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You don't have to go far for adventurous hiking
By SONJA ZELLER
For the Mirror
Washington offers some of the most versatile terrain for hiking, from rain forest to desert.
Living so close to so many protected wilderness areas, the citizens of Federal Way not only have local fitness areas like Dash Point and the Weyerhaeuser trails, but also national attractions like Mt. St Helens.
The best part is the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of the wilderness, yet still get home for dinner. Two to eight-hour hikes, considered to be day hikes, typically give an individual a perspective of the wilderness while still allowing a pleasant nights rest at home.
Some of the best views in the state in fact are less than an hour away both north and south of the Federal Way area. This allows more than enough time for a quick trip, a short trail and a great view.
Going to Mt. Rainier, though a fantastic experience, can be a bit overwhelming. As it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state, even some of the less-heard-of areas, such as Sunrise and various parts of the Wonderland Trail, can be a bit overpopulated. For local enthusiasts looking to get back to nature, the crowds of Rainier might be a bit much. Around Rainer, there are several excellent stops offering excellent views of the mountain while still giving the feeling of the road less-traveled.
One such area is the Clearwater Wilderness Area. This wilderness is protected land just north of Mt. Rainer National Park. There are several hikes, including Clear West Peak (trail 1181), which, although less than a mile, offers a great view of Rainier from an old fire lookout. In this area, the trails range less than a mile from parking to destination, then max out at over nine miles.
To the northeast of Rainier, located just off of State Route 410, is the Norse Peak Wilderness Area. The Greenwater River Trails, American River Trails and Raven Roost Trails are nestled within this wilderness, with lookouts offering great views of Mt. Rainer. One such trail (1155) winds to the top of Castle Mountain. Although there is a challenging elevation gain, the mileage is low at just over two miles.
Last but not least, we have the Glacier View Wilderness. This area is west of Mt. Rainer and is in Pierce County. Its accessible from State Route 52 or Route 706 out of Ashford. The namesake trail for this area (276) is Glacier View. While less than nine miles, the trail is only about a thousand-foot elevation gain, meaning no grueling switchbacks and no long traverses. None of the trails in this area range over three miles ideal area for less-stressful hikes.
The more adventurous might look to the Interstate 90 corridor for other less localbut excellent hikes. It offers hikes from novice to backpacker. Starting in Issaquah, Rattlesnake Ridge offers a rewarding hike with great views of the valley.
Mount Si in North Bend is 10 to 15 minutes out of Issaquah. It has a much greater elevation gain, but offers hikes from those on a stroll to those hiking for fitness. There are two lookout points offering a slightly shorter hike for those with less experience or less time.
The Alpine Lakes region offers almost limitless hikes. The Enchantments are also part of this region. In this area there are several beautiful hikes which lead from civilization to the outlying lakes, streams and falls. Though this area is fairly well-trafficked, it is still rare to see too many other groups on a trail. This alone lends to the solitude of these mountains and their raw, majestic beauty.
Sonja Zeller is a freelance writer and lives in Federal Way.