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Five Marvelous Hikes for Nature Viewing/Photography in Washington

1. Franklin Falls Trail. Located in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, near Snoqualmie Pass, in west central Washington, about 50 miles southeast of Seattle, this easy 2-mile (RT) follows the south fork of the Snoqualmie River for a mile, going through a thick evergreen forest and along a gorge before ending at the picturesque 70-foot Franklin Falls. (Actually the Falls have three tiers for a total drop of 135 feet, but only the last can be seen from the trail.) The Falls lead into a shallow river that can be walked across for even better pictures; just remember to bring water shoes. Best hiked March through October, with best water flows between April and July. Find the trailhead off of I90 (Exit 47), at Denny Creek FS Road #58. For an added taste of history, take the connecting Wagon Road Trail 1021, a 1-mile trail that follows the original Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road; remember to look for old wagon ruts! Other nearby trails in the National Forest include the Annette Lake Trail and Bridal View Falls Trail.

2. Hoh River Trail. Located in the Olympic National Park's Hoh Rain Forest, the most famous temperate rainforest in the U.S., on the very edge of western Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, just west of Seattle (though about 100 miles by car), this 34-mile (RT) trail that goes all the way to Glacier Meadows (including views of Blue Glacier), on the shoulder of Mount Olympus is a must-hike -- but you do not need to hike the whole trail to be dazzled by the beauty. In fact, many hikers just do the 10-mile (RT) hike to 5 Mile Island, which is relatively flat and enough to experience wooden bridges, moss-covered everything, and giant cedars. While there, consider also hiking the Hall of Mosses Trail (1-mile loop) and the Spruce Natural Trail (1.25 miles). The Hoh River (milky, slate blue in color from glacial wash) is a 50-mile long wild river that descends 7,000 feet from Mount Olympus to the Pacific Ocean. The Hoh Rain Forest receives up to 12 feet of precipitation annually.

3. Old Stagecoach Trail. Located in eastern Washington, in the Colville National Forest, about 100 miles northwest of Spokane, in the Kettle River Range, and which connects to the absolutely amazing Kettle Crest National Recreation Trail, follow history on the only remaining segment of the state's first highway, constructed in 1892 and abandoned in 1898, and enjoy the stunning views as you hike. From the trailhead, follow the easy upward climb until the intersection with the Kettle Crest, making two quick lefts onward to the much steeper ascent through an old burn up to Copper Butte, the sixth highest peak in eastern Washington, the location of an old (now completely burned) fire lookout and offering amazing views -- at an elevation of 7,140 feet. Find the trailhead about 18 miles east of Republic (a wonderful old mining town and county seat) off of SR 20 in Ferry County, taking Albion Hill Road for about 7 miles. If the climb to Copper Butte is a bit much, consider continuing on the Kettle Crest Trail, which runs 44 miles -- and which is part of the much bigger 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Trail can only be accessed in the summers and early fall. While in the area, take in some of the many other trails in the area -- including one I worked on for several years, the 25-mile Ferry County Rail-Trail, as well as some of the roadside history on SR20, the Sherman Pass Scenic Byway (a 40-mile route between Republic and Kettle Falls).

4. Preston-Snoqualmie Trail. Located near Fall City, in western Washington, about 24 miles east of Seattle, this 6.5-mile mostly paved trail follows an old Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway line that was carved from the hillsides from North Bend to Issaquah, crossing the foothills above the Raging River Valley. The trail actually begins in the industrial area of Preston (a historic mill town), but the best access is just east of Preston Park. The trail then continues to the east trailhead at Lake Alice (which includes a picnic area), continuing on to the Snoqualmie Falls Overlook, which unfortunately is quite overgrown and only offers decent views in the fall and winter. Unfortunately the trestles and bridges are gone, so hikers have to complete some steep maneuvers and switchbacks. For more rail-trail adventures, consider the nearby Snoqualmie Valley Trail, a 31-mile ballast and crushed rock trail that follows an extension of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad through the towns of Duvall, Carnation, Snoqualmie, and North Bend; trailheads include McCormick Park, Nick Loutsis Park, Three Forks dog Park, Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area. While in the area, consider hiking the Little Si Trail too, a 4-7-mile (RT) moderate hike offering great views of Mount Si and Mount Washington.

5. Wallace Falls Trail. Located on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, in north-central Washington, just north of Gold Bar, about 47 miles northeast of Seattle, in the 1,380-acre Wallace Falls State Park. The park actually includes three waterfalls: the Upper Wallace Falls, which drops 240 feet in five separate tiers (but cannot be seen in is entirety -- but can be hiked to after viewing the main attraction); Wallace Falls, which drops 367 feet in three different sections and is the only waterfall most visitors see; and Lower Wallace Falls, which drops 212 feet in five different tiers. This popular trail is a 4.6-mile (RT) hike, with a 1,300-foot elevation gain and rated as moderate -- and best used from April to November. The park also includes old-growth forests, fast-moving rivers and streams, and three back-country lakes, as well as remnants of an old railroad trestle. The name Wallace is the mutated name of the first homesteaders in the area, Joe and Sarah Kwayayish (members of the Skykomish tribe). Serious hikers should also consider traveling 50 miles north to Mount Pilchuck State Park and the strenuous 2.7 mile hike (that gains 2,300 feet) to the summit of the mountain and fire lookout, with spectacular views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker, and the North Cascades.


Bonus: Rail-Trails Highlights: Washington has 82 Rail-Trails totaling about 1,049 miles. Take a hike or bike ride on the 9-mile historical Iron Goat Trail, located between Scenic and Wellington, on Highway 2 near Stevens Pass, about 60 miles northeast of Seattle, in north-central Washington, along the railbed of the old Great Northern Railway, abandoned in 1929, when the railroad found a better way to cross the mountains -- and the location of one of the worst train disasters when on March 1, 1910, an avalanche on Windy Mountain came down on two trains stuck on the tracks, resulting in 96 dead; the story is told in riveting details in The White Cascade, by Gary Krist. See the old -- and now abandoned and collapsed -- snow tunnels, and read interpretative information about the history of the railway. There is even a red caboose along the trail! The trail, which is named for the railway line (the company's logo was a mountain goat), provides access to a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and the Stevens Pass Historic District. Trailheads include Scenic, Martin Creek, and Wellington.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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