One of our favorite activities to do when the weather gets nice is to hike!

For the last three years, Jed and I have enjoyed tagging along with a local family on their yearly tradition of hiking the trails of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Eastern Oregon.

Each year we venture to a new trail head and plan on being out of cell service for three days. The group encompasses nineteen individual hikers weighed down by backpacks stuffed full of all the essential necessities (and maybe a few additional treats) to complete the three day trip.

The trip is filled with a ton of astounding views of trees, water, meadows, and mountains. The thing I enjoy most about backpacking is that it is so outside my normal day-to-day routine that it acts like a reset button. To be outside of civilization and experience the magnificent scale of the great outdoors is extremely refreshing! I always come back home happier than when I left.

I would encourage anyone who has an interest in the outdoors to try out hiking. I thought it would be a great opportunity to share a few of the best local hikes that are so magnificently beautiful and unique to this area. I hope you get the chance to hike these places!

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Joseph, Oregon

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest includes 2.3 million acres of varied landscape extending from the Blue Mountains and rugged Wallowa Mountains down to the canyon country of the Snake River on the Idaho border. The forest ranges in elevation from 875 feet in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area to 9,845 feet in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

The U.S. Forest Service Wallowa-Whitman Recreation Department developed a interactive map which provides the most up to date information to the public on trail maintenance, notices, and area closures.

Mount Roothaan/ Chimney Rock, Priest Lake, Idaho

Priest Lake

Growing up, my family would spend almost every weekend in the summer at Priest Lake. I truly think it is one of the hidden gems in the state of Idaho. Chimney Rock is a well known hike which takes you to 7,300 feet in elevation and you’re rewarded with an incredible panoramic view of the lake.

This hike requires a moderate effort and about three to four hours of your time. The Mount Roothaan/ Chimney Rock Trail is a popular route that leads into the backcountry of Priest Lake with spectacular vistas along the way. You can drive your vehicle to the trail-head parking area atop Horton Ridge at an elevation of 5,100 feet.

From the trail-head, the 2 mile trail leads along Horton Ridge up to a saddle near the crest of Mount Roothaan. The last half mile of trail is “mountain goat country” meaning very steep and rocky. The trail continues on to the base of Chimney Rock for those hardy souls who survive the “mountain goat” climb and desire an additional two hours or so of hiking.

Recommended Local Day Hikes:

Kamiak Butte, Palouse, Washington

View from Kamiak Butte (Photo by Miles Whitling)

Kamiak Butte is a 298-acre nature area within a short 26 minute drive from Moscow, Idaho. You can hike to the top of the ridge in about 20 minutes or you can hike the entire 2.5 mile loop. As you reach the crest of the Butte, the forest abruptly thins and the grassland thrives on the south slope. This landscape is a remnant of the grassland prairie that once dominated the palouse region.

As you look around, far to the north unfolds the Palouse Prairie. Steptoe Butte is a prominent landmark 15 miles to the northwest. To the South are Moscow and Pullman. Then looking far to the south you can see the Blue Mountains when the weather is clear.

Elk River Falls, Elk River, Idaho

Elk River Waterfall (Photo by Miles Whitling)

Just 50 miles east of Moscow, Idaho, is Elk River Falls. The Elk River Falls area includes trails winding though beautiful mature forest with moss covered trees that lead you to breath taking views of the three main waterfalls in the area. For those with adventurous souls, you can swim behind the lower falls and stand on a ledge behind the waterfall and feel the air rushing upward from the water crashing down in front of you. There are great spots to picnic and sit and enjoy the view.

Helpful Tips:

If you are planning to hike in Washington, I recommend downloading the Washington Trails Association Trailblazers hiking app on your phone. It takes your location and shows you the surrounding hiking areas. It provides the length of the trail, the elevation gain, any required recreation passes, and the difficulty level of different trails! It even includes recent trail reviews and photos so you can get a better idea of the trail’s current condition. I highly recommend trying it out.

Another useful tool is the AllTrails website/app. It is probably one of the more well-known trail finding apps among hikers because it has a database of over 50,000 trail maps and information.

My husband likes to use Topo Maps US by David Crawshay. It is a free app that you can download on your phone. All you have to do is download the area that you will be hiking in while you are in service and then once you get there you can open it up and use it without any cell signal. The app shows satellite images along with topographic lines, trails and roads. You can set it to track your path, show your current location, and measure distances.

While the weather is still nice, get out and go on a hike!

Thanks For Reading,

Sophie Whitling