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Exploring Washington Backroads

Backroads of Washington

       Exploring Washington Backroads

Exploring Washington backroads provides you with hidden gems you will never see from a freeway. Here, you will discover wildlife raising their families, migratory birds that linger in the valleys on their way home, and fish that delight the fisherman. There are so many roads that seem to go almost forever, but some people would say they go no where. To the adventurer, it is a painters canvas of wildflowers, meadows, old growth forests, and stately mountains. All this is dotted with brisk running rivers, lazy waterways that flow to the sea, and lakes that are bluer than blue. Washington backroads beckon to those who have eyes to see all that is natural.


Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

From the mountain meadows to the serene sea shores, the backroads of Washington provide an ample supply of wildflowers. The Scarlet Indian Paintbrush is only one of the spectacular native flowers that dot the meadows and forests.  This fantastic Scarlet Indian Paintbrush is a native-born son of the Evergreen State. The Scarlet Indian Paintbrush is a perennial that blooms from May to September throughout the mountain meadows, forests, and coastal cliffs.

Jeffrey’s Shootingstar

Another of the dazzling favorites of the high meadows and the tree line area of the mountains are Jeffrey’s Shooting Star, which range in color from a vibrant pink to a deep magenta. No discussion of wildflowers in Washington State can go five minutes without the mention of Jeffrey’s Shootingstar. They are some of the most amazing wildflowers you will ever spot.

There are hundreds of wildflowers throughout the Evergreen State. You will see every color and shape and some that you never imagined.  Washington’s unique and beautiful mountains offer those who desire to discover these treasures, a vast rainbow of colorful wildflowers. You will find them both East and West of the Cascades. They thrive in the shady old growth forest floors  to high desert meadows. For those who desire to investigate the native flowers, there are several complete guides for identifying these special gems of nature. There are many spectacular guides out there, but these are a few of the most popular.

Best Wildflower Hikes Washington by Art Kruckeberg and Karen Sykes
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast  by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon
Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson
Cascade-Olympic Natural History by Daniel Mathews

Great Bike And Wildflower Trails

Mountain Biking

The backroads of Washington are a nature lover’s paradise. Riddled throughout the state are many trails where you will discover the many natural resources of the Evergreen State. There are an abundance of trails for the casual hiker or the dedicated biker.  Some of the main Wildflower trails are listed below. Not only will you discover the wildflowers, but you will often come face to face with the wildlife of the area.

Hoh River Trail is a phenomenal old-growth rainforest. Many of the old-growth rainforests have disappeared, but the Hoh River Trail takes you deep into one of the most extraordinary and oldest forests remaining. You will discover shade loving flowers that flourish in the understory of the forest canopy.  Be Sure to  seek out the Vanilla-leaf, the False Lily-Of-The-Valley, and the Trillium. Many of the gardens throughout the Pacific Northwest  feature both the Lily-Of-The-Valley and the Trillium. Can you tell the difference between the two Lily-Of-The-Valleys? The Hoh River Trail is in bloom most of the time from May until August.

Have you ever thought about one of the Cady Ridge hikes? Here you will experience alpine meadows and a spectacular wilderness adventure. While many flowers can be found along this amazing ridge, it is the lupines that stand out. They turn the ridge into a purple mountain. Not only are the flowers amazing, but the views are magnificent. Be sure to stop at Poet Peak for amazing wildflowers, fantastic cloud formations, and one of a kind glacier views. The views from Glacier Park look out over the glacier and are breathtaking. If you are looking for a one of a kind wilderness adventure amidst wildflowers and glaciers, then Cady Ridge is the place to be.

Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge is a 7 1/2 mile loop through meadows of  balsam root, beautiful red paintbrush and many others. This is an easy hike through the beautiful meadows and is perfect for all skill levels. What a splendid place to spend time with the family. Grab the family and a picnic lunch and enjoy the day at Dog Mountain.

Another trail of unmatched adventure is the Cascade Trail. Bikers love this 22 1/2 mile Cascade Trail. This is an amazing ride with 12 benches, 23 trestles, and two bridges. What makes the bridges unusual is that they are made of repurposed railcars. The trail follows along the Skagit River and parallels State Route 20 into the foothills. This is a trail of crushed rock, meadows, woodlands, and dry river beds.  The Skagit provides some awesome fishing and fantastic river sites. You can even see Sank Mountain and many other peaks in the Cascade Range. The trail is a loop and there are restrooms at the trailhead. When you arrive back at Baker Park, catch a well deserved rest and enjoy a picnic lunch with the family.

For those who prefer the backroads nearer to an urban area, then the 36 mile ride through the Methow Valley on Twisp River Road is delightful. Not far from Seattle this is the perfect ride on a summer day.  The spring and summer offer fantastic beauty as the mountain wildflowers are in bloom. It is a 36 mile ride with several perfect picnic spots along the way. As you ride through the valley, the climb is gentle and the return is mostly downhill.

Camping In The Northern Cascades

Washington has many beautiful mountains with numerous camping opportunities for the adventurer. Spire Mountain is a beautiful but rugged mountain. It is 6213 feet at the summit. The summit is about three miles southeast of the town of Galena. This unique summit is made up of many different spires.  There are many vistas in which to view this amazing mountain. It is unique among mountains.

spire mountain

Spire Mountain

This is an amazing mountain and the seven Ranger Districts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has many spectacular things to do. There are bicycle paths, hiking paths, swimming areas, climbing, fishing, camping and even cabins to rent. There are many water activities and winter time adventures. You can take a scenic afternoon drive, or sit back and watch the birds and other wildlife. For those who desire, there are some campgrounds that permit off highway vehicle use. There are also special places set aside for the horses and their human companions. If you desire to camp, there is a campground that will fit your needs. With over 150 campgrounds in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, there is no way to highlight them all. Here are just a few of the ones that have intrigued us through the years.

The first Ranger District that stands out to adventurers is the Chelan Ranger District. This district has 20 very different camping experiences waiting to be discovered.

Corral Creek Campground is one of the small rural campgrounds. There are only two ways to get there, you can take the backroads or arrive by boat. This is a very rustic site with 4 tent sites and room for 6 boats to dock. There is a vault toilet for your use. There are no available services beyond the vault toilet.

From Chelan, Washington, go south on Highway 97A for approximately 3 miles. At  South shore Road turn right. Travel  approximately 17 miles until you reach Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park. There is a permit required for using the boat launch May through October of $5.00 per day or you may purchase a season pass for $40.00. If you are camping, you will find the campground is approximately 9 miles up lake from where the boat launches are located. The campground is located on the south shore of the lake. Season pass permits or day use permits can be purchased from  the Chelan Ranger District, or Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Headquarters Offices. The office is open Monday – Friday  from 7:45 am – 4:30 pm. They can also be purchased from many local vendors or by calling  509-682-4900 and using a credit card. The season pass is good from May through October. Corral Creek Campground is just another one of the jewels found on Washington backroads.

Another smaller campground in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is found in the Cle Elum Ranger District. Mineral Springs Campground is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are 7 sites for either trailers or tents. There is a vault toilet for the use of campers. No other services are provided. Mineral Springs Campground provides a jumping off spot for several hiking trails in the Central part of Washington. If you are looking for a peaceful and quiet place to camp and hike, Mineral Springs Campground is one of the best.

Mineral Springs Campground is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Overnight camping is $18.00 with a $6.00 fee charged for a second 2nd vehicle that was not towed behind the main recreation vehicle. Campsites are first come, first served. There is one group site, suitable for 50 people, that can be reserved by calling 1-877-444-6777. The group site is 80.00 per night.

Early Winters Campground is situated along Early Winters Creek. It is located near where the Early Winters Creek flows into the Methow River.  There are 12 sites available for trailers up to 24 feet. There is one site that can handle a slightly larger rig up to 34 feet. Early Winters Campground is open April through October. The cost per site is $8.00 with $5.00 for each vehicle that was not towed behind the main recreation vehicle. No more than one extra vehicle per site. The only services provided is a vault toilet and each site has its own picnic table. Trash receptacles are provided. Drinking water is provided during the summers when use is extremely heavy. Sites are rented first come, first served. It is near the town of Mazama and is best known for its outstanding views of Goat Wall. There are two major trails nearby. Both are within 4 miles of the campground. Both Cedar Creek Trail # 476 and Driveway Butte Trail # 481 are well used trails. Absolutely no fishing is allowed in Early Winters Creek. There is a maximum stay of 14 days allowed in the campground.

Early Winters Campground is located on North Cascades National Scenic Highway 20. Drive west from Winthrop on Highway 20 for 15 miles to Early Winters Campground. You will find that there are campsites on both sides of the Highway.

Kangaroo Ridge

Rugged Glory of Kangaroo Ridge

Kangaroo Ridge is a beautiful ridge in the Northern Cascade Range. This spectacular and unique Ridge is a three mile strip of mountain cliffs going North and South just Southwest of the Silver Star Group. Kangaroo Ridge is one of several summits. There are several lesser known climbing trails that have their trailhead on this ridge. These summits ,because they are not as well-known, are visited rarely.

Kangaroo Ridge is best known for its many summits, each with a very colorful name. Some of the unofficial names for these unique peaks are from North to South:  Joey, Mushroom Tower, Big Kangaroo,  Melted Tower, Half Moon, Choi Oi ( also called Hai Towers), Wallaby, Little Finger, Kangaroo Temple, The Platypus, The Tomahawk and The Fin. These are the many summits of Kangaroo Ridge per the Kangaroo Ridge information page of the  Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.

The most famous of the passes is Kangaroo Temple. Kangaroo Temple towers above the South side of the ridge, at the top of Cedar Creek. This famous summit is over 300 feet taller than the others and  rises on the North side of the ridge and 2,000 feet above the valley below.

The original name of Kangaroo Temple was The Temple. Because it was often getting confused Temple Mountain near Leavenworth, Kangaroo was added to its name. Some seem to think that there was a kangaroo cult up there, but there was not at any time any cult group worshiping kangaroos on the ridge or elsewhere.

Washington, with all its many backroads, volcanoes, and unique mountain top ridges, stands out as one of the most renowned playgrounds in the Northern Cascades. Take time to explore these and many other campgrounds in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is just a small part of the adventure that is waiting for you…….. just off the beaten track. Grab the family, and pack your bags, it is time to explore Washington backroads.

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