Top Hikes In SW Washington PNW | Exploring Washington State

Adventure Encounters

There is an astronomical amount of hikes in Washington State (the Pacific Northwest - PNW) & you can literally spend a lifetime trying to experience them all (no joke). In this section of our travel blog, we are going to list our Top 5 favorite hiking trails in Washington State, more specifically the SW corner (& yes... we might be biased) 😜

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Feet dangling off the cliff of Hamilton MountainThe Adventure Encounters

BEST HIKING TRAILS IN WASHINGTON

Instead of me creating a massive, never-ending list of hikes in Washington State, I'm going to list the best hiking trails in Washington State but... with a twist... they are some of our favorites. And more specifically, we are targeting the SW corner of Washington State (primarily hikes in the Gifford Pinchot) and I will try to give you as much insight as possible!

My brothers and I (Ashley), grew up in the middle of 'nowhere'... like 'no-electricity nowhere' (ponder that for a minute)... and our form of entertainment was exploring the great outdoors! I actually introduced a few of these hikes to Nate and Blake and needless to say, they approve!

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Ashley standing cliff side, overlooking the Columbia RiverThe Adventure Encounters

Let's start with the most recent hike that we just discovered and fell in love with...
HAMILTON MOUNTAIN near Carson WA

Hike Highlights:

  • Incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Adams, & Mount Hood
  • Bird's eye view of the Bonneville Dam
  • Beautiful & crispy cold waterfall (Rodney Falls)
  • 8.1-mile loop with an elevation gain of 2286 ft
  • Dog friendly
  • Kid-friendly hike (to a certain point at the higher elevation)
  • Camping available
  • Discover Pass required (can buy onsite or online)
  • Restrooms only at parking areas (trailhead)

QUICK TIP: There are 2 small parking lots & they fill up quickly, so go early to get a spot... especially on the weekends!

QUICK TIP #2: If you park at the second parking lot, instead of walking back down the hill to gain entry to the main trailhead, you can walk uphill towards the camping area and gain entry there (it's a little closer) than walking downhill.

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Beacon Rock and it's zig-zag walkwayThe Adventure Encounters

BEACON ROCK near Carson WA & directly across the road from Hamilton Mountain

Hike Highlights:

  • Identical views to Hamilton Mountain... just a little lower
  • Quick hike, totaling about a 1.5-mile trek (up and back down the same trail)
  • The climb up consists primarily of zig-zags and switchbacks on primarily wooden & concrete walkways, in which you are literally hiking up the side of a massive rock (aka cliff)
  • Fun Fact... the 'Rock' is actually the core of an old volcano... about a 57,000-year-old volcano 🤯
  • Dog & kid-friendly (must be on a leash... even the dogs 😜 jk)
  • Elevation gain of about 575 ft
  • Discover Pass required
  • The parking area is TINY & literally on the side of the road (beware), otherwise, you can park across the street at Hamilton Mountain and walk about a half-mile to the rock
  • Restrooms are located at the 'larger' parking area (east end of the rock)

QUICK TIP: This is a VERY busy hike, best to go during the week or early am on the weekends.

QUICK TIP #2: When it rains, this climb up & back down can get SUPER slippery, be cautious if you get into a wet day on your hike!

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Ape Caves tunnelThe Adventure Encounters

APE CAVES near Cougar WA & Mount Saint Helens (#2 for our favorite hiking trails in Washington State)

Hike Highlights:

  • One of the most unique hikes in Washington that we have ever experienced... in an OLD LAVA TUBE!!
  • The cave is completely pitch black, so you will need to bring a good couple of BRIGHT flashlights! You can rent lanterns at the little information station on sight if you didn't bring a flashlight (cell phone lights don't work very well... FYI), but I would HIGHLY recommend a couple of flashlights!
  • Timed reservations are needed during 'covid' (check Ape Caves website for updates)
  • Two distances are optional to choose from. The 'lower' cave route (1.5 miles total, down & back) or the 'upper' cave route (1.5 miles one way) which leads to an 8ft rock wall to shimmy up (this is actually pretty hard to climb) and then crawl over some rocks to an opening, leading above ground and then 1.5 miles back to the parking lot
  • $5 Day pass can be purchased for parking (on-site) or the NW Forest Pass is needed
  • The slimy stuff on the walls is actually a food source for all the smaller critters living in the cave & the ecosystem (please don't touch it)... and maybe a combo of bat poo 💩 YEP! There are bats!
  • Sorry, no pets allowed in this one
  • Great hike for kids (I would only suggest the 'lower' route)
  • 433 ft elevation gain (but you don't honestly even notice it!)
  • In order to gain entry into the caves, you have to go down a set of stairs... and they can get slippery (be careful)
  • Bathrooms are only available at the entrance (near the information center)

QUICK TIP: Bring warm clothes (even during the summer months). There is a bit of a cold draft that runs thru the cave and it stays about 40 degrees year-round!

QUICK TIP #2: Make sure to wear sturdy shoes and watch your step! For the most part on the 'lower' route, there is flat walkable ground (not the case for the 'upper' route, but there are also larger rocks and boulders all over! They sneak up out of know where and will help you pack for your trip... your trip down to the ground🤣🤦‍♀️

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Suspension bridge a few miles into the Lava Canyon HikeThe Adventure Encounters

LAVA CANYON near Cougar WA & Mount Saint Helens (also close to Ape Caves)

Hike Highlights:

  • By far one of our favorite hikes, that you get to experience the rushing waters of the Muddy River, cross over a suspension bridge, and see some beautiful waterfalls! Oh, and the views are absolutely stunning!
  • One of our favorite parts about this hike is crossing over the suspension bridge! But I wouldn't suggest going on this or really any further on the hike if you are afraid of heights!
  • The hiking AFTER the suspension bridge does get a little more intense and there is a 30ft ladder that you have to crawl down to see the waterfall a little closer
  • About 5.4 miles total (out and back same trail)
  • A small piece of the trail is paved (wheelchair accessible), the rest is dirt (wear comfy shoes that you don't mind getting a little dirty) and there are some pretty big drop-offs/cliffs on pieces of the trail
  • About 5.4 miles total (out and back)
  • Dog friendly (must be on leash)
  • Kid-friendly
  • 1167 ft in elevation gain
  • Bathrooms are available, but only at the beginning of the trail

QUICK TIP: This is a longer hike and lots of great places to stop and take a look around, so be sure to pack some snacks and water for the trek if you plan on going the entire hike

QUICK TIP #2: The road to this hike does close down during the winter months (snowed in), so be sure to check the Gifford Pinchot website to make sure it's open before you make the drive!

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Lower Lewis River FallsThe Adventure Encounters

LEWIS RIVER FALLS (upper, middle & lower falls) between Cougar WA & Trout Lake WA(#1 for our favorite hikes in Washington)

Hike Highlights:

  • Yes, that is 3 different and incredibly beautiful waterfalls and a hike combined... and trust me, they are worth the trek!
  • If you didn't want to do the full hike, luckily there are viewpoints to each waterfall that you can drive to and walk in off the road, which is nice when you have someone that wants to see the falls but mobility is a little bit of an issue.
  • These three waterfalls (starting with the Upper Lewis Falls, to the Middle Falls, & down to the Lower Lewis Falls) are obviously connected and have about a 4-mile hike (one way) with views of the Lewis River between each waterfall
  • This is a well know hike for bikers to be on as well
  • Kid-friendly & dog friendly too (yep, a leash is required)
  • 974 ft elevation gain
  • The road can close down for the season, so be sure to check the Gifford Pinchot website for updates
  • Camping is available (check website to make reservations)
  • Bathrooms are only available at the entrance of each trailhead/waterfall

QUICK TIP: Sometimes, if we didn't want to go the full loop of 8+ miles, we would leave one car parked at the Lower Falls, take a second car to the Upper Falls and then park it there and hike back down to the Lower Falls. Yes, you would have to drive back up to get the second car, but you get the gist.

QUICK TIP #2: These waterfalls are EXTREMELY busy and the parking lots fill up VERY quickly, during the week is best to go, or go early in the am during the weekends to ensure you get a parking spot

QUICK TIP #3: This by far is our #1 hiking trail in Washington State, and we highly recommend you check at least ONE of the waterfalls out! Also, on your way to the falls, there are multiple short hikes that you will easily pass by and only take about 15 minutes to walk!

One last QUICK TIP... An excellent website or app that we use is called 'All Trails'. You can look this up on the internet or download the app (it's free) and not only find hikes in Washington, but you can literally find hiking trails ANYWHERE in the US!

And as always, if you enjoyed my rambling, and would like to hear more, be sure to click 'Follow' and stay tuned for more! And if you REALLY like us, we would so much appreciate you sharing this with someone else ❤ The referral of your friends & family is the greatest compliment you can give us!

We also have a YouTube channel that you can follow along, just search Adventure Encounters, and you can see many more adventures around the globe.

Thank you for your trust & Happy Adventures!

- Ashley From The Adventure Encounters

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Hello! Welcome to the Adventure! We are a family of 3, based out of Orlando Florida, going on adventures near by and around the globe. As we travel and take our adventures, we want to give you the insight on these same activities, if you are looking to do these exact adventures, travels & stays! We like to highlight different areas around the globe as we reach our goal of full time travel. You can also check out our YouTube channel for footage around the globe, http://www.youtube.com/c/AdventureEncounters Come check out what we have in store & follow along.... you never know where we might end up! Cheers Y'all! - Ashley, Nate & Blake

Orlando, FL
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