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.

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

An intimate affair for wine lovers who get their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude
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A flight of wine awaiting tasting at one of the educational panels

If you love good wine—really good wine—you’ll want to put Northwest Wine Encounter on your radar.

Haven’t heard of it before? That’s not surprising. The inaugural event, which I attended last spring, was an intimate affair with space for just a few dozen wine lovers who got their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude on winemaking, learning about these during educational panels led by some of the region’s finest winemakers. And, of course, it helped to taste through flights of really fine wine as the winemakers offered insights and perspective.

The return engagement, on the weekend of April 28-30 (from $485/person including lodging, events and gala dinner), will follow a similar format and will once again be held at Semiahmoo Resort, a lovely spot overlooking Semiahmoo Bay, with the U.S./Canadian border and Peace Arch in view across the water. This year, there will be room for around 100 wine lovers (sign up for Northwest Wine Encounter here).


Winemakers and guests enjoying Friday night’s bonfire at Semiahmoo 

This quintessential Northwest location was chosen to complement the local wines that are the focus of the weekend. At Semiahmoo, Mount Baker frames the view in one direction, the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in another. At one time in its history, Semiahmoo was also the site of a salmon cannery. Hard to get more Northwest than that.

The 2017 winemaker lineup includes a few superstars from Oregon and Washington: Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Walla Walla’s oldest winery; David Merfeld of Northstar Winery, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars; Tony Rynders of Panther Creek and wine grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards. New this year is the addition of a British Columbia winemaker, Walter Gehriner of Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.

 

At last year’s events, the panel discussions were interesting, but the Friday night kick-off event was almost worth the price of admission alone. It had the air of an informal party where everyone was enjoying each other’s company. All the winemakers were in attendance, pouring and chatting about what they love most: making wine. The party eventually spilled out onto the beach where a bonfire warmed the crowd. Marshmallows optional, wine required.