Here are three hikes that you can do right now. All are easy, giving you a good warm up for harder hikes later in the season.
The hike to Ashland Lakes is a pretty stroll through the woods, with a couple of mountain lakes to enjoy at the end.
It's also less crowded than other nearby hikes along Mountain Loop Highway.
For the more adventurous, there are a number of tent sites with fire rings for an easy backpack trip.
The trail begins on an old road before narrowing to a standard trail. Much of this section is on boardwalks and some of is rocky. Shoes with good traction are a must, especially on rainy days.
The trail has a few forks but is well marked. Be sure to take the short side trip to Beaver Plant Lake. It's a tiny lake with a nice boardwalk along the edge of the surrounding wetlands.
Once you reach Upper Ashland Lake itself, the trail forks and loops all around the lake.
Head right for easier travel and lunch spots. Head left to first enjoy a narrow, brushier trail. Either way will get you all the way around. If you'd like to extend your trip, continue on to Lower Ashland Lakes on a rougher trail.
If you go: 5.5 miles round trip to upper lake, 800 feet of gain. To get there: Follow Mountain Loop Highway from Granite Falls.
About 4.5 miles beyond the Verlot Public Service Center, turn right on Forest Road 4020. The sign says Ashland Lakes, as well as other hikes. Continue to a junction with Forest Road 4021 and head right.
In about 1.5 miles, turn left on Forest Road spur 016. From here, the road is pretty rough but navigable in a standard passenger car if you drive slowly. A Discover Pass is required.
You could hike Heybrook Lookout and be home in time for lunch. Or pack a dinner and a headlamp and enjoy the sunset before heading home.
Heybrook is a former fire lookout off U.S. 2. The trail is just a mile up, although it's a respectable steepness.
It's a great family hike. It's not too long and kids will enjoy the big payoff of a tower to climb up and admire the views all around.
If you go: 2 miles round trip; 800 feet of gain. To get there: Drive east on U.S. 2. The trailhead is on the north side of the road, across from the big forest boundary sign, between mileposts 37 and 38. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Jessi Loerch / The Herald
Barclay Lake is an good hike for young kids. They'll love playing in the water.
This is an ideal hike for all ages, and it's popular for that reason.If you're looking for a quiet hike, try it on a rainy weekday.
On one trip, my daughter, 3, was the youngest on the trail while the oldest was a group of hikers who all looked to be in their late 70s. It's about 4 miles round trip and only gains 200 feet.
It's a great lake for kids to explore, and it's tucked in between the impressive Baring Mountain and Merchant Peak.
There are also some camping spots here for those desiring a very short, easy backpack trip.
If you go: 4 miles round trip, 200 feet of gain. Drive east on U.S. 2 past Baring. Near milepost 41, head left on 635th Place NE. Keep left on Forest Road 6034.
The trailhead is at the road's end 4 miles ahead. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Jessi Loerch: firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-339-3046, www.heraldnet.com/explorenw.
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