Three (Less Crowded) Hikes Around North Bend
Grab the gorpcore 🥾
August 3, 2022
Few places in the U.S. are more prized by the avid recreationist than the Pacific Northwest. The North Bend area has an abundance of excellent hiking trails within 15 minutes of Issaquah and an hour’s drive from the greater Seattle area.
Of course, there are the famous spots: Mount Si, Little Si, Mailbox Peak, and Rattlesnake Ledge. These well-known, busy trails have rightfully earned their reputations for spectacular views and challenging ascents, and are worth doing, but you’ll have to deal with crowded trails and parking nightmares. Try the options below to start.
The next trailhead up from the mega-popular Mt. Si trail is an 8.8-mile round-trip hike to Granite Lakes. Immersed in mountain rainforest—with the ever-present whooooosh of nearby white rapids playing as your soundtrack—this hike winds along the gorge of Russian Butte and Mailbox Peak. Take in the majestic views of wildflowers, waterfalls, and the mountains that make up the Middle Fork valley.
3.5 miles from your starting point, you will have reached 3070 feet of elevation, and the trail to Granite Lakes descends to your right. So, take your mind off how much sweat is pooling around your lower back, and focus on how great you look in a full-brim hat. I promise you will soon be able to cool off at the lake.
Parking: This hike begins on Washington Department of Natural Resources land, which means you will need a Washington State Discover Pass.
Located on the homeland of the Snoqualmie people, Otter Falls is a 10-mile hike through beautiful forest along the Taylor River. The trail is not too demanding as to be discouraging but has enough chutzpah to keep you honest. Much of the hike is mellow-grade; a leisurely romp through shaded forest.
As it tends to go in life, something worth having often comes with its challenges. This stands true for the final part of the Otter Falls journey. Just when you’re thinking, oh this ain’t so bad, a couple of hundred yards of steep incline will bring you back down to earth. An escalator would be nice, but then you would be missing the whole aspect of what causes the feeling of appreciation to be so… appreciative.
You’re met by a 1,200-foot waterfall that streams into tiny Lipsy Lake. You’ve earned your moment of respite. Bask in the warmth and soak in the views of the remarkable waterfall before continuing on your way.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike with more climbing to another gorgeous waterfall in the same area, check out Teneriffe Falls.
Parking: Northwest Forest Pass needed.
Coming in at 8.5 miles round trip is Mount Washington. A pleasant day hike… so I thought.
The trail ascends quickly from the trailhead before taking it easy on your legs. A trail that I assure you appears far less steep on a map. Switching-back through deep old growth forest, the trail continually opens up to views showing the distance of how far you’ve come in such a short period of time.
If you have poles, bring’ em. There’s just enough rocky terrain mixed in with regular trails to keep you on your toes. Breathable synthetics? Wear ‘em. Depending on the time of year, such as spring, parts of the trail can get wet from snowfall, and in clear stretches, you can find bear grass, Canadian dogwood, and other flowers in full bloom.
Truth be told, Mount Washington offers panoramic views that rival Mount Si’s. Do I dare say it? It may very well be better. On a clear day, you can see the peaks of Rainier, Mount Si, Teneriffe, and Mailbox. That’s even before taking into consideration the far less amount of foot traffic you experience. The view up here is breathtaking, and the other good news? It’s all downhill from here.
Stop Buggin’: Bugs occasionally make an appearance, especially at the top. Instead of miserably sitting in a plague of bugs as you stoically stand with hands on hips… bring the bug spray.
Parking: Discover Pass needed.
David is a multimedia writer covering stories on culture, sports, and goings-on around town. He resides between Seattle and Los Angeles, balancing writing for television and keeping his own sanity.