Welcome to a hiker's paradise

— image credit:

Whether you're looking for an easy stroll along a stream, a

strenuous climb atop a peak, or days of backpacking pleasure among lakes

and mountains, you'll find it in the Snoqualmie Valley.

The choices are as close as Mount Si, towering over the Valley and

providing enjoyment and challenges for children and adults. Most hikes

begin just off Interstate 90.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park, off of Exit

32, is a relatively flat trail that runs 270 miles from Cedar Falls to Idaho.

The trail is open mainly for hiking and bicycling in the summer and

cross-country skiing in the winter. Horseback riding is also allowed in

certain areas. Earlier this year, the damaged Hall Creek Train Trestle was

replaced, allowing uninterrupted access farther east. The John Wayne Trail

snakes through five state parks including Olallie State Park and Lake

Easton State Park and the 2.3 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel, which

reopened in 1994. Carrying a flashlight and extra clothes is recommended if you

plan to go through the tunnel because it's cold, dark and wet.

The most popular excursion, however, is Mount Si with its rugged

steep cliffs overlooking North Bend. It's not for the weak of heart, however,

since it ascends 3,100 feet in less than four miles.

Nearly 50,000 people a year climb the 4,167-foot peak, part of the

Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area.

The rewards come at the top. On a clear day, a hiker can see

the Snoqualmie Valley, Mount Rainier, Lake Washington, Seattle,

Puget Sound and the Olympic Range.

Be warned, though, that the scramble up Haystack Rock can

be dangerous to climbers as well as to those below who must dodge

dislodged rocks.

Three other trails are managed by the state, as well.

Little Si — the cone-shaped peak at the bottom of Big Si — is

criss-crossed by trails and includes a challenging area for rock climbers.

Rattlesnake Ledge is a short trail with nice views from the top of

the ledge, located at the southern end of Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic

Area. Glimpse views of the Upper Valley, Rattlesnake Lake and Chester

Morse Lake (which supplies two-thirds of Seattle's drinking water) from

the ledge.

But the best choice, especially for people seeking scenery without

much sweat, is at Twin Falls. Catwalks and bridges provide a safe and easy

way to view the pretty falls along the South Fork-Snoqualmie River.

You can get to the falls either by the low road (off 468th Street, a

nearly level hike) or from above (at Exit 38 on I-90.) With two cars, hikers

can start at one end and finish at the other.

Farther away from town are numerous trails managed through

the North Bend Ranger District, including those in the Alpine Lakes


The ranger station, (425) 888-1421, is just east of North Bend

at 42404 North Bend Way and provides updated trail conditions, maps and


Hikers can also purchase mandatory trail head parking permits

there for $25 (annual pass) or $3 (day pass).

The parking permit program began several years ago to raise

money for trail maintenance. Permits can be used in most national forests in

Washington and Oregon.

One of the most popular hikes is to Snow Lake. Starting at

the Alpental Ski Area parking lot (near Snoqualmie Pass), it's a steady

three miles uphill to the ridge above pretty Snow Lake.

If it's crowded, continue around to the far side for nice spots to

eat lunch in peace with great views of the talus slopes surrounding the

lake. Gem Lake is another two miles, or you can drop down the outlet stream

and follow Rock Creek to the Middle Fork trail, six miles away.

Here are two more easy hikes.

You can get to Talapus or Olallie lakes, about a four-mile round-trip,

on a well-groomed forest trail. Or hike up Denny Creek to Keekwulee

Falls, three miles round-trip.

Want more? Snowshoe Falls is another half-mile away. Keep

going and you'll reach the outlet at Melakwa Lake, 4.5 miles from the start.

To make a loop, head three more miles to Pratt Lake (passing

Lower Tuscohatchie Lake) along the way.

From Pratt Lake, it's six miles to the trailhead and another five

miles to the Denny Creek Trailhead.

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