Hiking is one of my favorite hobbies. I love spending time outdoors and I enjoy the challenge of hiking to the top of a mountain or out to a waterfall or alpine lake. I've lived in Seattle, Washington since 2013 and have been able to go on several challenging hikes. Currently I've only done day hikes, but perhaps someday I will start backpacking!

The Pacific Northwest has a huge variety of hikes, and a lot of them offer incredible views and a great workout. Below are a few of my favorites.

Panorama Ridge/Garibaldi Lake

Distance: 19 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 5,095 feet
Information: Vancouver Trails - Panorama Ridge
Blog post: Panorama Ridge & Garibaldi Lake

This hike is in BC, Canada, north of Vancouver and south of Whistler. The trail goes up switchbacks through a forest, across meadows, and up to the top of the ridge where there are views of the surrounding mountains and Garibaldi Lake below. I've seen a lot of incredible places, but I think this one is my favorite. I can't really describe what it was like to see something as blue as Garibaldi Lake. It didn't look real, but it was right there in front of me. I also had never seen anything quite like the Black Tusk before (second image). The snow capped mountains serving as the backdrop were gorgeous, and I truly felt like I was out in the middle of the Cascades and had entered another world.

Oneonta Gorge

Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: none
Information: Oregon Hikers & NW Hiker

Oneonta Gorge isn't a hike up a mountain, but it's something much more unique. The stream running through the gorge is the trail. Hikers have to climb over a large log jam and then wade and sometimes swim through the stream to get to the waterfall at the back. The walls of the gorge are covered in moss and ferns. This hike is one of my favorite things that I've ever done - the gorge is beautiful and unlike anything I've seen before, and navigating to the waterfall, including swimming through freezing water, is a fun adventure. I highly recommend Oneonta Gorge.

Mailbox Peak

Distance: 5.2 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 4,000 feet
Information: WTA Mailbox Peak
Blog post: Mailbox Peak & Mailbox Peak 2013

This is one of the toughest day hikes near the Seattle area and was one of the most physically challenging things I'd ever done at the time. The hike is straight up the side of the mountain and much of the trail is covered in tree roots or rocks. This was the first hike I did in Washington and at that point in my life, I couldn't carry a backpack even 1/4 of the way up. I've come a long way since then, and currently I try to do this hike every weekend for training. They've recently built a new trail that is longer but easier than the old trail, however the old trail is still accessible for those looking for a challenge.
Mailbox Peak is a great choice for a year round hike. In the winter, the trailhead is still accessible in any vehicle, and most of the time the snow at the top is manageable with poles and microspikes.

Bandera Mountain

Distance: 8 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 3,400 feet
Information: WTA Bandera Mountain
Blog post: Bandera Mountain & Mason Lake

Bandera Mountain is a moderately difficult but beautiful day hike. In the summer, the mountain is covered in bear grass and several different wildflowers. The colors of the flowers pop against the greenery and against the blue sky.

Granite Mountain

Distance: 8.6 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 3,800 feet
Information: WTA Granite Mountain
Blog post: Granite Mountain

Granite Mountain is challenging, has a variety of terrain, and has great views from the lookout at the top. During late summer, there are huckleberries available for picking after the tree line. If you go at the right time, the bear grass is abundant and the sunsets are spectacular. There is also an option to take a boulder route up to the lookout.