5 Hikes to Celebrate Summer Solstice

tipsoo lake rainier
Tipsoo Lake is only open during the warm summer months.

 

By Douglas Scott

Capitol City Honda sponsorThe longest day of the year is quickly approaching, giving the cities, waterways, mountains and trails a few extra minutes of light and warmth. On June 21, the Pacific Northwest will have nearly 16 hours of daylight, making it a perfect day to get out an explore the beauty of our region. With the sun rising at 5:12 a.m. and setting at 9:11 p.m., kicking off the first day of summer on these amazing trails will get you excited for hiking season.

The 2015 summer solstice falls on a Sunday, and Father’s Day, making it the perfect excuse to load up the car with your family and friends for a nature adventure. While it appears that the weather will be great for Solstice Weekend, the destinations below are fantastic in good and bad weather. From high alpine lakes on the shoulder of a volcano, to trails along the shores of Puget Sound and through the forests along the Skokomish River, these trails are sure to start your summer off right. Make sure when you do head out to be safe, take the right gear, and make the day enjoyable for everyone. Hiking is about being in the moment, and connecting with nature, so any pace, any distance, and any destination is worth the effort.

tipsoo lake rainier
Tipsoo Lake is only open during the warm summer months.

Tipsoo Lake and Naches Peak

Distance: 3.5 Miles

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Best Time of Day: Early morning or sunset

Considered to be one of the most popular hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, the trek around Tipsoo Lake and Naches Peak gives stunning views of Mount Rainier, as well as a fun hike around a picturesque, high-alpine lake. Sitting at 5,300 feet above sea level, the short day hike trail can be a wildflower paradise, and a jaw-dropping destination for lovers of sunrises and sunsets. Just a short one hour and 45 minutes drive from Tacoma, Tipsoo Lake is only open during the warmer months, so see this now before it is once again closed. For an added bonus to this hike, head down to the Ohanapecosh River and take in the majesty of the Grove of the Patriarchs, as well as the fun of walking across a small suspension bridge.

 

Sunrise and Dege Peak at Mount Rainier

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Best Time of Day: Any

Dege Peak from Sunrise is yet another amazing short hike for families of all abilities. Gaining just 600 feet over four miles round trip, this well-traveled trail leads up to the summit of the 7,006 foot Dege Peak, giving unrivaled views of the entire Cascade Range. Along the trail, gaze upon river valleys, glaciers, mountain summits and the occasional mountain goat. Wildflowers are slowly starting to bloom, and all the snow has melted along the route, making this a fantastic way to spend the longest, and hopefully prettiest, day of the year. For those looking for an amazing adventure, be here for sunrise or sunset. If this hike is too short, consider returning to Sunrise and hiking toward the mountain along the 2.5 mile long Sourdough Ridge Trail. With just 400 feet of elevation gain, incredible views of the mountain and wildlife await those who trek along the ridge line trail. Sunrise is 2 hours 45 minutes from Olympia.

 

tolmie state park
Tolmie State Park is a great place to visit year-round.

Tolmie State Park

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Best Time of Day: Any

Tolmie State Park might be one of the South Puget Sound’s best-kept secrets. Offering three miles of trails, 1/3 of a mile of shoreline, 31 picnic tables and stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound, Tolmie needs to be experienced often. The trails here are easy, straight-forward and make for a great short trek through the woods. On the shore, watch for eagles, blue herons and the transient orca pods that have been frequenting the area. It isn’t uncommon to see them swim by, nor is it uncommon to see seals and other marine wildlife. Tolmie State Park also has an artificial reef, making this a must-experience location for divers. If you are craving more hiking and more wildlife, head a few miles up the Puget Sound to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge to see even more birds, views of the Olympic Mountains, and a stunning panorama from the end of the boardwalk. Tolmie State Park is just 12 miles northeast of Olympia.

 

staircase hike
The Staircase Loop hike is suitable for all skill levels.

Staircase in Olympic National Park

Distance: Variable

Elevation Gain: Variable

Best Time of Day: Any

Olympic National Park’s Staircase Region is quickly becoming a must-see for visitors to Olympic National Park, and for good reason. Just 1.5 hours drive from Olympia, the wilderness of Olympic National Park awaits, offering views of mountains, rivers, lakes, and amazingly dense and free forests. While the entirety of Olympic National Park can be reached from the trails at Staircase, the area has two main trails that are perfect for family day hikes. Those looking for an easy hike along the Skokomish River and through a small forest will enjoy the Shady Lane Trail, which heads downstream on the opposite side of the campground. At just 1.5 miles, this trail is simple, fun and might even have some elk sightings along the way. The other easy hike at Staircase is the Staircase Loop Trail. For 2.2 miles, hike along the Skokomish River, through impressive forests and across the river on an awesome bridge. Fantastic river views and even some wading opportunities present themselves for those looking to cool off. Those looking for more serious hikes should check out exotichikes.com.

 

ellis cove olympia
Ellis Cove is located in Olympia and perfect for those looking for a forest and beach experience right in town.

Ellis Cove Trail at Priest Point Park

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 75 feet

Best Time of Day: Any

Ellis Cove Trail is considered by many to be the best trail in Olympia and perfect for those looking for a forest and beach experience right in town. Located in Priest Point Park, the trail is best approached from the parking lot north of the main park entrance along NE Flora Vista Road. Weaving through impressive forests, the sounds of the city fade away replaced with bird calls and the rustling of wind through the trees. Eventually, the trail leads to access areas for the the one mile of salt water shoreline that the park offers. Along the beach, watch for eagles, blue herons, orcas and seals, as each has been seen in the past month from the shoreline. When not looking for wildlife, enjoy the views of Olympia, the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound. Fly a kite, comb the beach for rocks and shells, enjoy a picnic lunch on driftwood or any of the picnic tables scattered around the park.

All photos courtesy Douglas Scott.

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