Hit the Trail: Our Bucket List of Where to Run

November 20, 2015

By Yitka Winn

Photo at right: Trail runner, George Orozco from Kent, Washington, runs the High Divide Loop in Olympic National Park. Photo by Yitka Winn


(Editor’s Note: We asked ultra-distance runner Yitka Winn to share her bucket list of favorite trails, races and activities around the Northwest. Seems many of these are OutdoorsNW staff favorites, too! What’s on your trail-running bucket list? Email us here)

1. Chase waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge

Nearly 100 major waterfalls pour into the 80-mile-long Columbia River Gorge that meanders along the border of Washington and Oregon, including Oregon’s tallest and most famous cascade, the 620-foot double-drop Multnomah Falls.

Runnable trails abound in this National Scenic Area. Explore them on your own, or sign up for the Rainshadow Running Gorge Waterfalls 50K/100K that occurs each March.

2. Do a day run in the Enchantments

Overnight permits in the Cascade’s Enchantments, commonly known as Washington’s crown jewel of hiking, have become increasingly difficult to obtain. Skip the permit lottery and, instead, “thru-run” the 18 miles from the Stuart Lake trailhead to the Snow Lake trailhead in a single day.

It’s a long, burly push, but worth it for the jaw-dropping alpine lakes, meadows, granite cliffs, and craggy peaks jutting into the sky.

3. Spot a bald eagle from the floating bridges on Seattle’s Arboretum Waterfront Trail

Just north of Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum is a set of boggy trails and floating bridges linking Foster Island to Marsh Island to East Montlake Park. It’s a relatively off-the-beaten-path run with stunning views of Union Bay and a perfect place to catch sightings of nesting bald eagles.

Enjoy a 4-mile run starting at the Japanese Garden on the south end of the Arboretum. Run north through the park, out to Foster Island, west along the boardwalks, and return the same way back to the Japanese Gardens.

4. Run hut to hut

Washington is host to North America’s largest no-fee, hut-to-hut trail system: the Mount Tahoma Trails Association (MTTA). The system links more than 50 miles of summer and winter trails, huts, and yurts, offering multiday running adventurers the option of using only a relatively light pack—decreasing the need to bring your own tent or sleeping pads. Reservations are required.

A group run sponsored by Uphill Running, a specialty run shop in Issaquah, Washington, heads up yet another hill! Photo by Trey Bailey

5. Join a specialty-shop group run

Running shops are plentiful in the Northwest. Many of them cater to trail runners and offer casual, social-pace group runs—a perfect way to meet other outdoor enthusiasts or learn your way around local trail systems.

6. “Run” up Mount Si for sunrise

Break out your headlamp and head out for a pre-dawn quad-buster of a “run” (or hike) to the top of North Bend’s Mount Si, ascending 3,000 feet in under four miles. At sunrise, you will likely have the summit to yourself, and on a clear morning, you can enjoy sweeping views of Mount Rainier and many of the surrounding peaks in the Cascades.

7. Go running in the islands

The San Juan Islands are perhaps best known for their fabulous biking opportunities—but they offer perfect trail-running terrain, too. Orcas Island alone has nearly 40 miles of single-track paths and trail races ranging in distance from a half-marathon to 100 miles all year-round.

This year, Fleet Feet Seattle offered a two-day “Hillbillies Trail Camp” on Camano Island, complete with trail runs, coaching, yoga for runners, and a culminating 5K at nearby Cama Beach.

8. Pace a fellow runner at an ultramarathon

Even if you’re not ready to make the leap to ultradistance running yourself, you can still get a taste for the unique scene of, say, a 100-mile race by offering to “pace”— accompany, that is—a runner for some stretch of his or her race. It’s a great way to support a friend (or stranger, even), and enjoy the beauty and camaraderie of a race without committing yourself to the whole enchilada.

9. Run around a volcano

There is something undeniably grand about running all the way around a mountain. Though they are not for the faint of heart, the Northwest is rife with picturesque routes for the circumambulatory runner. A few favorites: the Wonderland Trail circumnavigating Mount Rainier, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood and the Loowit Trail around Mount St. Helens.

10. Volunteer a day of trail work

One of the best—and most rewarding—ways to give back is to volunteer your time with a trails organization like the Washington Trails Association or Pacific Crest Trail Association. You don’t need prior experience to sign up for a “work party,” which can range from a day project to an entire week in the backcountry, helping build or maintain the very trails that make your passion possible!


Rainshadow Running Gorge Waterfalls 50K/100K: www.rainshadowrunning.com/gorge-waterfalls-100k.html
Mount Tahoma Trails Association: www.skimtta.com
Hillbillies Trail Camp: www.fleetfeetseattle.com/training/hillbillies-trail-camp
Washington Trails Association: www.wta.org/volunteer/trail-work-parties
Pacific Crest Trail Association: www.pcta.org/volunteer

Yitka Winn is a freelance writer and avid mountain runner. She is a former editor of OutdoorsNW and Trail Runner magazines. Follow her adventures at
www.yitkawinn.com or on Instagram @yitkawinn

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