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8 Trails that Tell a Native American Story

Washington's native tribes have strong connections to the land, and trails are one of the cultural landscapes tracing that connection through time. Through hiking, we can connect to the knowledge, history and legacy embedded in pathways reaching back 10,000 years.

Washington's native tribes have strong connections to the land, and trails are one of the cultural landscapes tracing that connection through time. Hike a trail near you to connect to the knowledge, history and legacy embedded in pathways reaching back 10,000 years.

Some of the trails below tell stories from Washington's past. Historic trading routes and hunting grounds laid the groundwork for Washington's now-extensive network of trails that hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts enjoy every day.

Others tell a modern story: one where tribes across Washington are championing conservation and working to ensure that our natural resources are managed for future generations.

From the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (which played a pivotal role in the removal of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River) to trails managed by the Snoqualmie Tribe, Washington's tribes are working to protect, restore and improve Washington's wild places.


Traditional Knowledge Trail

Location: Snoqualmie Region — North Bend Area
Mileage: 0.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal


One of the many interpretive signs you'll see along the Traditional Knowledge trail. Photo by parisrobin.

Take a short hike in Snoqualmie and learn about the importance of various plants to the Snoqualmie Tribe. Signs printed in both English and the Lushootseed dialect offer insight along this short nature trail, as you hike through a tunnel of the famously multi-use Western redcedar.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Notch Pass

Location: Olympics — Hood Canal
Mileage:
 7.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 
2300 feet


Notch Pass. Photo by Aaron Peabody.

Thought to be a Native American trading route through the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, Notch Pass switchbacks through forest and over creeks in relative solitude. There are two trailheads for this hike, so if the 7.6 miles round trip is too much, arrange a shuttle or a key swap.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Sa Teekh Wa

Location: North Cascades — Highway 20
Mileage: 2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
minimal


River running through Sa Teekh Wa. Photo by Tari N.

With interpretive signs dotting the mile-long path that meanders along the river, the trail does help hikers begin to understand the cultures that have lived here. As you walk, read about the significance of the area to local tribes. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Indian Racetrack

Location: South Cascades — Mount Adams
Mileage: 5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
700 feet


A lake along the Indian Racetrack trail. Photo by rosemarylp.

Visit an ancient recreation area where local tribes once harvested food and competed in horse races. An added bonus is the easy side trip to Red Mountain Lookout, where views in every direction await your eyes.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Kukutali Preserve

Location: Puget Sound and Islands — Bellingham Area
Mileage: 4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal


Kukutali Preserve makes for a great swimming area for the whole family. Photo by geezerhiker.

A partnership between Washington State Parks and the Swinomish Tribe made this large preserve possible — the first park to be co-owned and managed by a tribe and another government. Enjoy this great partnership by hiking the trails here, birdwatching, and relaxing on the shoreline. Be sure to read signage just before the beach that tells of the significance of this area to local tribes. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Indian Henry's Hunting Ground

Location: Mount Rainier — Longmire/Paradise
Mileage: 12.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2500 feet

The cabin at Indian Henry's. Photo by George & Sally.

Named after the western title given to a Native American mountain guide who lived here in the 1850s, this alpine meadow is an idyllic retreat, complete with flowers, berries, and in-your-face views of Rainier. Indian Henry, whose real name was So-To-Lick, was a skilled guide who led Longmire and Muir as well as many other expeditions up the flanks of Rainier.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Manresa Grotto

Location: Eastern Washington — Selkirk Range
Round Trip: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal

A handrail runs along an overhanging rock.
Manresa Grotto. Photo by California Girl. 

A stone altar stands inside the Manresa Grotto. The ceiling soars above your head, and the view through a large opening in the wall sweeps out; one can see both the Pend Oreille River and the Kalispel Indian Reservation. The cave has been used as a place of worship for thousands of years, and the Kalispel Tribe still holds Mass once a year here.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide

Cape Flattery (Temporarily Closed 2021)

Location: Olympics — Northern Coast
Round Trip:
1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet


Cape Flattery. Photo by gobozov.

This short, easy trail on the northwestern-most point of the continental U.S. walks you through old growth forest to spectacular coastal views just north of Neah Bay. Make a weekend trip of it complete with a visit to the Makah Museum and an afternoon spent watching whales, seals, seabirds and otters.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide