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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: Quinault, Olympic National Park, Washington
Level: easy / Beginner Level: challenging Round trip/Gain: 5 miles/500ft Type: round trip Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
I guess all trails in ONP are big backpacking trails and I’m super bummed that another summer has gone by where I couldn’t get my shit together in time to take my first backpacking trip. People make it look so easy, but I literally could not afford to A: get gear and B: take off enough time. I only went car camping once! It is really hard to not feel woe-is-me, but what the fuck am I doing wrong?!?!?! (Do not answer this. You don’t know about my life and yes, I am being super defensive.)
A month prior, I’d stayed in Quinault for a modeling job for Columbia Sportswear (lolz, I’m serious and it wasn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds). The shoot happened at nearby Graves Creek campground, which is a beautiful overgrown, mossy forest next to milky turquoise Graves Creek and the Enchanted Valley trailhead. It put a bug in my ear and I was dying to go back.
Level: Moderate Round trip/Gain: 9.2 miles/100ft Type: Loop Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
This trail is so cool! It’s a perfect triangle 3x3x3 (& some change) miles. 6 miles of boardwalk trail through forest and meadows and a sandy, rocky ocean-side stretch. It’s mostly flat, but the sand section, with log scrambles, killed my feet. I saw a lot of people suffering through it.
Another popular backpacking trail, ideal for a new backpacker. I definitely wanted to post-up after the sand part. There are petroglyphs, too! Of vulvas!
Location: Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Level: easy / Beginner Level: challenging Round trip/Gain: 5.8 miles/300-ish ft Type: round trip Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
Brie and I arrived after about four hours of sleep and four hours of driving. I know how popular this place is and I thought I was ready for the onslaught, but my depleted resources could hardly handle the amount of people around the ranger station, especially on the Hall of Mosses trail which we did first as it’s right next to the Hoh River trailhead.
The Hall of Mosses is famous for a reason. It’s less than a mile, mostly flat and while I live in mossy, wet rain forested Portland, it truly is remarkable.