Hamilton Mountain

Location: near Stevenson, Washington. Couldn’t find original land name(s). Ancestral home to the Chinook and Multnomah Tribes

Photo blog! This was an exceptionally gorgeous fall day. Trail stats, info and more photos can be found here.

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Great Falls

Location: Great Falls National Park in McLean, Virginia. Ancestral home to the Patawomeck, Tutelo, Saponi, Shawnee, Ohio Valley tribes & likely more.

Level: moderate
Round trip/Gain: 4ish miles/less than 200 feet
Type: loop
Permit: $10 park fee

I just had to see Great Falls before I left town and I went literally hours before I was to fly back to Portland. I’d flown out that way for my first REI sponsored group hike. I’d seen the photos, but this place was STUNNING. So gorgeous, easy to get to and with options for many needs. Two of the best viewpoints of the falls (above) were wheelchair accessible.

I didn’t take a specific route, just sort of planned to hike and jog for a couple of hours. I started at the furthest parking lot past the visitor center, checked out the three viewpoints of the falls and then continued on the Patowmac Canal Trail to the River Trail. Then looped back on the the Matildaville Trail and Old Carriage Road to the visitor Center. I LOVED IT, but I’m so relieved I didn’t pick it for the group hike. While it was mostly flat, it was super rocky.

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Eagle Rock

Location: Warner Springs, California

Level: moderate
Round trip/Gain: 6.6 miles/900ish ft.
Type: out-and-back
Permit: n/a

There are so many things I loved about this trail. 1) It feels good hiking in/around San Diego. It’s adding so much dimension to the place I grew up in. Being a tourist in your hometown can be a good thing. 2) I’d seen the photos, but damn, that is a motherfucking eagle! 3) I love dry desert grass lands this time of year. All of that gold! And the cacti! 4) It’s fun playing Thru-Hiker and then getting to go home. 5) I liked thinking about my friends who’ve hiked those miles.

A lot of this trail is super exposed. Wear sunscreen, bring extra water. I lucked out with perfect weather, overcast and cool. Another interesting thing, when I got to Eagle Rock, I realized you could almost drive up to it. The main road through Warner Springs skirts it by a few hundred yards, though you can barely see the road while on trail. I still would’ve chosen to hike, but it’s good to know that you can see it without hiking if you don’t want to.

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A beautiful oak grove lines the first mile or so.

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Saddle Mountain

Location: near Seaside, Oregon

Level: moderate
Round trip/Gain: 5.2 miles/1600 ft
Type: out-and-back
Permit: n/a

One maaaaajorly notable thing: TRAFFIC. I left Portland at 8am, and the traffic was stop-and-go there and back for many miles. I think I spent about 4.5 hours in the car round trip. If you’re in or around Portland, it’s prob a good idea to leave super early in the morning and be on your way back by 1pm.

Not gonna lie, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this one. I know those stats aren’t crazy, but the elevation gains on this trail are… creative. Some of the steepest pitches I’ve ever been on, but they’re short. My feet have been doing a lot better so I decided to give it a shot and much to my surprise, there wasn’t a single moment where I felt like I wasn’t going to make it to the top. Not that it was easy, but I’m doing so much better than I thought I was. I had a great time!

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Falls Creek Falls

Location: near Carson, Washington

Permit: Northwest Forest Pass

Option 1
Level:
easy to falls / Beginner Level: challenging
Round trip/Gain: 3.4 miles/650 ft
Type: round trip

Option 2
Level:
moderate to top of falls
Round trip/Gain: 6.3 miles/1150 ft
Type: loop

My mind is a little blown by this trail. I’ve been out there three times in three different seasons, and I keep finding out new things about it. Apparently, after the top of the big falls, there are two more waterfalls! And caves! I can’t vouch for any of it as I’ve only done the trail to the falls and then the loop to the top of the falls. Anyway, some things to research if you decide to get out there.

My little sister was in town and I wanted to really impress her, which isn’t hard to do here. I arranged for us to see my two favorite waterfalls, starting with Panther Creek Falls.

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Pacific Crest Trail at Timberline Lodge

Location: Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Level: easy to Zig Zag Canyon / Beginner Level: doable
Round trip/Gain: 4.4 miles/500 ft
Type: round trip
Permit: n/a

True story: this was my first time at the Timberline Lodge in my fourteen years of living in Portland. I’d driven up there a few times for the view, but never actually entered the lodge or hiked on the trails. I’m really not trying to be a kill joy, it was cool, but I think the best part was all of the stinky PCT hikers, stuffed from the brunch buffet, stretched out in every possible direction looking so happy.

There were tons of little trails spurring off from the lodge, so I couldn’t really tell which way to the PCT, but then I realized they all essentially braided together after a hundred yards or so.

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Timberline Lodge from the PCT. Mt. Jefferson in the distance.

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Johnston Ridge Observatory

Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens, Washington

Permit: Johnston Ridge Observatory entry fee ($8). One free entry with NW Forest Pass

Option 1 to viewpoint
Level: easy Beginner Level: doable
Round trip/Gain: 3.8 miles/400ft
Type: round trip

Option 2 to Harry’s Ridge
Level:
moderate
Round trip/Gain: 8 miles/1000ft
Type: round trip

That first view of Mount St. Helens when driving up 804-E kills me. I love this mountain so much! And so does everyone else, because I thought I was pulling one over showing up early morning midweek on a hot day, but no, the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory was swarmed. I dreaded walking up to the Observatory to get my armband (you have to wear your proof of entry and mine was free because I have a NW Forest Pass!), but as soon as I got on trail, the crowds thinned within the first few tenths of a mile. Still, trails like this are always the ones where you see people with no water, bad footwear, talking on their phones, etc. It can be stressful!

Every single moment of this trail, start to finish, yields a spectacular view. You can go as short or as far as you want and be totally bowled over. Also, there is NO shade on this trail aside from a tiny patch of baby alders at one point.

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