As we push into the double-digits with our hikes, we wanted to highlight our favorite. However, despite lengthy discussion, we were unable to come to a consensus on the matter, ultimately narrowing it down to two hikes. Tiger, Squak, and Cougar we immediately put out of the running, a combination of over-familiarity with the trails and the encroachment of housing developments into the scenery. Cedar Butte, Rattlesnake and Little Si are great hikes, but again, we have visited all of these with some regularity in the past, making it hard for the experience to really resonate with us. Annette Lake is the only alpine lake we've visited, but the amount of rain and snow coming down really soured the journey for us. Both Dirty Harry's Peak and Mailbox Peak are really great hikes, but because both are pretty difficult, much of our focus and attention was on getting one foot in front of the other, rather than taking in our surroundings.
This left us with Mt. Washington, which I was rooting for, and Twin Falls, Jer's favored hike. In the end, rather than trying to resolve our impasse, we decided to just talk about both.
Nathan's Pick - Mt. Washington
Given the set of hikes we've done so far, Mt. Washington really hits the right note with me. It's a decent length, it's just hard enough to be engaging, but not so difficult you cannot enjoy the trees going by, and your hard work is rewarded at the top. Moreover, it's far enough out that you can escape from housing and the crowds, yet you can get to the trail head from downtown Seattle in about a half-hour. Finally, the trail itself is refreshingly varied; the path takes you through an engaging landscape past lakes, streams and rivers, second and third generation forests, and also offers the opportunity to see the impacts of past logging on a landscape. Then there is the view. Jer has somehow forgotten the unique and stunning view of Rainier over the Cedar River Watershed that this hike provides. This is the backdrop to the little alpine meadow at the top making it ideal for a small picnic, especially in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Accessible, engaging, and rewarding: Mt. Washington is easily a better trail experience than Twin Falls. Jer is absolutely right - I'm going to point out that Twin Falls is crowded. We were there in the dead of winter and ran into dozens of people and the parking lot was overflowing when we left. We met just a handful of other hikers on Mt. Washington and it was never intrusive or unpleasant. I'll grant that the falls themselves were great to see, and I'm glad we got to see them with relatively little human traffic in the snowy landscape. However, it's very short, designed to convey one to the waterfall as quickly as possible, which makes the walk to the falls feel like a chore, something to be done with so one can take in the main attraction. Out of the hikes we've done so far, I've recommended Mt. Washington repeatedly to friends, and I do it again now: if you're looking for a great casual hike, you can't miss with Mt. Washington.
Jer's Pick - Twin Falls
Twin Falls stands out as my favorite of the last ten hikes because it can be accomplished by hikers of all skill levels, but doesn't shortchange you on the natural beauty that can be seen in the Pacific Northwest. The trail literally touches the shores of the South Fork of Snoqualmie River, which means there's plenty of opportunities for hitting the ice cold water on a hot summer day. To top it all off, only a mere mile and quarter walk from the trailhead, you can reach the lower observation deck where you will be face-to-face with the gushing 135ft tall cataract that is Lower Twin Falls. Feeling a little more adventurous? Then just continue walking past the falls and you will eventually join up with the Iron Horse trail, where you'll have easy access to all that Olallie State Park has to offer.
I agree with Nathan in that Mt. Washington is a great hike and you should definitely put it on your to-do list. However, first I suggest you forgo the "opportunity" to see the impacts of logging, and instead enjoy the grandeur of the 14ft diameter stands of old growth forest that you will see inside Twin Falls State Park. Sure, Mt. Washington has its views, but so does almost every other summit that we recently climbed. And unlike Washington, your enjoyment of this hike will not be interrupted by losing the path down an old logging road because you overlooked a haphazardly placed rock cairn. Nathan will probably try to argue that this hike will be swarming with people, but as with many outdoor destinations in close proximity to Seattle, there is a optimal time that you should go. Do this hike in the winter off-season or on a weekday and you will not be disappointed.
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