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Hiking near Seattle made easy with expert tips from local adventurer

NORTH BEND, Wash. -- We have access to some of the most beautiful mountain trails in the country but it can be intimidating if you don't know where to go or what to bring with on a hiking adventure.

We enlisted the help of Seattle based adventurer, author, and speaker, Chris Fagan, for her professional help with getting started. Below you'll find several lists provided by Fagan that covers everything from day hikes to what to pack and even her personal fastpacking list.

The adventurer's first book, "The Expedition: Two Parents Risk Life and Family in an Extraordinary Quest to the South Pole" will be released on September 3rd. The memoir documents Fagan's trip alongside her husband as they navigate not just the terrain but also the responsibility of parenthood and careers.

Upcoming Local Events:

  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2019, 11:30 AM - 1:45 PM. Book Talk at Snoqualmie Valley Women in Business (non-members welcome). Snoqualmie Valley Casino, 37500 SE North Bend Way, Snoqualmie, WA 98064. The cost is $32 for non-members, which includes lunch. Sign up at svwib.com
  •  FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2019, 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Book talk and signing at Compass Outdoor Adventures in North Bend, 201 W North Bend Way, North Bend, WA 98045.
  • THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2019, 6:30 - 8:00 PM. Book Talk and Signing at REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., Seattle, WA., 98109. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking.
  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019, 7:00 - 8:30 pm. Book Talk and Signing at The Balanced Spine in Issaquah,1151 SW Sammamish Rd., Issaquah, WA 98027. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking.
  • THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2019, 6:30 - 8:00 PM. Book Talk and signing at Pro Ski and Mountain Services, 112 W. 2nd St., North Bend, WA 98045. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking across the street. Beer, non-alcoholic drinks and light snacks provided.

Top 10 places to day hike within an hour of Seattle:

Head east of Seattle on I-90 and within 20 minutes you’ll hit the first of 10 awesome hikes within an hour of the city. Tucked in the forests of the Issy Alps (Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain, Tiger Mountain) and the Cascade Mountains, enjoy a day away from the city. Hikes are listed from closest to furthest from Seattle.

  1. Margaret’s Way: Distance: 6.5 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Easy | Location: Issaquah Alps, Squak Mountain | Parking Pass/Fee: None | Map and description

Located on the west side of Squak Mountain sandwiched between Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain, this relatively new out-and-back trail meanders through lush forest past trickling creeks with a total elevation gain of 1500 feet. On a clear day, follow the directions to Debbie’s View to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding foothills (adding .7 miles to the trip).

  1. Poo Poo Point: Distance: 7.2 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Moderate | Location: Issaquah Alps, Tiger Mountain | Parking Pass/Fee: None | Map and description

Located on the west side of Tiger Mountain, this hike passes through forest lush with ferns, past salmonberries and thimbleberries (in the summer), and eventually pops out at a large clearing that is used as a launching pad by paragliders. The Point offers views of Issaquah, Lake Sammamish and paragliders soaring off the steep face.

  1. Little Si: Distance: 4.7 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Easy/Moderate | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

This hike is perfect if you’d like to reach the top of a mountain with a moderate incline and a gain of 1300 feet and be rewarded with a view. Parking can be difficult on weekends so plan to arrive early.

  1. Mt Si: Distance: 8 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Hard | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

This popular trail winds steadily uphill through a canopy of lush forest, gaining 3,100 feet in 4 miles. The summit offers sweeping views of the Snoqualmie Valley, Mt. Rainier, Rattlesnake Ridge and the Cascade Mountains. For a shorter loop trail that starts at the same spot, consider Talus Loop (3.6 miles, roundtrip).

  1. Teneriffe Falls: Distance: 5.6 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Moderate | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

A relatively new trailhead accesses this gem of a hike that attracts far less people than neighboring Mt. Si and Little Si trails just down the road. After a gradual uphill, you’ll wind through rocky switchbacks to reach the waterfall. If you’re looking for a more challenging 13-mile route that provides sweeping 360-degree views, hike the Mt. Teneriffe trail starting from the same trailhead.

  1. Rattlesnake Ledge: Distance: 4.0 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Easy/Moderate | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

While this is a busy trail, it is suitable for kids and provides views of the Cedar River Watershed, Mount Si, Mount Washington, Rattlesnake Lake and Chester Morse Lake. After your hike, cool off at Rattlesnake Lake or take in a tour of the Cedar River Watershed.

  1. Twin Falls: Distance: 2.6 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Easy | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

With only 500 feet of gain, you can bring the whole family on this out-and-back trail. The trail begins by following the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River and ends with striking views of the lower and upper falls. If you’d like to extend your hike, continue another mile until you reach the John Wayne Trail/Iron Horse Trail. On the way down, stop and soak your feet in the river.

  1. Mailbox Peak: Distance: 9.4 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Hard | Location: North Bend | Parking Pass/Fee: Discovery Pass | Map and description

The old trail up Mailbox Peak has been replaced with a slightly less direct route with more switchbacks. This challenging trail is packed with plenty of inclines, and an airy finish tops out with panoramic views of Mt. Rainier, Granite and Bandera Mountain, and the lush green of the Middle Fork valley stretching before you.

  1. Franklin Falls: Distance: 2.0 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Easy | Location: Snoqualmie Pass | Parking Pass/Fee: Northwest Forest Pass | Map and description

This short hike gains 400 feel in a gentle climb that ends at a beautiful waterfall. Great for young children who can climb stairs and negotiate roots and rocks on the trail. Kids and adults alike play on the small beach beneath the falls. The nearby Denny Creek hike provides another family-friendly option with a natural water slide area and a trailhead just up the road from Franklin Falls.

  1. Ira Springs Falls to Mason Lake Distance: 6.5 miles, roundtrip | Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult | Location: Snoqualmie Pass | Parking Pass/Fee: Northwest Forest Pass | Map and description

Experience rocky ridges, open meadows and sparkling alpine lakes on the way to Mason Lake. Seasonal wildflowers and mountain vistas abound. Take in the view of the lake while perched on a sun-drenched rock. Lengthen the trip by heading up Little Bandera Mountain or Mt. Defiance.

As you prepare for your hike, consult these resources: Washington Trails Association, Mountaineers 10 Essentials, and Leave No Trace 7 Principles.

Top 10 Items to pack in your backpack for a day hike:

If you’re headed into the backcountry on a multi-day hiking trip, consider bringing the 10 essentials, a list of items originally crafted by The Mountaineers.  If this list feels a bit overwhelming to sort through for a day hike, here is my recommended list of 10+ items. Keep in mind, you need to know how to use all of these items (especially navigation tools) before heading out.

  1. Navigation: Green Trails map, basic compass, map of area pre-downloaded on Gaia GPS app on your smartphone.
  2. Headlamp: When dusk turns to dark and you’re unexpectedly on the trail, you’ll be glad to have a light source to find your way.  Don’t depend on the light on your phone. Carry a lightweight headlamp with spare batteries.
  3. Sun protection: If you’ll be on a sun-exposed trail, be sure to bring sunglasses, a hat and a small tube of sunscreen.
  4. First aid: You can buy a pre-made kit, or create your own. I carry these times in my day pack: a couple of band-aides, alcohol wipes, 1 roll vet wrap (Coban), gauze pads, 1 roll athletic tape, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), antacids (Tums), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), an epi-pen (if bee sting allergies are a concern).
  5. Knife and repair kit: Carry a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman, a small roll of duct tape and a few zip ties to repair items such as a broken pole or hole in a shoe.
  6. Fire: Bring a lighter in a waterproof bag and waterproof matches in case you’ll need to build a fire for warmth.
  7. Shelter: A large garbage bag or a lightweight emergency bivy will provide the shelter you need to stay warm if you become injured or need to stay outside overnight.
  8. Food: For an all-day hike, I usually bring a sandwich (I use wraps instead of bread), crackers, a piece of fruit, dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, energy bars and chocolate. Bring at least 500 calories more than you think you’ll eat.
  9. Water: I typically carry about 60 ounces of water for hikes up to 10 miles. If you plan to get water from sources on the trail, bring water purification tablets or a lightweight water filter system.
  10. Cloths: For summer, I bring a lightweight raincoat, warm hat, thin gloves and a lightweight buff. If it looks like rain or I’ll be up high in wind, I bring lightweight rain pants and lightweight down jacket.

Other items to consider:

  1. Toilet paper: Put a small amount of toilet paper into a baggie or consider using a compressed, biodegradable paper product.
  2. Parking Passes or Permits: Be sure to know what type of pass you’ll need for your hike, such as Discover Pass, National Forest Pass or National Park Pass.

If you gather together key items that are used for any day hike and keep them in a small bag, you’ll be one step closer to being ready to head out to the trails. You’ll have more time to focus on things that are hike dependent: relevant map, food, water and clothing.

Top 10 snacks to pack for a day hike

If I’m planning for an all-day hike, I pack a lunch plus items I can easily snack on while hiking. I typically carry at least 1,500 calories of food which includes extra food in case the hike takes longer than expected.

  1. Turkey and avocado wrap (or other ingredients like peanut butter and jelly inside a wrap to avoid having to deal with squished bread).
  2. Mini cheddar cheese filled crackers (like these)
  3. Piece of fruit (apples or oranges work well)
  4. Dried fruit (apricots, mangoes or raisins)
  5. Nuts or trial mix (nuts mixed with dried fruit and chocolate pieces)
  6. Energy bars (Clif bar, Kind bar, Honey Stinger Waffles)
  7. Chocolate bar (Theo bars) or chocolate covered almonds or raisins
  8. Pretzels filled with peanut butter
  9. Energy chews (Skratch Labs Fruit Chews, Honey Stinger Energy Chews)
  10. Electrolyte drink mix (Skratch Labs hydration mix)

Chris Fagan’s Fastpacking List  

Here’s a typical list of fastpacking gear for a 2 night/3 day fastpack trip. My pack typically weighs around 16-17 pounds as I set off down the trail (after dividing up group gear like tent and stove with 1-2 other teammates).

  • Backpack: A 20-30 liter pack that is lightweight and form-fitting (check out trail running fastpacks)
  • Clothing: Running shorts, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, tights, socks, hat, buff, lightweight gloves, windbreaker jacket, rain jacket, rain pants, lightweight down puffy, trail running shoes or boots
  • Shelter: A tent, tarp or bivy
  • Sleeping system: Lightweight down sleeping bag, inflatable pad, inflatable pillow (optional)
  • Navigation: GPS, compass, paper map, digital map app on iPhone (Gaia GPS)
  • Kitchen: Stove, fuel, cup, spoon, lighter, waterproof matches
  • Food: Dehydrated food, various snacks, cord (to hang food)
  • Water: water bottles, water filter
  • First aid kit, repair kit, knife
  • Sun protection: Baseball hat, sunscreen, lip protection, sunglasses
  • Hygiene: toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper or wet wipes, contact solution and contact holder, feminine hygiene products
  • Hiking poles
  • Headlamp

To facilitate going light, weigh each item on your gear list. I saved four ounces when I upgraded to a lighter down puffy. I saved a pound when I switched to a lightweight raincoat and rain pants. Lighter items also tend to take up less space in packs.

Connect with Chris Fagan on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and for more on the adventurer including tips and speaking engagements, visit her website www.chrisfagan.net

Ellen Tailor features community inspiring events and causes every weekday morning on Q13 NEWS and online 24/7. To share your event or idea, email tips@q13fox.com and go behind-the-scenes with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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