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Hiking the Dark Divide

The Dark Divide is neither as dark nor as ominous as its name implies. In fact, should you venture down to this infrequently-visited part of Washington, you'll find a wild country filled with high meadows, lush old-growth trees, and vistas among the best of what Washington has to offer, all with the added bonus of solitude.

The Dark Divide is neither as dark nor as ominous as its name implies. In fact, should you venture down to this infrequently-visited part of Washington, you'll find a wild country filled with high meadows, lush old-growth trees, and vistas among the best of what Washington has to offer, all with the added bonus of solitude. Use this resource to start exploring some of the area's best trails.

Sunrise Peak

Round Trip: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet

Sunrise from Sunrise Peak
Sunrise from Sunrise Peak in the Dark Divide area of the South Cascades. Trip report and photo by amart005.

Visit Sunrise Peak at the right time, and you'll see why it got its name. The site of a former fire lookout, the trail is steep but short. Along the way, you'll have views of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, and from the summit, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the incredible geology in the Dark Divide.

>> Hike Sunrise Peak

Juniper Ridge

Round Trip: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1900 feet

juniper ridge Photo by SeattleRose..jpeg
Juniper Ridge trail. Photo by Seattle Rose

With ridgetop meadows and views stretching for miles, Juniper Ridge is not to be missed. It's a steep climb from the valley bottom, but once you're up high, you'll stay high, traipsing through fields of wildflowers and soaking in the views. Jumbo and Sunrise Peaks dominate the views ahead of you, and further afield, the Goat Rocks and Mount Adams lie on the eastern horizon.

>> Hike Juniper Ridge

Quartz Creek

Round Trip: 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

quartz creek -D Baxter.JPG
Pool along Quartz Creek. Photo by D. Baxter.

This 10-mile nonmotorized trail is one of the most spectacular old-growth valley treks in southwest Washington. It's a rugged, undeveloped trail with few bridges and steep grades, but the solitude you'll find here makes it worth the effort. It's possible to backpack to French Creek and circumnavigate Dark Mountain on French Creek and the Boundary Trail.

>> Hike Quartz Creek

Blue Lake

Round Trip: 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet

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Mount St. Helens from Blue Lake. Photo by Anna Roth.

This short, hiker-only trail in the Dark Divide connects hikers to an arresting, appropriately named blue lake jumping with fish. If you can get past its quiet shores, it's a short jaunt to connect with the Craggy Peak trail and miles of ridgeline hiking that the Dark Divide Roadless Area affords.

>> Hike Blue Lake

Badger Peak

Round Trip: 1.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Hiker on Badger Peak mbatjay
A hiker contemplates the horizon from Badger Peak. Photo by mbatjay.

While it's possible to assemble a 10-mile trek in this area, Badger Peak and Lake are also accessible via a much shorter route from the Mosquito Meadows trail. You'll still get to the lake, peak, and awesome views, but without having to invest as much time to get there.

>> Hike to Badger Peak and Lake