Area, walk the gated road to the right. The gated road leading left will bring you to the new Sultan River Canyon Trail. This 2.2 mile trail through old-growth timber to the Sultan River in a remote canyon makes for a good add-on hike if you seek more exercise and outdoor excitement upon completing your Spada Lake hike.

The gated dirt road gently descends about 100 feet reaching the Culmback Dam in about .25 mile. Here you can admire the structure—and read all about it at an information kiosk.

The 262-foot tall Culmback Dam creating the Spada Lake reservoir was built in two stages—the first phase completed in 1965. The second stage was completed in 1984, raising the dam’s height and greatly increasing Spada Lake’s capacity.

As you walk across the dam, admire the Sultan River Canyon downstream—and take in wonderful views of Bald Mountain looming over Spada Lake. Enjoy good views too of the rugged peaks and ridges surrounding the Sultan River at the eastern end of the reservoir. Then walk the road trail climbing a couple of hundred feet to the North Shore Recreation Area. Here you’ll find picnic tables, interpretive signs and more good views. It’s a great place to lounge around on a lazy summer day.

 For information on lodging and other attractions near the Sultan Basin visit Snohomish County Tourism.


 For detailed information on other hikes along US 2, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades, which contains 125 hikes complete with maps and lots of other important information.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!