Carbon River Trails

The Carbon River Trails, located at the very northwest section of Mount Rainier National Park, are a series of short hikes through a unique ecosystem: an inland temperate rainforest. Carbon River Road used to run through the area but repeated flooding prompted its permanent closure. Now, hikers and mountain bikers can walk or ride the road and observe humongous trees at a slower pace (picture one). The trails radiating from the Carbon River Road include the 3.4 mile roundtrip (9.6 mile roundtrip from ranger station) to Ranger Falls and Green Lake; and the 0.4 mile roundtrip (8.0 mile roundtrip from ranger station) to Chenuis Falls. The much shorter and kid-friendly 0.3-mile Rainforest Loop Trail begins right from the ranger station (picture two).

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Baker River Trail

Two of Washington’s best Cascade rainforest hikes exist deep in the perpetually saturated valleys of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Lauded by big tree enthusiasts, including the great conservationist, Randy Stoltmann in his “Hiking the Ancient Forests of British Columbia and Washington,“ the twin Baker River Trail and Baker Lake Trail are easy trails with little elevation gain through the verdant Baker River Valley.

The Baker River Trail is a 5.2-mile hike through stream crossings and past open areas filled with young alder, huckleberry and salmonberry. The trees here are draped in moss and ferns (picture one) and very old, including one remarkably huge cedar near the beginning of the trail (picture three).

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North Fork Sauk River

Tucked away in the Glacier Peak Wilderness section of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the North Fork Sauk River Trail passes through true Cascadian old-growth wilderness for its first 2-3 miles. Given that the area receives substantial snowfall in the winter, it’s amazing that the trees here have time and ability to grow as big as they do.

Further north, titanic western red cedars - some of the largest in the Cascades - grow in the Harold Engles Memorial Cedars Grove. One of the largest trees along the primitive trail is over 14 feet in diameter (picture three), rivaling even some of the redwood trees of northern California. The entire grove is dedicated to the late Harold Engles, a Forest Service District Ranger who committed considerable effort to protecting these trees from logging and removal. His work now allows giant tree enthusiasts the opportunity to step back to a time when the forest had laid undisturbed for centuries.

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Puget Sound Region

Between the towering mountains of the Cascades to east and the coastal rainforests to the west, is the great Puget Trough ecoregion - a large inland arm of the Puget Sound and the home a majority of Washington’s population. Though most of the old-growth forests here are gone, small pockets of conserved areas do exist. Giant trees can be found on places as diverse as island parks like Deception Pass State Park (picture one) or lowland forests like Lewis & Clark State Park (picture two), which really highlights how adaptive old-growth forests can be if left undisturbed.

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