5.5 miles round trip / 1381′ elevation gain
On Saturday morning my husband, a friend, and myself woke up in a chilly KOA Kabin just outside of Port Angeles, WA. We decided to spend Friday night at the base of the Olympic Mountains in order to be closer to our destination when we woke up the next morning. Even though our destination was less than an hours drive away, no one in our party managed to set an alarm causing us to oversleep. At 11:00 am we arrived at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to a very full parking lot. Our plan was to spend the day snowshoeing near Hurricane Ridge, but a park ranger explained that the wait to get a parking space was at least two hours. It was at this time we decided to visit the Hoh Rainforest on the western side of the Olympics instead.
The drive from Port Angeles to the Hoh Rainforest has always been one of my favorites, and I was excited to experience it during the winter. The route along Lake Crescent was serene with snow capped ridgelines with a clear, blue sky as its’ backdrop. Sometimes it felt like a winter wonderland on the north facing sides of the highway that hadn’t seen direct sunlight in months. Other times it felt more like spring with evergreens in every direction surrounded by an abundance of sunshine. With clear skies over the last few days, the roads were ice free and well maintained throughout the drive along Highway 101. Once our journey took us off the highway and we headed into the Hoh Valley, the roads became less maintained. By the time we neared the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center the road conditions had turned to mushy snow and ice. The few visitors in the parking lot were carefully making their way around the slick, icy surfaces. The surrounding Hoh Rainforest was blanketed with several feet of snow.
The trails were snow covered, but easily hikable without the use spikes or snowshoes since there is little elevation change. I was happy to have my trekking poles to help me navigate through a few slick areas near the beginning of the trail. We decided to hike along the Hoh River Trail for a few hours with plans of returning to our car early enough to catch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean. The hike in the snowy Hoh Rainforest (which I’m calling the Snoh Rainforest) was quiet and peaceful. The sun kept trying to peek through the thick, mossy trees, but was never around long enough to warm up the snowy forest floor. Before returning to the parking lot, we took a little time to play in the snow.
We arrived back at the parking lot with little time to spare in order to catch the sunset. We carefully drove along the valley floor headed west out of the rainforest towards the coast. From slushy, icy roads to safer ground once again, we made our way back through Forks, WA along Highway 101. After exiting a few miles north of Forks, we drove along highway 110 headed directly west. The sun shined on our faces through the windshield as we headed straight into its’ light. The road finally curves towards the north along the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean comes into view for the first time. We could see the sun nearing the horizon as we made our final leg of the journey through the Quilete Reservation. The timing was perfect as we jumped out of the car and headed to the beach just as the sun was setting. It was breathtaking as the sun made its’ final appearance for the day dipping into the Pacific Ocean as we watched from La Push Beach.
Even though it wasn’t our plan when we woke up that morning, this day had been perfect. We made our way through the darkness back towards our cozy cabin. Finally back at our temporary home for the evening, the decision had been made that the following morning we would wake up extra early to watch the sunrise from Hurricane Ridge. This commitment had us in bed quite early that evening, but we were sure to set our alarms this time.
10 miles round trip / 2000′ elevation gain
With the warmer temperatures in Seattle the last few weeks, I was ready to plan a hike that ended with a swim. Rainbow Lake sounded like the perfect destination for a hot day in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike our usual early morning hiking routine, my husband and I didn’t leave the city until after 11:00am. Our hopes were that we would arrive at the trailhead as early morning hikers were finishing up. As our car climbed its way up the forest road nearing the end, we became nervous after seeing the many cars parked alongside. We lucked out as we had hoped and grabbed a parking spot near the trailhead as a few hikers made their way out.
The beginning of the trail was packed with day hikers and backpackers. The well constructed trail makes its’ way into the Snoqualmie Pass area gently climbing upwards. After a very short distance Talapus Lake comes into view. Shortly thereafter, the path begins to make its’ way around Olallie Lake. As the trail swings around the north end of the lake, Mount Rainier can be seen in the distance behind the mountain ridgeline.
The farther and higher we climbed into the wilderness the less crowded it became. After we hooked around Olallie Lake we began to hike along the side of Pratt Mountain. At this point we met a park ranger who explained that she had seen a few campers and fishermen at Rainbow Lake. We were happy to hear her say our destination was a good choice because of the small crowds that day. After a little more upward trekking, the trail came to a point where we would breakaway and finally hike down towards the lake. After over three hours of hiking we were more than happy to find ourselves completely alone at Rainbow Lake!
We found a great waterfront location for a late afternoon picnic. After refueling we were very excited to quickly change into our bathing suits. After the hot, exhaustive hike we were ready to cool off in the cold mountain waters. As we jumped into the frigid waters we were instantly cooled. It wasn’t long before we were too cold and we found ourselves drying off in the warm summer sun on the lakeside rocks. The sun shined down from a cloudless sky warming our bodies and drying our clothes. After changing back into our dry clothes we lingered alongside the lake as long as time allowed. Knowing sunset was closing in, we headed back towards the trailhead around 5:00 pm.
We were sad to leave the solitude behind, but pleased to find our journey back down the trail was quiet and peaceful as well. We had very few encounters with any other hikers commenting to each other that we must be the last ones to leave. We welcomed the downhill trek and the cooler temperatures in the shade of the forest. Just as twilight was setting in, the parking lot came into view. As we left the wilderness behind we felt relaxed and replenished.
7.5 miles round trip / 1400′ elevation gain
What happened to the winter in the Pacific Northwest this year? I’m not complaining by any means, but once again the weather felt more like spring as we headed east on I-90 towards the Cascade mountains. Two weeks ago my husband and I tried to beat the crowds by leaving early, only to grab the very last parking space at the trailhead for our day hike. Knowing the situation would be similar, we left even earlier waking before the sunrise. After a quick stop to pick up a fellow hiking friend, our car was the third to reach the parking lot for the Annette Lake trailhead just after 8:00 am. As soon as we stepped out of the car the sounds of Humpback Creek were thundering in the near distance. Although the sun was shining and the Puget Sound area was unseasonably warm, in the higher elevations near Snoqualmie Pass a chill lingered in the morning air. After reading recent trip reports for what is usually a snowshoe hike this time of year, we were prepared for a small amount of icy snow covering the trail at times but hoping for an unobstructed hike. With anticipation for our first visit to a frozen lake, our boots hit the trail as fast as our feet would allow. Almost as soon as the three of us started our way along the Annette Lake trail we came to a bridge crossing Humpback Creek with the backdrop of a beautifully cascading waterfall.
The trail to Annette Lake is filled with steep switchbacks most of the way climbing upwards towards our destination. Although we started the morning bundled up to keep warm, after climbing only a few switchbacks we were already stopping to shed layers. With the sun shining in a cloudless sky on unseasonably warm winter day, we couldn’t keep from smiling in spite of the exhausting push upwards along the trail. As the trail ascended alongside the mountain it would occasionally cross a creek or river with very well maintained natural bridges to guide our way.
We had to slightly navigate our way around hard packed ice once or twice, but it was hardly worth mentioning. The snowpack was almost non existent and when it was on the trail the ice was so hard it was like hiking on small boulders. On a few occasions we stopped to rest our aching legs and enjoy the wide open views across the valley and Humpback Creek beneath us. Even with a few stops we made good time arriving at Annette Lake in one hour and forty-five minutes. As we walked up to trail and the view of the lake came into sight, the sun was just peeking its head up behind the mountains as if to say good morning.
We spent the morning exploring the lakeside with the warmth of the sun upon our faces. We took turns throwing giant rocks towards the lake in hopes of cracking the ice, but they only bounced and skipped across the thick, frozen surface. As we paused for brunch we enjoyed listening to the soundtrack of a waterfall flowing into Annette Lake in the distance. At times the sun would dip back behind the mountain peaks leaving us cold and eager to make our way back down the trail.
With the sun still hiding behind the peaks and the trail descending, our warm layers came in handy once again. The ease of the hike as we made our way back down the trail allowed for great conversation amongst friends. Day hikers were pouring into the trail as we journeyed along making thankful for the decision to get an early start. We were stopped several times by red faced hikers inquiring about the remaining distance and time to the final destination of Annette Lake. In no time we reached the nearly full parking lot in the early afternoon. Once again, our journeys in the Cascade mountains left us with the feeling of great satisfaction. Blues skies surrounded the Puget Sound as we left Snoqualmie Pass behind. Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest will hold a special place in our memories.
6 miles roundtrip / 1420′ elevation gain
With another beautiful weekend in the forecast for the Pacific Northwest my husband and I were anxious to get outdoors. We woke up before sunrise Saturday morning and headed to Teneriffe Falls for a day hike with friends. Even though our strategy was to reach the parking area early enough to beat the crowds, we barely arrived at the trailhead in time – parking in what appeared to be the last space!
Our journey up towards Teneriffe Falls began by hiking up Mount Teneriffe Road; a slowly ascending, wide dirt and gravel service road. The road winds through the forested mountainside for the first mile and a half of our journey which allowed for an easy hike with great conversation. After the first half of the hike we arrived at a fork in the road with a sign pointing us towards Teneriffe Falls. As we made our way along Mount Teneriffe Trail it became much more steep, slowly switching back and forth towards our destination. We made our way along the narrow, rocky trail opening up at times showing panoramic views and abundant sunshine. As we neared Teneriffe Falls the trail became very steep and finding a viewing spot among the crowds was not easy. After soaking in the view and snapping a few photographs we were ready to find a resting spot.
We headed back down the trail a few yards below the Teneriffe Creek waterfall, and were thankful to rest our aching muscles from the climb we had just made. Once chilled from the cold mornings air, we were now happy to have the shade of our forested surroundings cooling us from our heated exhaustion. We enjoyed the sound of cascading water in the distance as we refueled for the return trip down Mount Teneriffe. Once well rested with renewed energy it was time to leave the sound of the the rushing waterfall behind. Our journey downwards was easy as we swiftly made our way across the rocks and boulders along the trail. Within no time we reached the wider portion of the trail back on Mount Teneriffe Road. We passed many hikers throughout the day also enjoying the outdoors in the unseasonably warm weather on the last day of January. As we reached the parking area we were glad to hand over our parking space to adventurers just about to start their own journey for the day. The memories of the warm sun atop Mount Teneriffe that morning lingered as we made our way back into the foggy Puget Sound area that afternoon.
8+ miles round trip / 700′ elevation gain
Have you ever had the feeling you’ve been somewhere before? As my husband and I turned off the highway towards the Boulder River trailhead parking, we had that exact feeling. Once we parked and started making our way down the Boulder River trail we knew we had made this hike before, or at least we had tried. Two years ago we headed down that very same trail, only to be turned around by unsafe, icy trail conditions which we were not prepared for; but that was not the case on this day. Although our drive into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest was slowed down by thick, dense fog, as we made our way down the forest road the fog cleared and blue skies appeared.
Even though the air was a bit frigid with temperatures in the high 30’s, trail conditions were perfect. With the recent large amounts of rain we have been receiving in the Pacific Northwest, Boulder River was thundering along the trail throughout our entire hike. The abundance of rain also resulted in beautiful, cascading waterfalls speckled along the way. The trail ascends slowly along the river making for an easy day hike.
After a few miles we rested beside Boulder River enjoying the sounds of a small, cascading waterfall. We returned to the trail and made our way around the next bend to find a much larger, even more captivating waterfall. It was mesmerizing – I couldn’t take my eyes off of it!
Once we peeled ourselves away from the beauty of the falls, we continued along the trail winding through the forest with the sounds of the river as our soundtrack. The short winter day had the sun dipping behind the mountains early in the afternoon. After nearly 4+ miles we decided it was time to turn around and head back towards the parking area not quite making it to the end of the trail.
With plans to make our return a trail run, my husband and I stripped down to our running gear and stuffed our warmer layers into our packs. We made our way along the trail this time moving more swiftly jumping over the boulders and small creek crossings along the way. Even though it was mostly a descent back towards the trailhead, at times the trail climbed upwards slowing me down to a light jog or even walking on occasion. The backdrop of cascading waterfalls and the sound of the booming Boulder River made for an exhilarating, breathtaking trail run. We arrived back at our car just in time as the warmth of the sun was being stripped away by nightfall. As we headed back towards Seattle the dense fog that had dissipated late that morning returned as if it was waiting for us to leave the trail.