Best Hikes into Old Growth Forest

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Grove of the Patriarchs
Mount Rainier

Map of Grove
Difficulty:
Easy; 1.5 miles round-trip, 50-foot elevation gain 
Location: About a two-hour drive from Seattle, on the southeast side of Mount Rainier National Park, via Enumclaw. Nearest town: Packwood, 14 miles. $15 park entrance fee; dogs prohibited; nps.gov 

If you like your trees old—really old—this easy one-and-a-half-mile lollipop loop is a must. The grove is home to some of the oldest (more than 1,000 years) and biggest trees in western Washington; strolling amongst their cathedral beauty truly inspires awe. The trail winds through a stand of old red cedars before reaching a new suspension bridge, rebuilt after the violent 2006 storms left the old one a twisted wreck. Sway and bounce single file across the Ohanapecosh River to land on the island that houses the Grove of the Patriarchs, where enormous trees, protected from fire by the surrounding river, have grown to more than 25 feet in circumference (at least one is nearly 50 feet around) and 300 feet tall. Walk in hushed reverence along the boardwalk loop that weaves in between giant nurse logs, hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs. Sit and stare for a while on one of the lovely, well-located wooden benches. Slap on another layer of bug spray; this is a boggy area, and you’ll share your adventure with vigorous mosquitoes, and, usually, dozens of happy tourists and tree lovers. Probably the easiest hike on Mount Rainier, this trail, while not paved, is wide and well used; a wonderful hike for children and grandparents.

Hall of Mosses Trail
Hoh Rain Forest

Map of Hall of Mosses
Difficulty:
Easy; .8 miles round-trip, 100-foot elevation gain 
Location: In Olympic National Park, about a four-and-a-half-hour drive northeast of Seattle, via U.S. Highway 101 through Port Angeles. Nearest town: Forks, 30 miles. Dogs prohibited; nps.gov 

For Seattleites, rain, moss, ferns—and yes, slugs—are in our DNA, so it’s a homecoming of sorts to wander this forest primeval. One of the few old-growth temperate rain forests in the U.S., the Hoh offers several easy loop trails for exploring the lush vegetation, overhung with a canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees, including Sitka spruce and western hemlock of tremendous size—23 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Start with a stop at the visitor center to pick up tree and plant guides, and to find out when the next guided Forest Service walk departs. Or grab a trail map and strike out on your own, treading the gently rolling path through a wash of wet and green forest. You like rain? This forest gets as much as 14 feet per year. You like banana slugs? Spotted owls? Spot them aplenty here. On your way out of town, consider a visit to Forks, where the Twilight series is based. (See our guide at seattlemag.com under “guides.”)

 

Seward Park
Seattle

Map of Seward
Difficulty:
Easy to moderate; as far as 5 miles, minimal elevation gain 
Location: Southeast Seattle; seattle.gov/parks 

While old-growth trees (more than 250 years old) can be found in a few parks around Seattle, only Seward Park boasts a 120-acre forest full of them. This so-called Magnificent Forest, which takes up the northern two-thirds of Seward Park, makes for a nice in-city hiking destination. Tuck into the woods from any of the 13 unmarked “trailheads” off the park’s perimeter drive (popular with walkers), and leave the bustling and noisy world of barbecuers and inline skaters behind. If you love to hike in the Cascades or Olympics, you’ll feel right at home here, whether for a brisk walk on your lunch break or for a full-on five-mile hike to make your primary-care physician proud. Besides getting your heart pumping, hiking through the old-growth forest, and perhaps imagining how the rest of our urban world once looked, may also stir your soul.

Road Trip: Concrete and East Skagit County

Road Trip: Concrete and East Skagit County

Enjoy a scenic drive and stay out in eagle country
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View the eagles during the Skagit Eagle Festival; snap a pic and enter it by January 15 in the Skagit River Bald Eagle Center’s 20th anniversary photo contest. Go win it!

WHERE: Concrete and east Skagit County.

WHY: Eagles are flocking to their spectacular winter getaway—why not join them? The Skagit Eagle Festival (1/1–1/31; concrete-wa.com) happens every January weekend, and your car makes a perfect blind for snapping pictures without scaring off these magnificent birds. Celebrate along the Skagit River with arts and crafts, wine tasting, photography tours and river rafting for eagle spotters.

NIGHT OWLS: Check out the Concrete Theatre, built in 1923 (45920 Main St.; 360.941.0403; concrete-theatre.com), updated for films, live music and events during the festival. early birds: Stop by 5b’s Bakery (45597 Main St.; 360.853.8700; 5bsbakery.com) for quality gluten-free baked goods and more for breakfast or lunch. For dinner, there’s Annie’s Pizza Station (44568 State Route 20; 360.853.7227; anniespizzastation.net), whose handcrafted cuisine would be a hit even in a town bigger than Concrete, population 753.

RULE THE ROOST: Spend the night in one of Ovenell’s Heritage Inn log cabins, located on a historic ranch across the river (46276 Concrete Sauk Valley Road; 360.853.8494; ovenells-inn.com). Pick up a steak or two—the cows are raised right there on the ranch—and throw them on the provided barbecue. Had enough of eagles? Elk, deer and coyotes are known to roam the ranch on a daily basis.