My Favorite Hiking Areas in Washington

If you get the opportunity to visit the beautiful state of Washington, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the hikes and amazing areas to explore. I’ve spent a good amount of time visiting and even living there and I have still only seen a tiny fraction of everything it has to offer! Today I’ll share with you some of the hiking areas in Washington that I’ve come to love so you can have some guidance for your next trip to Evergreen State!

Mount Rainier National Park

Make sure to check out the photo diary from my last visit!

This one may seem like an obvious choice, but Mount Rainier National Park is such a well-known national park for a reason. It is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve visited and has some amazingly unique landscapes that are hard to find elsewhere in the United States. Mount Rainier itself is an incredible sight that I never get tired of seeing, and the park has tons of hikes ranging in difficulty. Not only are the views in the park amazing pretty much anywhere you go, but you’re sure to see some wildlife as well. Last time we visited we saw elk and a bear! Mount Rainier National Park is well worth the visit and a national park I think everyone should visit in their lifetime.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a massive area that includes the western region of the Cascade Mountain Range. A large portion of the national forest is located just about an hour east of Seattle, and that specific area is one of my favorites. This National Forest offers almost countless hikes ranging from fairly easy to very challenging. Some of my favorites include Heybrook Lookout, a short but steep hike to a fire tower, and Barclay Lake (check out my photo diary from that hike here)! Whether you’re in the mood for a casual hike to a stunning lake or a viewpoint of the mountains, or you’re ready for a challenging summit or scramble, the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has it all!

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and has some of the most diverse landscapes in the entire state. The park is home to forests, alpine areas, a rainforest, and beaches, so it truly offers anything you could be looking for. The rainforest is an amazing place to stroll through massive trees covered in thick moss while the beaches are rocky and dramatic. As a bonus, for any Twilight fans out there, the town of Forks is located just 30-40 minutes outside of the park and is an awesome little spot to check out as well. Hikers, photographers, and fishermen alike will love this area and everything it has to offer.

Backpacking in Georgia

Hello all! Today I’m going to be sharing with you three of my favorite backpacking spots in Georgia. If you haven’t already seen the video, make sure to check it out here!
I think Georgia is a seriously underrated spot for backpackers and nature lovers of all kinds. The Southeast in general is beautiful and offers some amazing backpacking, kayaking, and rock-climbing areas. I count myself lucky that I got to grow up there, and I spent most of high school and college hiking and backpacking as often as I could. Without further ado, here are my three favorite backpacking trips in Georgia!

Appalachian Approach Trail

The AT Approach Trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park and travels roughly 9 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,000+ miles in length from Georgia to Maine. Though the Approach Trail isn’t included in the official mileage of the AT, many section and thru-hikers embark on this trail to begin their hike. This is actually the first backpacking trip I ever went on with my family (check out that blog post here) and boy, was it quite the adventure.
I’ve returned to this trail several times since and had much more enjoyable experiences than my first impression (I would recommend visiting in the spring for mild, pleasant weather). If you choose to go out and back you’ll be hiking around 18 miles altogether, with 4,000’+ of elevation gain. I would consider this trail challenging, but a good introduction to backpacking as the trail itself is well-marked and fairly moderate. For a classic hike that gives you the perfect opportunity to test out your gear and comfort on the trail, the Approach Trail is a great way to go!

Woody Gap to Neels Gap

Woody Gap to Neels Gap is a roughly 10 mile section of the AT that begins near Dahlonega and ends near Blairsville. I personally love this section of the trail because it takes you through some pretty iconic AT features, including Preachers Rock and Blood Mountain. You’ll gain about 2,500′ of elevation which is definitely a challenge, but still doable for someone a bit newer to backpacking as long as you set realistic expectations and pace yourself.
Although you could definitely just do this section as a day hike, I recommend camping at the summit of Blood Mountain to catch some gorgeous sunset/rise views. Plus, the final push up to the summit is pretty tiring, so you’ll have definitely earned a solid break. Blood Mountain is one of my personal favorite mountains of all time, and hiking to the summit via from Woody Gap is a great way to add some mileage and gain a new perspective of the trail!

Cumberland Island

This one may seem a bit random, but hear me out: Cumberland Island is unlike any other backpacking spot in Georgia, and possibly the entire Southeast. Located off the coast of Georgia, this island is only accessible via ferry and offers a surprising amount of backpacking trails. The island itself has a really interesting history, and each area offers a unique and fascinating environment. You can see the ruins of Dungeness, a mansion that burnt down in the mid-1900s, and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of some wildlife, which includes horses, pigs, and armadillos.
I believe we camped at the Stafford Beach Campground, located about three and a half miles from the ferry drop-off. While you don’t have to worry about too much elevation gain, the island does get quite hot, humid, and buggy, so you have to make sure you’re well-prepared. We returned back to the ferry via the beach, simply following the coastline until we reached the dock. It’s such a unique and cool experience to backpack on the coast, and Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen.

Blue Lakes Trail + The Breckenridge Troll

Happy Saturday folks! We have some friends visiting from Florida and wanted to give them a taste of the mountain life so we settled on a trip up to Breckenridge. The weather was supposed to be a bit dicey but we wanted to check out some local hikes, so we decided to hope for the best and venture out despite the chance of rain. The first stop we made after arriving from Colorado Springs was the Breckenridge Troll. It’s not hard to find this guy as there are plentiful signs and even some fun footprints guiding you to his home in the woods. This ended up being more of a walk than a hike, but there were some other trails in the area if you feel like staying to explore. You’ll reach the troll in just a couple of minutes, and it is definitely a sight to behold. I couldn’t decide if he was creepy or cute, but either way, it was a really cool concept and I love how well-integrated he was with the forests around him.

Next up, we actually backtracked a bit to head to Blue Lakes Trail. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as crowds for this trailhead, but we were pleasantly surprised to see only a few other cars in the parking lot. You’ll pass one beautiful lake as you continue along the road to the upper trailhead, and from there you can either cut to the right for a steep scramble to the top, or cut left for a winding, gradual path. The upper lake was absolutely stunning – super blue, as the name suggests, and surrounded by jagged mountains. We began wandering around and it wasn’t long before we spotted a herd of mountain goats! I’ve seen mountain goats several times before, but this herd actually had a few kids which was such a cool sight. Some of us decided to head uphill for a better look at the herd (while still making sure to give them plenty of space) and along the way we also saw some marmots and pikas. It was so cool watching the herd scramble around, and we got to hear some of the kids crying to their moms which was incredible. All in all, Blue Lakes Trail was an absolutely stunning hike that I’m so glad we decided to check out.

Silver Dollar Lake

My husband and I have a friend visiting from out of town and wanted to spend a day exploring, so we decided Silver Dollar Lake would be the perfect hike! The trailhead for Silver Dollar Lake is located off Guanella Pass Road near Georgetown, CO. I actually did this hike several years ago on a family vacation, but we weren’t able to do the full hike because a storm rolled in suddenly (check out that video here)! It was really fun to return to this hike as a Colorado resident and take our friend along as well. There were some snowfields that you have to cross along the hike which left us pretty sunburnt and with some bad eyestrain, but overall, the hike was just the right level of difficulty and well worth it for the gorgeous views. After the hike we grabbed lunch at Pho Bay in Georgetown which was the perfect post-hike meal. If you’re looking for a solid day hike that will give you some good exposure to altitude, I would definitely recommend this trail!

Loch Lomond

Happy weekend folks! I’ve been craving some adventure recently and decided today would be the perfect opportunity to venture out a bit further away than usual. After scrolling through All Trails for far too long I settled on Loch Lomond, a moderate 4.6 mile hike located about 2 hours from home. I set out around 6 a.m. with my pup Willie, and we were soon cruising through Denver and into the mountains I’ve been missing like crazy. The trailhead is located near Empire according to All Trails and I recognized the drive from some trips several years back with my family when we tackled a couple 14ers.

After veering off the beaten path for a bit I came to a literal fork in the road with a wooden sign pointing to the right, indicating parking in 0.3 miles. However, the road looked insanely rough – like, mini boulders and giant ruts kind of rough. I sat at the fork for several minutes deciding if it was worth the risk and decided to push on and put all my faith in the mighty Subaru. Thankfully, she carried me through and Willie and I soon embarked on the trail, which is technically just an OHV road.

You begin by crossing through a gate which marks a seasonal road closure, and steadily gain elevation, flanked on the left by some stunning peaks. After a bit you pass through a second gate, and then the going gets pretty snowy. I passed some cross-country skiers who were heading down and felt woefully unprepared in just my hiking boots (I accidentally left my microspikes in the other car). As the snow deepened, Willie became pretty impatient with being on a leash and kept tugging for me to take it off (sorry, but no, little buddy). We got within sight of the lake when I began postholing pretty bad. At one point the snow went up to my hip, and Willie fell in a hole so deep he was practically buried.

I made the executive decision to turn back, and even though we didn’t get to see the lake itself (which is likely still frozen over anyways), the views were absolutely stunning and more than satisfied my craving for a change of scenery.

Paint Mines of Colorado

With the weather finally starting to warm up here in Colorado, my husband and I decided to spend a sunny afternoon exploring the Paint Mines. This geological area is located just 30 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, and it was an awesome place to explore. There are several trails throughout the area that you can take – we stuck with the shortest that went through the main area of rock formations. There are also some great informational signs about how the formations developed and how the site has been enjoyed throughout history. Walking through the area was incredible and it’s a truly beautiful experience. We’d love to come back in the evening and do some stargazing!

Naches Peak Loop Trail – Mt. Rainier National Park

Last weekend we woke up bright and early at 3:30am to drive to Mt. Rainier National Park and explore the Naches Peak Loop Trail.  This trail was actually our Plan B hike because the road to the first hike we planned on was blocked by some fallen trees.  There were only a handful of other hikers when we arrived at the trailhead, but the trail grew more crowded the further into the hike we went.  The trail was beautiful, cutting through wildflower-filled meadows and giving us fantastic views of Mt. Rainier herself!  We got pretty eaten up by mosquitoes but it was a small price to pay for such an awesome hike.

Naches Peak Loop – Washington Trails Association

Barclay Lake Trail

This past Friday I explored the Barclay Lake Trail in Baring, WA.  I arrived early enough, around 8:30am, that there were only a handful of other hikers when I began.  By the time I left around 11am, however, the parking lot was packed and cars were beginning to park along the road leading in.  The weather was rainy and chilly which made the trail very picturesque, and Barclay Lake itself was a beautiful reward for the relatively easy hike!

Barclay Lake – Washington Trails Association

 

Lime Kiln Trail

Checked out this beautiful hike on July 21, 2020 – making it my first hike as a Washington resident!  The trail was very moderate and offered plenty of shade which made it a really easygoing 6.7 miles.  I also tacked on the 0.2 mile-long river loop at the end which was definitely worth it!  The river was a beautiful spot to grab a snack before turning around.  At one point the trail got quite muddy and I managed to step in mud that went up to the knee which was just dandy… Other than that, the hike was very solid!

Lime Kiln Trail – Washington Trails Association

AT Approach Trail Hike

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my family decided to go on a impromptu camping trip along the 8-mile-long AT Approach Trail to the top of Springer Mountain, which is the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail.
Before this trip, I had never actually gone on a proper camping trip, so I was really excited to have the experience and spend a weekend outdoors, exploring the trails of Georgia.

The hike turned out to be interesting.  Which is code for: I thought I was going to die approximately 27 times.  Let me explain:

The hike started off beautifully: the weather was cool but sunny and we were making good time on our hike.
About a mile from the top of Springer Mountain, we begin to hear gunshots coming from somewhere in the distance.  I become convinced that some crazy redneck is trying to hunt us down.  That’s probably not what was going on but regardless, the fear was real.
We get to the top of Springer and it’s awesome: there’s a plaque for the Appalachian Trail and everything.  There’s also a piece of paper taped to a tree warning prospective campers that due to BEAR INCIDENTS, overnight camping on the mountain is discouraged.  We’re too tired to hike anywhere else and there’s quite a few others staying at the summit so we still decide to camp there.  I become convinced a bear is going to attack us in the middle of the night.
We set up camp and all is fine and dandy.  It begins to get colder, so we pile on the layers.  We have a fire and make s’mores and all that good stuff and end up going to sleep around 7 because apparently everyone in my family is 85-years-old.  I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a sound outside my tent: obviously, I believe it is the crazy redneck from before trying to kill me.  I lay awake in fear for about 30 minutes before falling asleep.  The next time I wake up, I am convinced a bear is outside my tent, trying to get inside to eat me.  Somehow, I fall asleep again.  By the third time I wake up, I don’t even care if something is trying to attack me: I just don’t want to see it coming.  So I zip my sleeping bag up all the way and go to sleep for good.
The next morning, I stick my head outside and it’s like a winter wonderland.  Everything iced over throughout the night so everything is winter-y and peaceful and I feel like singing some Christmas carols.  Until I notice how cold it is.  We break down our campsite in about 10 minutes and realize our water is frozen so we can’t make breakfast.  We eat some mixed nuts and hike on.
About a mile in, my hands get so cold they burn and I have a meltdown because I remember that movie Everest and I become genuinely convinced that my hands are going to have to be amputated.  I am not as tough as I thought. My dad gives me his hand warmers like a true gentlemen and we carry on.
We stop once some of our water has melted to make some coffee and end up hiking the rest of the 8 miles back to Amicalola Falls on nothing but a protein bar and some mixed nuts.  Once we reach the end of the trail, we go to the lodge to stuff our face with the only vegan food available: salad (which wasn’t even vegan because there were bacon bits mixed into the lettuce).

And there you have it folks.  Even though camping at the end of November probably wasn’t the best idea, I still had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with my family.  I can’t wait to go on another camping trip with them and share all of the adventures with you.