If you are a Seattle local, or did a little online research of the area, you probably know some of the area’s most famous hiking trails: Mount Si, Little Si , Rattlesnake Ledge , Lake Twentytwo, Wallace Falls, Tiger Mountain, Twin Falls, etc. These trials can see hundreds of hikers a day in the summer.
However, there are several hiking gems that offer more solitude with the same beauty. These trails don’t get much coverage in hiking books or trail websites so they are relatively unknown…..or at least a lot less traveled.
Although these northwest hikes are dog-friendly, please note that they must be leashed at all times.
- Red Top Lookout – This half-day hike offers one of the best mountaintop views for relatively little effort. This 2-mile, gently (the first half) to moderately (the second half) rolling trail leads to the recently restored Red Top Fire Lookout and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. This is a good hike for rock hounds because, if you look close, you might find thunder eggs or agates around the lookout. The weather on the trail tends to be dry when it’s rainy in Seattle but be careful because it can get hot when Seattle is getting sun. This hike is best in late summer when the snow is melted. Otherwise it is an extra long, steep hike from the road. A NW Forest Service Pass is required to park at the trailhead.
- Spruce Railroad Trail – This trail, located inside the Olympic National Park, is one of the only National Park trails open to dogs in the state. The trail itself if definitely not unknown but the fact that you can bring leashed dogs on this trail is. This 8 mile (round trip), gently rolling trail offers amazing views of Lake Crescent, one of the deepest lakes in the State. If you are traveling on the cheap it is great to note that unlike almost every other area managed by National Parks, no entry fee is required to access this trailhead. This low elevation hike is good all year round.
- Kelcema Lake – This hike offers a backcountry, sub-alpine-lake feel without all the sweating. You drive most the way and then hike less than a mile to the lake. Camping spots are available around the lake so this is a great place to set your sights on as your first overnight backpack trip with your dog. The access road off the Mountain Loop Highway is rough, but should be accessible to most passenger cars. It’s a good late summer hike after snow is melted. Before that the road to the trailhead is not accessible. A NW forest pass required to park at the trailhead.
- Barclay Lake – This gentle and easy 2-mile (one way) hike sits at a lower elevation than most trails in the area so what little snow it does get melts out early in the season. The lake itself sits snug between Merchant Peak and Baring Mountain, an awesome pair of imposing peaks. These mountains are well-known landmarks visible from much of the Skykomish Valley, but they are truly stunning when viewed from the lake. You literally look straight up one of the almost sheer walls. A NW forest pass required to park at the trailhead.
- Tonga Ridge – This easy ridge hike sits on the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The melting snow in late spring gives way to beautiful wildflower meadows and extensive huckleberry patches all along this trail. If you are lucky you might even see a bear picking through the berries. The main destination is the open meadow at the base of Mount Sawyer, which is a great place to camp. However, you can wander down the way trail to Fish Lake or climb the last, steep mile up Mount Sawyer to the old fire lookout site and enjoy awesome views into the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mount Rainier. This trail is 6 miles round trip and a NW Forest Service Pass is required to park at the trailhead.
- Cedar Butte – This 3-mile trail may be the least visited in the Snoqualmie Pass corridor. This butte’s lack of popularity, though, has more to do with its lack of publicity than its lack of scenery. Once at the summit you can enjoy the expansive views to the north of peaks such as Mount Si and Mailbox Peak. This is a Washington state park so currently no passes are required to park at the trailhead. However, as of July 1, 2011 a Discover Pass will be required. Discover Passes can be purchased for $10/day or $30 for an annual pass.UPDATE: One of our readers had this to say about the Cedar Butte trail “While the views once you reach the summit are spectacular and very much worthwhile, “fairly easy” is not the case…fairly challenging is more accurate.”. Please note that “relatively easy” is just that – relative to my experience of the trail compared to other trails in the area and my hiking experience. I fully acknowledge that one person’s “relatively easy” may be difficult to someone else.
The classic, famous trails in the area are must-sees if you haven’t been but if you are in the mood for something a little different I suggest you try one of these dog friendly trails.
Check out these trails too:
The best dog friendly day or overnight hike with a breathtaking view of the Olympic Mountains
A challenging but rewarding dog friendly day hike to an alpine lake nestled at the foot of a granite mountain – Lake Serene.
For a little easier dog friendly hike to another alpine lake nestled under an even bigger mountain, try Lake Twenytwo.
Note: the last two trails are crazy busy on the weekends. I suggest a weekday if you can for a little less crazy.