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10 Hikes to Appreciate Washington's Native Plants

April is Native Plant Appreciation Month in Washington! It's a wonderful time of year to get outside and admire the wonders of Washington's diverse plant life.

April is Native Plant Appreciation Month in Washington! It's a wonderful time of year to get outside and admire the wonders of Washington's diverse plant life — trees are leafing out, early flowers are blooming and the days are growing long.

Washington is home to thousands of native plant species spanning from the sandy Pacific shorelines in the west to the rolling Palouse hills in the east. No matter where you hike this month, you'll have ample opportunities to stop and admire the flora that call Washington home. To get you started on some native plant walks, we've rounded up ten native species and ten hikes where you can spot them

Tips for your hike

American Dunegrass

Ocean City State PArk

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
Length: 1.0 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: 10 feet

A small bridge crossing over to the dunes along the Pacific Coast.
Crossing over to the dunes from the campground at Ocean City State Park. Photo by trip reporters Bob and Barb.

American dunegrass is a native beach grass to Washington and an iconic view along our Pacific coastline. Ocean City State Park provides easy access to nearly 3,000 feet of shoreline and wide open views of the dunes from the large, established campground. The park can be accessed year round, but spring is a great time to visit and enjoy the longer days and vibrant sunsets.

> Plan your hike to Ocean City State Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Big Sagebrush

Gingko Petrified Forest State Park Backcountry

Location: Central Washington -- Yakima
Length: 5.0 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: 550 feet

A view over a wide river cutting through shrub-steppe cliffs.
Views of the river from the backcountry. Photo by trip reporter stacij.

Washington's shrubsteppe is one of our most biodiverse ecosystems and an absolute joy to wander through on trail. Big sagebrush is one of many iconic native plants that be found throughout the steppe. Sagebrush can be found on any number of trails across central Washington, but we love the Gingko for its stunning backdrop of the Columbia River.

> Plan your trip to Gingko Petrified Forest State Park Backcountry using WTA's Hiking Guide


Hummocks Trail

Location: South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens
Length: 2.4 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

A thick grove of ferns and horsetails along the Hummocks Trail.
Lush spring greenery along the Hummocks Trail. Photo by trip reporter WAGator.

Washington is home to over a dozen species of horsetail, most of which prefer moist, lowland habitats. The Hummocks Trail, in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, provides the ideal habitat. As you admire the lush green understory of horsetail and ferns, read up on the interpretive signs to learn more about the surrounding environment and keep an eye out for local wildlife.

> Plan your trip to the Hummocks Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Oregon White Oak

Weldon Wagon Road

Location: Southwest Washington -- Columbia River Gorge
Length: 5.4 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: 1290 feet

Impressive trees growing along the hillside.
Stunning trees and rolling hill views along Weldon Wagon Road. Photo by trip reporter Rod Hooker.

The Oregon White Oak is Washington's only native oak tree, and for most part it can be found just east of the Cascade crest on trails in the Columbia River Gorge. The spring is one of our favorite times to visit the Gorge — alongside the oak groves you'll find fields of early season wildflowers and sunshine-filled views of the sparkling Columbia River (just be sure to watch for ticks!)

> Plan your trip to Weldon Wagon Road using WTA's Hiking Guide

Pacific Madrone

Maury Island Marine Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Vashon
Length: 3.0 miles of trail
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

A view out to the Puget Sound from Maury Island.
A few madrone trees near the shoreline. Photo by trip reporter jhoppe20.

The stunning madrone tree is a favorite amongst Puget Sound residents and can be found lining many of our salty shorelines. Thanks to Maury Island Marine Park's long, undeveloped stretch of shoreline, the park is a fantastic spot for admiring the colorful peeling bark and unique canopies of the madrone. Plus, you might spot a few other local wonders during your visit, like a salt marsh, eelgrass beds, blue herons, bald eagles, kingfishers, chinook salmon, orca, or bull trout.

> Plan your trip to Maury Island Marine Park using WTA's Hiking Guide

Pacific Rhododendron

Mount Zion

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Hood Canal
Length: 4.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

A few rhododendrons are blooming along either side of a dirt trail.
Rhododendrons in bloom along Mount Zion. Photo by tripreporter VentureBold.

As our state flower, the rhododendron is no rarity. It can be seen throughout neighborhood yards and arboretums all across western Washington. Despite its abundance, there's still something magical about bumping into a bright, blooming rhodie in the middle of a dense, foggy forest. And, there is perhaps no better place to find such a view than Mount Zion at the northeastern flank of Olympic National Forest.

> Plan your trip to Mount Zion using WTA's Hiking Guide

Ponderosa Pine

Whistler Canyon Trail

Location: Eastern Washington -- Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: up to 24.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: up to 3000 feet

A dirt trail looking down into a valley with rolling hills and mountains beyond it.
The views from Whistler Canyon get better with every uphill step! Photo by trip reporter roundabout1961.

Ponderosa pines dominate forests east of the Cascade crest and into the Okanogan Highlands. The long Whistler Canyon trail sets off not too far from the town of Oroville, and climbs high into the hills. Ponderosa dot the surrounding landscape — spaced just densely enough to admire and find shade when needed, but not too dense as to block the wide open valley views.

> Plan your trip to Whistler Canyon Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Red Alder

Margaret's Way and Debbie's View

Location: Issaquah Alps -- Squak Mountain
Length: 6.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

A dirt trail winds through a grove of dense alder trees.
Patches of Alder trees surrounding the trail. Photo by trip reporter Kongakut.

The bright bark of an alder tree provides a refreshing bit of contrast in our often dark western forests. The Issaquah Alps are a great place to find a few groves of alder, and Margaret's Way in particular sports this lovely patch pictured above. Enjoy the handiwork of WTA volunteers as you meander the trail through the cool forest and along deep ravines.

> Plan your trip to Margaret's Way and Debbie's View using WTA's Hiking Guide

Skunk Cabbage

Liberty Lake Loop Trail

Location: Eastern Washington -- Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene
Length: 8.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

A view from a high point on trail looking back down toward Liberty Lake nestled in the trees.
A view from up high on the Liberty Lake Loop trail. Photo by trip reporter roxanapeace. Close up of skunk cabbage on trail. Photo by trip reporter snbess.

Despite the name, skunk cabbage really is a lovely flower, and it's often one of the earlier spring blooms. Keep an eye out for its bright yellow flowers (and of course, its signature scent) along lowland wetlands and marshes. Our state's wet western flanks may come to mind when choosing a skunk cabbage hike, but it can also be found in many trails surrounding the Spokane Valley.

> Plan your trip to Liberty Lake Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Tweedy's Lewisia

Lower Mad River Valley

Location: Central Cascades -- Entiat Valley/Lake Chelan
Length: 14.9 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 2500 feet

A close up of a small patch of flowers.
Tweedy's up close. Photo by trip reporter Froof_D_Poof.

Tweedy's Lewisia is a staff favorite here at WTA, so it only seemed fitting to round out our list with this lovely little flower! Tweedy's is an early spring bloomer that is often spotted on the eastern slopes of the Cascade crest in April and May. The lower portions of the Mad River Valley melt out early in the year, making this a great spot for Tweedy's Lewisia sightings. Head in a few miles for a short day trip, or stay out longer and make an early season backpacking trip out of it!

> Plan your trip to Lower Mad River Valley using WTA's Hiking Guide