Memorial Day Hiking Opportunities
Best bets for hiking and camping during the Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us! That's the good news. The bad news is that the weather forecast isn't all that stellar. But if you're game to brave the elements, you are likely to be rewarded by some solitude, possible wildlife sightings, fresh air and maybe even some sun on Sunday.
What are your best bets for the weekend? We've chosen four areas where you will find some combination of snow-free hiking, flowers and views. We've also provided some information about campgrounds from the U.S. Forest Service.
It's supposed to rain in a rainforest. At least that is what I tell myself when I hike through the rain in the Olympics. But I must admit that there is something special about walking alongside fast-flowing rivers under towering sentinels and paying attention to the small stuff that is accentuated by the rain: dripping old man's beard, glistening moss, an unexpected shaft of sunlight glinting through the canopy. With fewer visitors braving the elements, you may also see more wildlife. Last year my co-worker saw five black bears in the Enchanted Valley the Friday before Memorial Day. And guess what? It was raining.
So where should you go? Choose a river valley to explore, either through our map-based Hike Finder or by using this search of WTA's Hiking Guide. Then come back and tell us about your journey on a Trip Report.
The Olympic Coast is another place where sun is always welcome, but rain can make things interesting too. Storms can make big surf. Rain intensifies the smell of the ocean. And foul weather makes that bowl of soup or cup of hot chocolate taste all the better, followed by a cozy retreat to the tent. As an added plus, the rainy forecast will make finding a campsite much easier.
Looking for inspiration? Check out our recent magazine article about Toleak Point. Or check out WTA's Hiking Guide for hikes on the Olympic Coast for everything from short strolls with the family to long and lonely beach traverses.
Columbia River Gorge
The weather is a bit more encouraging for the Columbia River Gorge this weekend, with a partly sunny (but breezy) Sunday forecast for Hood River. This flower-filled hikers paradise is well-known to folks from Portland and Vancouver, but mostly unknown to most other Washingtonians. With an extra day to the weekend, consider a visit.
Craig Romano of Mountaineers Books has recently come out with a new guidebook for the Gorge: Day Hiking the Columbia River Gorge. And with his help, we have spotlighted fourteen great hikes on either side of the state border in a new web-only feature story. From towering waterfalls along Eagle Creek to the soaring heights of Table Mountain and the vast flower fields of the Tom McCall Preserve, this place delivers!
The desert flower show is lagging behind by a couple weeks, so you're not too late to see some fantastic flowers. At the time of this writing, the forecast looks best for the area between Ephrata and the Tri-Cities, particularly on Sunday.
There's plenty of great places to explore in that region as well. Try a hike near the Tri-Cities in the Hanford Reach National Monument (White Bluffs, Wahluke Lake), or how about the Potholes Wildlife Area? Stay to the east to avoid the massive crowds who are expected at the Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge (over 20,000 music-goers). That will also have an impact on travel over Snoqualmie Pass. The Seattle Times on Thursday published expected travel jam times for both Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes, so plan accordingly.
If you're still thinking about camping this weekend, do some research beforehand to determine whether your desired campground is open yet or if you need reservations. Campgrounds usually fill up for Memorial Day, and even though the weather may deter some campers, our late spring has delayed many campground openings. Here are some specific reports for the Forest Service; you can also find campground links, as well as trail and road conditions, on WTA's Ranger Station Information page.
Whatever you do, have fun! Then come back and tell us about your hiking adventures on WTA's Trip Reports. Especially during a year with heavy snow in the mountains, these reports are invaluable to hikers.