Wander Washington: 10- day Road Trip

Trip Date: June 22- July 1, 2019


Summertime in the mountains mean longer days, alpine lakes, mosquitoes bites and no road trip is complete without a little misadventure. Road trips are my absolute favorite thing to do in the summer, however, with limited vacation time this year- I hopped on a plane for the first time in over 10 years just to start the adventure a little sooner. The flight from Los Angeles, California to Portland, Oregon was a short 2-hour flight and it amazed me how quickly flights over road tripping actually were; we saved ourselves 4 travel days!

Our journey begins in Portland, Oregon because we booked our flights a little late (one day before departure) and our best option was to fly into Oregon and road trip up to Washington. We rented an SUV just like the SUV that I own, a Dodge Journey; knowing that we fit comfortably and a little more. While we had a tentative itinerary,  most plans never go accordingly, but that’s okay our 10-day Wander Washington trip was still one for the books.

Saturday // Day 1: Los Angeles, California -> Portland, Oregon -> Carson, Washington

Our flight landed in Portland, OR around 2 PM and we shuttled our way to pick up our car rental. Our first stop in Portland…pick up boba. Tiffany had arranged plans for us to meet up with a few friends from Instagram and they joined us on our first waterfall hike of the trip in Washington later that afternoon.

Panther Creek Falls is a very short hike, (.16 miles RT to be exact)  well worth the stop if you ever find yourself wandering Carson, WA. Panther Creek Falls is apart of the Columbia River Gorge, so every part of this area is simply breathtaking. There were a few other photographers there that day and we spent some time taking a few photos and chatting it up with new friends before hiking out and making way to our next stop.

Having landed a little late and staying a lot longer at the falls than we anticipated, we ended up at the market to pick up a few food items for our trip and then to research where to camp that night. We ended up just about an hour north of Vancouver after shopping and decided it was best to stay at a rest stop that night, where we would have enough service to plan out and research the next couple of days. Little did we know that night, that rest stops would be where we ended up sleeping ~80% of our trip.

Sunday // Day 2: Ridgefield, Washington -> High Rock Lookout -> Mt. Rainier National Park -> Wenatchee Ranger Station

We woke up to sunny skies at a rest stop after sleeping pretty well the first night in our rental. Our first official full day of our Wander Washington trip took us hiking to our first (and only) fire lookout.

High Rock Lookout is a 3.2 mi RT hike from the South Cascades area in Washington. On a clear day, amazing views of Mt. Rainier can be seen from the Northeast and right below is Cora Lake. The hike to the lookout tower itself is a difficult one, gaining ~1,365 ft. in 1.6 miles. Although the weather was not what we were hoping for, it definitely made for an easier hike up.

When we reached the lookout tower, to no surprise- we had 360 degree views of fog. The lookout tower itself was pretty neat, we stayed a while, signed the register, snapped some photos before heading back down.

We had planned to stay at the lookout tower for some time soaking in the views, but since we didn’t have the best of luck, we cut this trail a little short and decided it was best to move on to our next destination.

So, we ended up in Mt. Rainier National Park. This was not apart of our original itinerary, but we found ourselves in the area with a little free time to wander. We did one quick off- the-road waterfall hike before going to the visitor center to get trail recommendations for the remainder of the day. We knew where we wanted to be the next morning, so we somewhat planned around that. We ended up loosing a lot of time trying to figure out what to do next, and with rainy skies and not the best views- we left the park a little sad that we were not able to wander Rainier like we had hoped for, nor even get a glimpse.

Monday // Day 3: Wenatchee Ranger Station -> Alpine Lakes Wilderness -> Colchuck Lake

On Monday morning we decided it would be easier to obtain a wilderness permit at the beginning of the week, knowing how popular the trail we hoped to backpack would be. With a new lottery system, only 1 permit is awarded (per zone) each day. We hoped to score a Core permit for the Enchantments, allowing us to be a little more flexible with our hiking plans.

The lottery starts at 7:45 AM at the Wenatchee Ranger Station. We set our alarms the night before to ensure that we would not be late. To our surprise, we arrived to the ranger station probably 10 minuets early and we were literally the only people there! I was excited, extremely excited for we didn’t have to test our luck winning a permit. Tiffany, on the other hand- was a little confused. Something wasn’t adding up. Were we at the right ranger station? Where is everyone? Are conditions so bad that no one is even attempting to hike?

“Congratulations! You can have ANY wilderness permit that you want!” is how we were greeted some 5 minuets later. Her enthusiasm made for a very enjoyable morning. Did we really just score the permits we prayed for?! Here’s the catch…snow conditions. We wished to climb Aasgard Pass and then back down for a 2-night backcountry experience in the Enchantments. With our lack of knowledge using the proper snow gear, we still opted to spend at least one night at Colchuck Lake where snow gear was not required.

Having been our 3rd day in Washington, we learned that the summer sunset doesn’t set until almost 9 PM, if not later! Because we had plans to only hike to Colchuck Lake, we were in no rush to get there or to get started. The hike to Colchuck Lake from Stuart Lake trail head is 10.1 miles RT gaining ~2,454 ft of elevation. The weather, luckily, was on our side this day and we were very excited to see the pretty colors of the lake. The hike was not too difficult, at least not from what I can remember. We did see a bear on the trail, right after the ranger explained to us that we did not need a bear canister! That was kind of exciting, but I had hoped that it wouldn’t freak Tiffany out too much to not want to backpack. Luckily, she was just as excited if not a little nervous (as was I) to witness this bear running on our trail!

I’m not quite sure how long or what time we arrived to Colchuck Lake, but it did take us some time to get there and when we arrived, we knew. The color of the lake was simply breathtaking. Had it not taken us forever to find a campsite, I probably would have jumped in! When we found camp, set-up, enjoyed some cheese, wine and crackers next to the lake as the sun started to set.

Tuesday // Day 4: Colchuck Lake -> Everette, WA. -> Burlington, WA.

After our first backpacking trip of our Wander Washington journey, we woke up on a Tuesday and the only thing on my mind……TACOS! The hike out is always faster than the hike in, and we were eager to get some tacos! We had other plans to stay within the wilderness area to attempt a sunset hike at a nearby lake, but decided to come back around to that lake when we turn around and head south. So glad that everything worked out. We found ourselves at a little Taco place just outside of Everette, with the best tacos! Satisfied with full tummy’s, we took our time before hitting the road to our next…rest stop for the night.

Wednesday // Day 5: Burlington, WA. -> North Cascades National Park -> Diablo Lake 

Today, we scheduled a lazy morning due to the fact that Tiffany had to do some work and needed to be in cell service. We slept in and took our time deciding our next plans. We ended up spending a few hours at a Rite Aid parking lot while Tiffany caught up on work and I caught up with stories. When all that was taken care of, we hit the road to (my favorite) North Cascades National Park! This would be the first day of “not the greatest weather” as we made our way up to Diablo Lake.

The drive through the North Cascades brought back so many memories from when I was there 2 years ago and I was happy to finally be back. Of course, rainy weather and low clouds made for the familiar feeling, but also the surroundings! I was very excited to finally get in a decent hike in the North Cascades.

Diablo Lake Trail is a short, popular trail in the North Cascades and is 7.6 mi RT with 1,400 ft. of elevation gain. In my opinion, quite similar to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. The trail eventually reaches a suspension bridge that continues on and leads down to Diablo Lake, unfortunately, when we reached that junction, we ran into really bad weather and decided to turn around.

Thursday // Day 6: Concrete, WA. -> North Cascades -> Maple Falls, WA.

Lazy morning while we wait out the rain and plan out our next move. We ended up camping just 30 minutes away from our next hike, so we got a little later start than we hoped for, which was perfect because the sun appeared just as we arrived to our trail head.

Lake Ann & Maple Pass Loop Trail is 7.2 mi RT with an elevation gain of ~2,000 ft. Our hike started off pretty dry and the sun was starting to make an appearance. The hike was not too bad from what I remember and we caught some pretty views here and there. Just passed the junction to Lake Ann, is where we ran into cooler weather. We noticed the clouds rolling in and fast. We picked up our pace in hopes to reach good views of Lake Ann from up above just as it started to rain.

Once I found decent view of the lake, and seeing how fast the clouds were coming in, I decided there was no reason to trek on any further. I stopped to take in the view and while it was not the “view” that we were hoping for, Tiffany decided to continue on a little further to see what she if it was worth continuing on. Well, it started to pour. Then, hail. And at that point, I was over trying to find “the view” I just wanted to find shelter and get out of the rain. We met back up and to no luck, didn’t get the view that we were hoping for, but it was still a pretty hike in the North Cascades nonetheless.

On our way back to this little town of Maple Falls, WA. we noticed the cutest little Cascadia Farms store and we just had to stop by to see what it was all about. Well, I am so glad that we did because we ended up getting ice cream and it was delicious! I got Raspberry Chocolate Chip and Tiffany got Blueberry!

On our drive to camp that evening, we witnessed our first and one of the best rainbows in Washington! You know we had to stop for a photo or three. Ice cream and rainbows?! I’d say it was pretty much a great ending to a long day of “bad weather”.

Friday // Day 7: Marblemount, WA. -> Skyline Divide Trail -> Mt. Baker, WA.

Our morning started with a very bumpy 2-hour drive up a dirt road to our next trail, Skyline Divide. This was not the first bumpy dirt road we drove on to reach our trail, but I do believe it was the longest. The higher we drove the further into the clouds we got.

Skyline Divide Trail is 7.7 miles RT with an elevation gain of 2,381 ft. This is a tough hike, but on a clear day totally worth it for the views. Of course, we started and ended our hike in the clouds and bailed once we reached the ridge. This was the only hike we did in Washington where we ran into snow on trail.

Knowing the long bumpy drive we had back down and trying to maximize our time on our last days, we ran down the trail and back to the car. We discovered this little gas station market in Maple Falls, that provided us with free Wi-Fi and caught ourselves hanging out in their parking lot, usually for an hour or two each day. Catching up on the gram, checking in on emails, coming up with a Plan B (for just in case), and we usually drove off with solid plans and fingers crossed for decent weather.

We ended up in Mt. Baker a few hours before sunset and decided to hang out until then. It worked out perfectly because we were in the same area that we had camped the night before and were comfortable with. Unfortunately, it rained and it hailed and we were very hopeful for a pretty sunset. So hopeful that we waited in the car for 2 hours for the rain and clouds to pass. Well the rain eventually stopped, the clouds didn’t really pass and we never got the sunset that we hoped and waited so long for. We did make our way out of the car and down to a little lake for some photos and even then, that moment made the 2-hour wait worth it.

Saturday // Day 8: Maple Falls, WA. -> Big Sky Wilderness -> Everett, WA.

This morning we woke up in the same camp spot we slept in the night before. It was nice to finally wake up to some place sort of familiar and not just some random rest stop. It was also the first two nights we actually car camped out in the wilderness. We found ourselves back at the gas station market once more before our drive to Blanca Lake trail head.

Blanca Lake Trail is a 13 mile RT hike with an elevation gain of 3,904 ft and is pretty difficult, but if you’ve done this hike..know it’s totally worth it. You could only be so prepared for a hike, mentally and physically. This hike kicked my butt! Not sure if it was mentally adding the additional 2 miles we had to hike because the road has washed out or physically climbing the switchbacks up only to have to climb back down to the lake. But not to worry, once you get a glimpse of Blanca Lake you know it was well worth the effort it took you to get there.

Without question in my mind, I knew I was going for a swim no matter how cold that water would be. It’s all about the experience and I was going to experience it all!

Sunday // Day 9: Everett, WA. -> Olympic National Park -> Port Angeles, WA.

On our last two nights we found ourselves with limited free camping options in or around the city. We arrived late to a rest stop that allowed only 1-hour maximum to rest. So we later arrived at a Ride & Share 24-hour parking lot and decided to stay there for the night.

We woke up early and made our way to the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry. Neither of us had ever been on a ferry, so it was a neat experience for the both of us. The actual ferry ride was not that long, I would say maybe less than 15 minutes and then we were eń route to Olympic National Park for a few final hikes before making our way back to Portland the following day.

Tiffany arranged plans to meet up with Josh for a quick waterfall hike to Sol Duc Falls. Unfortunately, I sliced my foot at Blanca Lake the previous day, so I decided to sit that hike out and prepare myself for a tougher hike we planned for sunset.

Mount Storm King trail is 3.6 miles RT with an elevation gain of 2,080 ft. and is said to have some of the best sunset views. We decided to save this hike for our very last hike of our trip in hopes to score some amazing views.

Prepared for a sunset hike with enough water to last us a few hours at the top and headlamps to assist us on the way down, we were not prepared for the not 1, but 6 sets of ropes required to climb to the summit of Mount Storm King. Surrounded by loose rock and sheer drops on both sides, this last part of the trail, which is not maintained is very intimidating to say the least. Being afraid of heights, Tiffany did not feel comfortable enough to continue on. A couple that came up behind us questioned our discomfort and went on ahead to see just how intimidating it actually was. She got up, but was too nervous to come back down. I ran up to assist her in anyway I could and we both made it down safely. None of us made it to the summit that evening, but we did catch some pretty sunset colors on our hike back down.

Monday // Day 10: Port Angeles, WA. -> Portland, OR. -> Los Angeles, CA.

We found ourselves waking up at another Ride & Share parking lot on our last day of our trip. My phone completely broken and ruined from playing in the rain.We were about four hours away from the Portland Airport and our flight scheduled to leave by 8 PM, yet our rental was due at 2:30 PM. So we made no plans that day, but to just make it on time and pick up donuts and boba before hitting the airport. So we did just that and I am glad that we did, the mini donuts we got were so good and well, milk tea is always refreshing after any trip. 😉

Shop my favorite gear:

Marmot PreCip Eco Rain Jacket

Arc’teryx Delta LT Fleece Jacket

Gregory Nano 18 Daypack

Osprey Aura AG 50L Backpack

Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

Epic Wipes


Posted by

Vanessa is an outdoors enthusiast, hiker at heart, and the storyteller behind Forever She Wanders; a women's lifestyle + travel blog inspiring all to get outdoors, seek adventure and live an active lifestyle. As an outdoors enthusiast, Vanessa has found passion in being outdoors while backpacking, camping, hiking and creating memories of a lifetime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s