Few places in the U.S. are more prized by the avid recreationist than the Pacific Northwest.
But with a plethora of places to hike, ski, boat and climb, how can one choose where to go? Designated Wilderness areas offer Americans places to find adventure, beauty and solitude, and this region has several to choose from.
Here's our recommendations on some paths for you to explore.
1. Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington. Even though the Granite Mountain Trail is a more strenuous hike, with a 3,800 foot climb over 4.3 miles, it is also one of the most popular in the Snoqualmie Pass corridor. If you want to hike this area, a week is suggested. It might be best to visit in late summer or fall due to avalanche risks, though early summer offers beautiful wildflowers. A bill to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area is currently under consideration. (photo at right: Flickr, Sean Munson)
2. Wild Sky Wilderness, Washington. The West Cady Ridge Trail is a journey through alpine meadows with summer flowers and fall colors. Berry bushes provide wild delights to wildlife and hikers alike. Stop to take in sweeping vistas after about four miles, or travel farther for even better views at Bench Mark Mountain (7.2 mile one-way trip). A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
3. Spring Basin Wilderness, Oregon. Designated in 2009, this area has it all: colorful geology, quiet canyons and wild waters. A diversity of wildlife includes golden and northern bald eagles as well as bobcats. "Trails" here consist of a few old four-wheel-drive tracks utilized as pathways. Hay Bottom and Eagle Canyons are great for solitude and photography. While splendid views abound year round, some think spring is the best time to visit.
4. Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Oregon. This area was also protected in 2009, preserving the remarkable features of the Badlands volcano as well as cracked volcanic pressure ridges. Yellow-bellied marmots, prarie falcons and antelope call this place home. Fifty miles of trails over flat lands offer the visitor many opportunities for solitude, hiking and horseback riding. But few trail markings mean some navigation skills will be necessary. Badlands Rock Trail leads to incredible 360-degree views of the region.
5. Pasayten Wilderness, Washington. The northernmost forty miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) winds through the wildlife-rich Pasayten offering spectacular views of Mt. Baker, North Cascades National Park and the Picket Range. For a shorter ten-mile hike, start at the Cold Springs entrance to the eastern Pasayten Wilderness via Chopaka Mountain and Goodenough Park. If you’re looking for a longer trip across the entire Pasayten, you can travel 80 or more miles from Hart’s Pass north on the Pacific Crest Trail then east on the Pacific Northwest Trail (also known as the Boundary Trail in the Pasayten) to the Iron Gate trailhead. This stretch is not only very long but also very strenuous, and therefore recommended for only experienced backcountry travelers.