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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)




Lost Coast Trail, CA 9 miles (Moderate)
The Lost Coast has it all–dramatic sea cliffs and caves, giant redwoods, black-sand beaches–and this roller-coaster one-way hike misses nothing. Start at Little Jackass Cove and hike south. You'll pass under the 226-foot Anderson Cliff, cross Wolf Creek, and alternate between bluff-top grasslands, beaches, and redwood groves. Keep one eye on the hills for black bears and one on the ocean for migrating gray whales in spring and fall.
Season Year-round
Info (707) 986-7711

Olympic Coast, WA 14 miles (Difficult)
It's a long day from Ozette Ranger Station to Shi Shi Beach, and you'll have to check the tide table first, but the reward is commensurate: Olympic National Park's wildest stretch of cliffs, tidepools, and wave-sculpted sea stacks. Start with a three-mile stroll through wetlands on the Cape Alava Trail, then trace the rugged Pacific shore. Extra thrill: The one-way route skirts impassable headlands with short inland forays via ropes and ladders.
Season Year-round
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Best Volcano Hike (Moderate)
Mt. St. Helens, WA 7.8 miles

It's been almost three decades since Mt. St. Helens erupted with devastating force. Evidence of the 1980 blast–which flattened millions of trees–still abounds, but you can also see signs of recovery as wildflowers and wildlife return. Start at the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center and climb Harry's Ridge Trail into the heart of it all, where you'll gaze at the mountain's collapsed north face and peer into an active caldera. The round-trip hike gains nearly 1,000 feet; at the top you'll also get balcony views of Coldwater Peak, Mt. Adams, and Spirit Lake.
Season May-November
Info (360) 449-7800

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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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