Easy Alpine Highs for Recouping or Rewarding Little Ones
Here are a few easy hikes guaranteed to deliver inspiring alpine splendor with a minimum of effort or stress on an injury.
While recovering from injuries from a car accident, WTA member and Hike-a-Thoner Pam Roy started looking for roads that would take her to places that her recuperating body could not. Below is an excerpt from her Washington Trails magazine article [PDF], along with some of her recommended trails.
Got a glitch in your hitch? A cranky knee? Have a young family of would-be hikers with short legs? If your dreams of alpine splendor have been replaced by sessions with an ice pack, the physical therapist or giving piggy-back rides to reluctant kids, don’t despair.
Here are a few easy hikes guaranteed to deliver inspiring alpine scenery with a minimum of effort. Most of these can be completed in a half-day trip, or for those of us who need an all-day mountain fix, there’s plenty to take in to make a full day of it.
The trail at the end of the Mount Baker Highway has got to be one of the most scenic spots in the state for amount of exertion required. The Artist Ridge Trail is a 1-mile lollipop loop with an elevation gain of a mere 170 feet. Happy knees!
Climbing out of the car at 5,400 feet, one realizes how apt the name Paradise is. From the parking lot, trails take off in several directions to meadows filled with wildflowers. Above it all, Mount Rainier’s immense presence fills the skyline.
Choose from trails ranging from 1 to 5 miles in length. Head out from the Myrtle Falls trailhead on a paved trail leading to a lovely Myrtle Falls. This may not be the place for solitude, but it’s hard to resist a yearly visit. Start your hike between 8 and 9 a.m., or take the Deadhorse Creek Trail (near the old visitor center) for a little more solitude. Early morning or late afternoon on a weekday can also be quieter. Visit the new ranger station for maps of the trails.
The Tonga Ridge Trail has been called “the easiest ridge walk on the west side of the Cascades” (Ira Spring and Harvey Manning, 102 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes). This hike has long been a favorite of huckleberry enthusiasts. Starting out on an old fire trail, it winds through forest at a gentle grade, soon reaching the ridge in meadows of flowers during summer and colorful foliage in fall. At 1.5 miles, the trail leaves the ridge, contouring around Mount Sawyer and dropping slightly to Sawyer Pass. The delightful trail can satisfy a ridge seeker—however, a scramble up Mount Sawyer beckons anyone looking for a bit more of a workout.
The Sunrise Ridge Trail starts on the north side of the Hurricane Ridge parking area on the High Ridge Nature Trail (the first few hundred yards are paved). Check out the viewpoint at Sunrise Point and continue on through flowery meadows interspersed with stands of subalpine fir. Expansive views open up over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, out to Mount Baker and south to the snowy peaks of the Olympics. Mount Angeles looms in the foreground, demanding attention.
For those with more energy, this can be extended to a longer trip, or retrace your steps once reaching the Mount Angeles.
Gold Creek Ponds
Nothing here quite easy enough for you? Consider Gold Creek Pond Trail just east of Snoqualmie Pass. While you don’t get much above 2,600 feet on this trail, it’s set in the Gold Creek Valley under impressive peaks. There was a time while recovering from injuries that this short hike rewarded me with enough inspiring alpine scenery to send me home with a smile.
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Have a go-to trail when you're legs are recovering or you've found perfect for a toddler? Share it below.