Each year, we find ourselves setting resolutions and goals to make the coming year the best yet. For many, that includes going outside more – hiking and exploring the natural beauty all around the South Sound. Luckily, we are surrounded by nearly endless adventure possibilities in the great outdoors, making this goal an easy one. Perfectly situated between Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, Pierce County is an ideal basecamp for nature recreation. From easy hikes around pretty regions, to harder hikes up to the top of jaw-dropping panoramic views, this year we would like to help you reach your goal.
In 2018, reconnect with our natural wonders with the following hiking destinations. Of course, before hiking any serious trail, please review my safety tips and always be prepared.
Pierce County Hikes
Point Defiance Trail System
Offering nearly 15 miles of trails, Point Defiance’s Five Mile Drive is the perfect place to start your year of hiking adventures. Ranging from short and easy to hilly and long, the trails around the small peninsula give fantastic views and a great workout for all ages and abilities. We suggest starting with the Spine or Triangle Trails, then working your way up to the Square Trail. Walking here once or twice a week will have you ready for bigger and better adventures.
Dash Point State Park
Also close to Tacoma, Dash Point is a wonderful place to stretch your legs and get used to walking trails in the forest and on the beach. Overshadowed by the 3,300 feet of shoreline, Dash Point has 11 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of biking trails, making this relaxing getaway the perfect way to get your legs into hiking shape.
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Just south of the Pierce County line, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is another fantastic place to hike for miles and take in the splendor of the Puget Sound. Along the flat miles of trails that stretch for more than five miles, you’ll see owls, eagles, herons and numerous other species of birds. However, the highlight for many is walking the long boardwalk out to the mudflats, where incredible views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge can be seen.
Just Outside of Town Treks
This hike is the perfect introduction to more serious hiking around the Pacific Northwest. Gaining 1,160 feet in two miles, new hikers will get a workout to reach this stunning and popular hike. Rattlesnake Ledge is located just south of North Bend, making it about an hour drive from downtown Tacoma. While this may be a bit longer of a drive than many want, the reality of hiking in the Pacific Northwest means you may have to drive a bit to get to truly stunning views.
Once the winter snows melt and the high country of the Cascades is open, one of the most beautiful and memorable hikes you can take is the Spray Park hike out of Mount Rainier’s Mowich Lake region. The trail is eight miles roundtrip, gaining 1,700 feet in elevation, making it a great hike to see what sort of shape you are in. The views here are insanely gorgeous and, chances are, this will become your favorite area of the state. If this isn’t open or is too hard, consider walking along the old road along the Carbon River, also in this corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
Found in the Paradise region of Mount Rainier National Park, the Skyline Trail is a classic Washington State hike. At just 5.5 miles in length and gaining just 1,450 feet, this is a perfect day hike for a summer day. Stunning views of Mount Rainier can be found on this hike, as can wildflowers and a breathtaking waterfall.
Located in Olympic National Park, the wilderness beauty found in the Staircase region is less than a few hours from Tacoma. Offering a wide range of trails, including steep mountain treks, high alpine lakes and an easy loop around a gorgeous river, natural beauty can be found here all year round. You will love hiking here! For a great list of hikes in the Olympics, pick up this stunning guidebook.
Also found on the eastern slopes of the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Ellinor is one of the quintessential mountain hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Offering unrivaled views of the entire western half of Washington, as well as possible mountain goat sightings, this short, steep hike is ideal for those looking for something a bit more challenging. With three possible starting points, you can push yourself as much as you want.
Washington Bucket List Trails
Climbing Mount Saint Helens
If you want to stand atop one of America’s most-famous volcanoes, you are in luck. Each year, Mount Saint Helens allows climbers with permits to hike the steep slopes of this impressive mountain. Gaining 4,500 feet in five miles to the top, this hike is for adventurers looking for a challenge and a great reward. The views from the top into the steaming dome and around the surrounding area are second-to-none, making this a bucket list hike for 2018.
Walking the Rainforest and Wilderness Coast
If you want to get a true feel for the wilds of Washington, look no further than hiking the rainforests and wilderness coastline of Olympic National Park. The wilderness coast is 73 miles in length and as wild as it gets, while Olympic has four rainforest regions. The best hikes in the Olympics can be found here, with numerous possibilities of long and short day hikes and backpacking trips for all ages and abilities.