Best hikes in the Pacific Northwest

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 23-30, 1996

Backcountry ski tours in New Hampshire
Big Bend in winter
Rafting Africa's Zambezi River
Best hikes in the Pacific Northwest
Fat-tire touring in Colorado
Sea kayaking on Nevis

Best hikes in the Pacific Northwest
Q: We want to find sources of information about hiking clubs and interesting hiking adventures in the Pacific Northwest for this summer. We'd also like to find out more about the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.
Carole and Gary Kapelus
Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
[email protected]

A: Because the Pacific Northwest is so chock-full of spectacular day hikes and multiday treks, it's hard to know what not to include in this quick rundown of don't-miss spots. For a first-hand view of the power of volcanism, we recommend spending some time in the Three Sisters Wilderness, a cluster of glacier-clad volcanoes 25 miles west of Bend in central Oregon. Amid 10,000-foot-plus North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister, and the shattered crown of 9,715-foot Broken Top, every step lands on something igneous. Opt for a particularly inspired four-mile hike along Falls Creek from Sparks Lake to Green Lakes Basin, at the foot of South Sister via the Newberry Lava Flow--a colossal jumble of glassy obsidian boulders.

If you're addicted to long hauls, the 2,638-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail (see photo, above) spans the length of the wilderness--52 miles from McKenzie Pass to Taylor Burn Road 6,000. Or hike the 44-mile loop around the Three Sisters, which follows 19 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail's most scenic section. For more details, call Mountain Supply in Bend at 503-388-0688 or the Deschutes National Forest's Bend Ranger District at 503-388-5664.

North of the border, Vancouver Island's rugged 50-mile-long West Coast Trail winds its way along the "Graveyard of the Pacific," a desolate stretch of coastline that has claimed more than 60 ships since 1854. The trail itself offers spectacular views of many of these shipwrecks, as well as the added thrill of negotiating the many rope bridges, pulley cable cars for crossing rivers, and rickety wooden ladders that line the route. If you plan to hike it end to end, pick up the trailhead in Bamfield or Port Renfrew; there are plenty of campsites along the way. The only logistical hurdle you'll have to overcome is getting yourself across the Nitinat Narrows. A local boatman will ferry you across for $5, but he keeps no regular schedule, so it's hit or miss whether or not you'll have to wait for him. For detailed route information, contact the Sierra Club of Western Canada in Victoria at 604-386-5255, or pick up a copy of their guide, The West Coast Trail.

For additional Pacific Northwest hiking suggestions, call the Washington Trails Association at 206-625-1367 or the Pacific Coast Trail Association at 206-817-2243.

The Q&A archives | Ask the travel expert

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Got Wanderlust?

Escape your daily grind with Outside’s best getaways.

Thank you!