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Pack Forest - Little Mashel Falls & Hugo Peak

Our Hiking Time: 4h
Total Ascent: 1300ft
Highest Point: 1728ft
Total Distance: 7.0 miles
Location: N 46° 50.5560, W 122° 17.5080
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's Photo
This week we headed out to Pack Forest, an old favorite from our childhood. It had been years since we wandered along Pack Forest’s trails and we thought it would make for a decent winter hike. After doing a little research and plotting out a rough route, we packed up and headed out to Eatonville.

Pack Forest is always open, and almost always free of snow in the winter. While some of the trails can be a little challenging, forest roads can take a hiker nearly anywhere in the park. pack forest little mashel falls hikingwithmybrotherWith minimal elevation gain and easy access, this is a great pick for winter walks, hiking with youngsters or bringing out the dog for an adventure. We suggest that you bring along a map, as the multiple roads and trails can be confusing, and maps are not always available from the Gatehouse in the winter. If you make it out to Pack Forest, we highly recommend you take the time to head out to the waterfalls, which are well worth the trip.

There's a lot more to Pack Forest, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take I-5 South to Tacoma, taking Exit 127 for Highway 512. In about two miles, take the State Route 7 exit toward Spanaway. Continue on SR 7 for roughly 22 miles to the signed entrance to the University of Washington Pack Forest on the left. -Nathan

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Glacier Vista Snowshoe at Paradise Mt. Rainier

Our Hiking Time: 1h 20m
Total Ascent: 900ft
Highest Point: 6400ft
Total Distance: 2.5 miles
Location: N 46° 48.0960, W 121° 44.0880
Required Permit: National Park Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's Photo
On a sunny weekend a few weeks ago, we packed up our snowshoes and headed out with a few destinations in mind. After some discussion, we decided to indulge our nostalgia and drive the extra distance to visit Paradise on the slopes of Mt. Rainier. It was from the parking lots around Paradise that we began our assent to the summit back in 2008, and we had not been back since. We were long overdue.

In 1885, a member of the Longmire family visited a flower-covered valley on a sunny day, and christened it Paradise. While there is some debate as to whether it was Virinda or Martha Longmire who came up with the name, no one is arguing its accuracy: the allure of Paradise has drawn millions of people to the area over the years. Reliable roads did not reach the area until 1915, but commerce quickly followed and in July 1917, the Paradise Inn was opened. Independently operated until it was sold to the Park Service in 1952, the Inn has welcomed guests nearly every year since it opened. In 1966 the Paradise Visitor Center was opened and paradise glacier vista hikingwithmybrotherlater renamed in 1987 for Senator Henry M. Jackson to honor his efforts to support Rainier National Park. If you haven’t been to Paradise in a few years, you’ll find a new Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center to greet you, which opened in 2008. The original “sunken Space Needle” building was demolished in 2009.

Glacier Vista is a treat in both the summer and the winter. It is an easy hike during the summer months, following the Skyline Trail through alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers, past pines and hemlocks dwarfed by the altitude. In the winter, the snowshoe route is a little more challenging. Some of the challenge comes from the added effort, but route finding can also be an issue. On the upside, if you’re there on a low avalanche danger day, it will be easy to find a route already cut through the powder. If you’re breaking trail, start to the west of the sledding area, heading upwards toward the tree-covered rise known as Alta Vista. We recommend you bear to the left around the knoll as it is less difficult, but either approach will get you there. Continue to parallel the Nisqually Glacier for about a mile-and-a-half to a broad flat area. This is Glacier Vista.

From this vantage point you can take in the massive Nisqually Glacier as well as the Nisqually Valley spreading out below. Rising above the parking lot to the south, a jagged ridgeline marks the beginning of the Tatoosh range, with prominences including Pinnacle Peak, Castle Peak, and paradise glacier vista hikingwithmybrotherPlummer Peak. Beyond, you can pick out the snow-topped Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. If you’re feeling like stretching your legs more, continue to follow the Skyline trail up to Panorama Point, to get a better view of the landscape.

Paradise is the perfect destination for exploring with youngsters or test driving that new pair of snowshoes. Many of the trails are paved, making the lower trail network friendly to strollers and wheelchairs in the summer months. Of course, expect a lot of company when visiting Paradise, though the traffic quickly dwindles as you head uphill and out to Glacier Vista or Panorama Point. If you’ve never been up to Paradise, we highly recommend you make the trip this year. One word of caution if you’re planning a winter visit – make sure to check the avalanche danger and keep an eye on the weather, which can change extremely quickly.

To get there, take I-5 South to Tacoma, taking Exit 127 for Highway 512. In about two miles, take the State Route 7 exit toward Spanaway. Continue on SR 7 for about 30 miles to the junction with SR 706 in Elbe. Keep to the left and follow SR 706 a little under 15 miles to the park entrance. From the gate, it is another 14 miles to the Paradise parking area. - Nathan

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Franklin Townsite

Our Hiking Time: 1h 30m
Total Ascent: 300ft
Highest Point: 800ft
Total Distance: 2.2 miles
Location: N 47° 17.5980, W 121° 58.0860
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's Photo
Continuing this winter’s theme of visiting ghost towns and abandoned places, we recently explored the Franklin Townsite near Black Diamond. Like many former mining communities in Washington, much of the once-bustling town is now gone, much of it reclaimed by nature. Still, enough cement and metal remains to hint at the coal-centered community that called Franklin home for more than 30 years.

franklin ghost town hikingwithmybrotherFranklin is a fun little adventure on those days that you cannot make it out to the mountains. While it is not exactly a traditional hike, it is a walk steeped in the history of this state. Its obscurity and somewhat confusing access makes it likely that you’ll have the ghost town to yourself and lends a feeling of remoteness. There is also much more to explore in Franklin – it’s possible to head down to the site of the coal bridge or get permission from Palmer to hike to the top of Franklin Hill. A day spent tromping around Franklin is well worth the trip.

There's a lot more to Franklin Townsite, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take I-5 South to 405. Take Exit 4 off 405 onto SR 169. Follow SR 169 for 18 miles into Black Diamond to Lawson St. Take a left and follow Lawson as it changes into Green River Gorge Road. About three-and-a-half miles from Black Diamond as the road bends toward the Green River Gorge Bridge, find a chain-link gate on the right. This is the access point. Find parking on the roadside or at the nearby cemetery. -Nathan

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Skookum Falls via Skookum Flats Trail #1194

Our Hiking Time: 2h 15m
Total Ascent: 400ft
Highest Point: 2500ft
Total Distance: 5 miles
Location: N 47° 3.0240, W 121° 34.5540
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's Photo
Over the years, we’ve driven down Highway 410 many, many times. On almost all of these excursions, we pass the little roadside pullout perched on the banks of the White River. Invariably, the viewpoint is populated with a few parked cars and some curious travelers craning to get a good look at Skookum Falls as it tumbles 250ft over a cliff and down toward the river. Recently, we decided it was time to stop passing the waterfall by and finally went to get a closer look, along the Skookum Flats Trail #1194.

“Skookum” is a popular adjective in Chinook Jargon. It can mean many different things depending on the context, though it is usually positive. Associated with strength and power, it is likely that the waterfall was named for its height and impressive flow during the annual snowmelt. For veterans of this trail, the suspension bridge that once connected Skookum Flats to the Buck Creek Trail #1169 is still out. The Forest Service has yet to replace the bridge since it was destroyed by a storm in the winter of 2006.

skookum falls hikingwithmybrotherThe route meanders alongside the White River on its way to Skookum Creek. As the name suggests, Skookum Flats involves little in the way of elevation gain, instead it takes a hiker on a gentle tour beneath looming Douglas fir, past mossy rocks and fallen trees, while providing ample opportunity to take in the river and the Snoquera Palisades. The popular trail is wide and flat, free of rocks and roots. Its popularity also ensures that windfalls and debris felled by the storms that frequent the area are quickly removed.

At about the two-mile mark, the sound of rushing water begins to overpower the noise of the river. Catch glimpses of falling water through the leaves as you approach Skookum Creek. Just across the water, a sign points uphill with the simple word “Falls.” The bootpath up to the base of the Skookum Falls is rough and spray from the falls can make the path slick. Use caution if you choose to get a closer look. If you’re craving some more distance, you can continue on another two miles to the end of the trail and the site of the bridge washout.

The low elevation of this trail makes it an ideal hike in the skookum falls hikingwithmybrotherwinter when other trails are buried under the snow. However, if you want to see the waterfall flowing in full force, you’re better off coming in the late spring during the melt. Of course, the ease of this trail makes it a good choice for young hikers as well as trail running. If you’re heading out to Skookum Flats, keep in mind the trail also very popular with mountain bikers, so be ready to share the trail during the summer.

To get there, take I-5 south to Highway 18 Exit 142A. Follow Highway 18 into Auburn and take the SR 164 exit. Head left on SR 164 through Enumclaw to SR 410. Head left onto SR 410 for 25 miles to Huckleberry Creek Road (FR 73). Turn right onto FR 73 and follow for a half-mile to the trailhead on the left just beyond the bridge. -Nathan

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