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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

America's Best Day Hikes: West

Tick off these life list hikes in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska.

by: Nancy Prichard Bouchard

Tunnel Falls, Eagle Creek Trails (Eli Boschetto)
Tunnel Falls, Eagle Creek Trails (Eli Boschetto)
Tall Trees Grove (David H. Collier)
Tall Trees Grove (David H. Collier)




Eagle Creek Trail, OR 12 miles (Moderate)
Check your vertigo at the trailhead: This hewn-from-sheer-cliffs hike in the Columbia River Gorge traverses narrow ledges hundreds of feet above churning Eagle Creek (a cable system provides handholds in key spots). Ascend to the blue-green grotto of Punchbowl Falls (with a swimming hole). Continue another 1.8 miles to the hike's dizzying crescendo: The trail, carved into basalt, dives behind Tunnel Falls. Turn around here, or brave the "Vertical Mile" to Twister Falls.
Season Year-round (upper portion may be impassable in winter)
Info (541) 308-1700

Glen Alpine Trail, CA 12 miles (Difficult)
The best dayhike in Tahoe delivers all of the area's highlights: postcard views of a string of alpine tarns, Mt. Tallac, and brilliant-blue Lake Tahoe, plus a double dose of waterfalls. Strike out into the Desolation Wilderness from Fallen Leaf Lake and catch Big Falls cascading down 70 feet of sheer granite, then hike past Lily Lake and Modjeska Falls, a 30-foot torrent. Turn back at Lake Aloha, in the 8,200-foot glacial basin below Pyramid Peak.
May-October (falls are best in spring)
Info (530) 543-2600

Trail of Ten Falls, OR 8.7 miles (Moderate)
Even without the waterfalls, this loop through Silver Falls State Park serves up a highlights list of Northwest scenery: mossy canyons, lush greenery, creeks, wildflowers, and towering trees. Add no less than 10 cascades–four more than 100 feet high–and you have a paradise for waterfall lovers. The loop traces Silver Creek Canyon through a dense tangle of fern, cedar, fir, and hemlock, skirting precipitous drop-offs near many of the falls.
Season Year-round

Biggest Redwoods
Tall Trees Grove, CA 3.9 miles (Easy)
This round-trip hike is neither long nor steep, but allow plenty of time, as you'll want to look up–a lot–as you hike the Tall Trees Trail through some of the country's most gape-worthy redwoods, including the 367.8-foot Howard A. Libbey Tree. Unlike in some other big-tree groves, where dense upper canopies limit what grows below, this is a true forest of moss-covered maple, sprawling rhododendron bushes, giant ferns, and dense huckleberry patches. Arrive early at the park's Kuchel Visitor Center to pick up one of the 50 free permits issued daily.
Season Year-round

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


Gary Karpowitz
Oct 07, 2011

Just finished a classic 55 mile loop in Yosemite. Highlighting the end was climbing Half Dome. Worth every step, epic views. Two clues, go early to beat the crowd and bring some gloves with a grip for the cables. Don't miss it.

Steve Cash
Feb 22, 2011

Is there any hike in the Pacific Northwest that makes for a 'less than a great day' hike? I can't think of any. That's like saying, which page of your favorite novel would you not read. They are all different and they all build on each other to make the story.

M. D. Vaden of Oregon
Dec 09, 2009

The Tall Trees Grove may not be a steep trail, but it is partially vigorous on the return. Probably takes two and a half times longer coming up than going down. The maples are incredibly nice too. That was one of my last hikes in November 2009.

M. D. Vaden of Oregon


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