Spring is here, in our calendars, hearts, and gear closets. Even with this year’s massive snowpack in the mountains, there’s some great lower-elevation trips and hikes soon to be carpeted with wildflowers!
Spring in the PNW means rain, and lots of it. One of my favorite hikes for a rainy day is to hit a river or some waterfalls to really see them roar! Lime Kiln in Granite Falls and Wallace Falls near Gold Bar are great for rain. Typically these hikes offer better cover than a mountain or lake hike, as well. Keep in mind rainy trails and snow melt will bring mud and puddles, so don’t forget extra socks and maybe a change of shoes!
MAY (and other months) FLOWERS
The higher in elevation a hike is, the later the wildflower bloom will be. While places in Mount Rainier likely won’t have flowers until July (or even later in a high-snowpack year such as this), arrowleaf balsalmroot and purple lupine can be found in bountiful measures on some hikes for about two weeks, usually in May. Perhaps a bit far to drive during COVID, but Chelan Butte near Lake Chelan and Dog Mountain near Hood River, OR are two such hikes. Dog Mountain will require a dayhike permit for weekends during peak flower season, so be sure to check out my post for more info on that process. Keeping a close eye on trip reports on WTA can help you know when it’s peak time to go, and keep in mind these flowers are wild and unpredictable!
Eastern Washington is also a great destination for some Vitamin D and flowers when fighting off the spring gloom of western Washington. Hikes like Patterson Mountain in Winthrop or Badger Mountain in the Tri-Cities can be plentiful in flowers, as is Cowiche Canyon in Yakima, Sage Hills in Wenatchee, or Sauer’s Mountain in Peshastin. Don’t forget the SPF!
DUST OFF THAT TENT
While spring backpacking can mean rain or cold nights, it also means no bugs and fewer crowds. There’s tons of great lower-elevation trips you can take for backpacking in spring to shake off those cobwebs. I did Pumpkin Mountain in North Cascades NP one gloriously sunny Cinco De Mayo, and coastal trips like the Ozette Triangle are doable year-round, pending tides and storms. Eastern parts of Olympic NP, like Dosewallups and the Duckabush River, are also going to be snow-free in spring. One backpacking trail were you might still have crowds is the Ancient Lakes area in eastern Washington. In summer this hike can reach temps in the 100s and there is no water source, so spring can be your best chance to go.
Keep in mind Washington weather can be fickle even moreso in spring. I use my larger daypack if the weather can turn to have extra layers ready, as well as extra gear. Poles can help you stay steady for mud or any unexpectedly large creek crossings. Hikes that end at higher elevations you might still need microspikes at the top for as well. I also keep a vigilant eye on weather reports in case a sleeping bag liner is needed to stay warm when backpacking.