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Volcanoes, Glaciers, and Views—Oh my!

Dreaming of hikes with a view, or maybe a volcano or glacier?  Not far from Seattle, you can find plenty of possibilities.   Here are 3 accessible day trips to popular mountain destinations.  

Mount Rainer (14,410 feet):  The highest mountain in Washington State, Mount Rainier towers over the Puget Sound region as a source of inspiration and respect.  Known foremost for its stunning beauty and major glaciers, the Mountain is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.  The most accessible glaciated peak in North America, Rainier became a national park in 1899 and draws visitors from around the globe—between 1.5 million and 2 million a year.  About 8,000 to 13,000 people attempt to summit each year (requiring experience in glacier and wilderness travel and self-rescue) but only about half are successful. However, backseat tourists and hiking neophytes enjoy its grandeur, too! Year-round access  to the park is via the Nisqually Entrance (less than 100 miles from Seattle), and from there visitors  can drive a winding road up to aptly named Paradise (elevation: 5,400 feet), the departure point for most climbing expeditions. Weather depending, Paradise offers neck-craning views of old-growth forests, alpine meadows and easy hiking trails through glacial moraines and groves of alpine fir.

Mount St. Helens (8,365 feet—used to be 9,677!):  The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in May 1980 is considered one of the most cataclysmic natural events in recorded history. Once a pristine, symmetrical cone, what remains is The Mt. Helens National Volcanic Monument in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  While relatively dormant, it is one of the youngest and still most active volcanoes in the country.  Exploring the blast zone and environs is an unforgettable experience, and the best way to understand the event, the result, and the rebirth taking place in its wake.  Located about 185 miles south of Seattle, block out eight to 12 hours to make the trip, leaving time to explore viewpoints and visitor centers.  At the Johnston Ridge Observatory, look straight into the gaping, fractured north face of the volcano.  Bring good ankle support to clamber over boulders on the most popular route to the crater rim.  Or, get breathtaking views by helicopter!

Mount Si (4,167 feet):  Just over a half hour from Seattle, the trail up Mount Si is mostly dark second-growth forest—until reaching the grand summit view.   A hugely popular destination for day hikers, ascending Si takes a few hours to gain 3,200 feet in 4 miles, or a little more time if you dare the final scramble up a rocky pile (the Haystack).  You’ll need a Discover Pass ($10) and a bit of patience to score a parking spot at the trailhead.

Do it!  Ready to go? Don’t forget to wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.  And, although summer is just around the corner after MLA’17, it can get chilly fast when gaining elevation. It’s wise to bring a jacket, hat, gloves, sunglasses and extra water and snacks when venturing out in the mountains.  

Yes, it takes a little bit of planning and time, but do get out and satisfy your adventurous spirit. You won’t regret it!  


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