Day Hiking Washington's Cascades
A Pictorial Guide to Washington's Scenic High Country: From Adams to Baker
by Paul G. von Szalay
Although many excellent hiking books covering Washington’s Cascades have been published over the years, most focus on describing the technical details of the trails and the scenery surrounding them with words, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination to conjure up images of what he’s about to embark on. The philosophy behind this book is to let a set of carefully chosen photographs covering the scope of the scenic wonders of a given trail speak for itself. My goal is to inspire the reader to choose a particular hike based on his or her desire to experience the scenery presented in these images first-hand. As such, this book is not intended to substitute for a conventional guide book, but may be considered as a “go-to” source for the crucial first step of selecting a hike.
This guide is divided into 29 chapters, one for each trail. Each chapter begins with some basic information about the trail, including: type of hike (“loop” or “out-and-back”), approximate roundtrip distance (in miles), cumulative elevation gain (in feet), trailhead elevation, highest point along the trail, approximate roundtrip hiking time (assuming a fairly leisurely pace), level of difficulty (relative to other hikes covered in this guide), approximate one-way drive time from Seattle, best hiking season, the number and name of the Green Trail topographic map(s) covering the trail, and the date(s) of the pictures (to give the reader a rough idea about seasonal factors influencing the scenery).
Additional information and facts, meant to satisfy the curiosity of the inquisitive hiker (e.g. names of prominent peaks seen from the trail and their elevations, size and history of wilderness areas, geology of volcanoes etc.), can be found throughout the guide in the captions of the 410 photographs. However, because this is primarily a pictorial guide, much information typically presented in guide books, including driving directions to the trailhead, has been left out. A map showing the approximate locations of each trail is included for reference and to prevent any confusion with other trails with similar names. For detailed driving directions, as well as up-do-date road and trail conditions and closures, the reader is encouraged to access user friendly and highly informative sites on the worldwide web such as those of the Washington Trail Association (www.wta.org) and the National Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us).
All but one of the hikes (Chapter 11) in this guide can be done as a day trip from Seattle, with most trailheads located a 2 to 3 hour one-way drive from downtown (a few are closer-see approximate drive times in the summary information at the beginning of each chapter). Many hikes could theoretically be completed in as few as 3 hours by those “on a mission” who choose not to stop to “smell the roses” once in a while. However, in order to get the most out of the hikes and to fully enjoy them by taking the time to picnic for lunch, soak up the scenery on a regular basis, pick an occasional huckleberry, or watch wildflowers and wildlife along the trail, the typical hiker is better off if he or she plans on setting aside a full day for each of these adventures.
All trails in this guide require prospective hikers to be reasonably agile and in generally good physical shape, but none is technically difficult or overly strenuous to the point where special scrambling skills or athletic endurance are required. A few of the hikes involve some scrambling and river crossings, which may be dicey at certain times of the year, but they should not be an unsurpassable obstacle to most hikers. The most strenuous hike is probably the one to Hidden Lake Lookout (Chapter 12), which gains 3,500 vertical feet in a little less than 4 miles. It also involves a scramble near the end and a final steep and narrow 300 ft vertical climb to the lookout, which is treacherous (and is therefore better avoided) under all but the best of conditions (i.e. during the very brief snow-free season between late August and early October). It’s also arguably one of the most spectacular in terms of scenery, so the persistent hiker will be amply rewarded.
In order to satisfy the need of trivia buffs for reference information, I’ve included an alphabetical list of peaks and mountains (with their respective elevations) pictured in this guide. I’ve made an effort to point out the approximate location (relative to the trailhead or some other logical reference point) from where many of the pictures were taken and in what direction they were shot at.
Finally, much effort also went into ensuring the accuracy of the information provided in the captions (e.g. peak names). I used multiple sources for reference, cross-reference, and verification, including highly detailed USGS fine-scale (1:24,000) topographic maps and many reputable web sites such as those of the National Park Service and National Forest Service, “Peakbagger.com”, “ClimbingWashington.com”, “Wikipedia.org”, “Trails.com”, “Washington Trail Association”, and “summitpost.org”. However, even with the diligent research done to maximize the accuracy, it is of course possible that mistakes were made. The author would greatly appreciate any feedback in this respect.
Paul G. von Szalay