Best Hikes to see Wildflowers

Two hikes boasting riotous wildflower displays and gorgeous mountain views.
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Sourdough Ridge Trail
Sunrise, Mount Rainier

Map of Sourdough Ridge
Difficulty:
Easy; 2.5 miles, 400-foot elevation gain 
Location: Two hours from Seattle in the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park. Nearest town: Enumclaw, 60 minutes. $15 park entrance fee; dogs prohibited; nps.gov

For subalpine meadows bursting with extravagant color, head to Sunrise, the highest spot you can drive to on Mount Rainier. By early August, the world-famous wildflower displays there are in their full glory; acre upon acre of vivid lupine and paintbrush, avalanche lily and fireweed. On the road to Sunrise, pull over at the Sunrise Point lookout to take in sweeping views of five volcanoes: Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Hood. Continue up to Sunrise at 6,400 feet, where the parking lot is flanked by wildflower meadows and the massive Emmons Glacier—and a visitor center and snack bar, natch. Start at the visitor center, where you can grab maps and wildflower guides or connect with a ranger-led hike (at 1 and 3 p.m. on summer weekends). The Sourdough Ridge Trail is an easy lollipop loop that meanders along a lovely ridge overlooking deep valleys—sometimes populated with marmots and mountain goats, and blanketed with a riot of colorful wildflowers.

 

Winds of Change Trail
Mount St. Helens

Map of Winds of Change
Difficulty:
Easy, paved; .25-mile round-trip, minimal elevation gain 
Location: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument; follow State Route 504 from Interstate 5 at Castle Rock for 43 miles to large parking lot at Coldwater Ridge. Nearest town: Castle Rock, 43 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; dogs prohibited; fs.usda.gov 

Expecting a moonscape with little, if any, signs of life, most visitors to Mount St. Helens are blown away by the wildflowers carpeting the landscape. In midsummer, the formerly decimated hills around Coldwater Ridge—just a half-dozen miles from the volcano’s still-steaming crater—are awash in all the colors of the rainbow. The paved Winds of Change Trail gets nature lovers into the thick of the wildflower displays. Recently updated interpretive panels along the way explain why the deforested flanks of the mountain make such good habitat for opportunistic plants such as fireweed, lupine, paintbrush, daisy, pearly everlasting and other wild blooms. The Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is closed permanently, so head up the road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where you can look at interpretive displays and read eyewitness accounts of the 1980 eruption.

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.