Some Fourths of July are better than others.
The sunny ones with friends and family are good. So are the ones where you can squeeze in some outdoor recreation. But, best of all, is when the holiday creates a three-day weekend.
We’re about to enjoy this for third time in as many years, but don’t take the long weekend for granted. After this year, we’re back to midweek Independence Days until 2020.
Here are 10 patriotic-themed ideas for getting the most out of the holiday weekend.
Lakewood, Chinook Pass
With boating, swimming, fishing, sunbathing and other options, Lakewood’s American Lake draws a crowd on the Fourth of July. “It’s a zoo,” said David Anderson of Bill's Boathouse.
Anderson says Bill’s Boathouse has set financial records on July 4 each of the last three years. If you plan on renting one of his boats, he says you’ll need a reservation.
He says the lake can be a spectacular place to watch fireworks, but if you want to be on the lake after 8 p.m. you’re required to have lights on your boat.
If you’d prefer a more far-flung American Lake, consider the alpine version reached via a 14-mile round-trip hike from Chinook Pass. The small lake is reached via the American Ridge Trail off of the Pacific Crest Trail. Check with Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for current route conditions before attempting this trip.
FOURTH OF JULY PASS
There may be no more apt destination for Independence Day than Fourth of July Pass. The trail will definitely help you burn enough calories to justify a second helping at the holiday barbecue.
Starting from Colonial Creek Campground in the North Cascades National Park, follow the Thunder Creek Trail for 1 1/2 miles to Fourth of July Trail, then climb upward until you reach the pass. By the time you’re done, you’ll have covered 8 miles and climbed about 2,300 feet. Check current conditions before attempting this hike.
Hikers can find a dynamic view of the Washington Cascades from Red Pass, located between Red Mountain and Lundin Peak. The hike starts at Snoqualmie Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail before branching off to travel through Commonwealth Basin. The hike is about 10 miles round trip and climbs about 2,700 feet. There is often still snow and ice on the trail in early summer, so check with Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest rangers for current route conditions before your trip.
WHITE RIVER CAMPGROUND
Mount Rainier National Park
White River Campground, one of four car-camping areas at Mount Rainier, was scheduled to open Friday. The first-come, first-served campground is an ideal place to launch a family weekend. Hike to Summerland, Sunrise or up the Glacier Basin Trail. Find other trails in the area or drive up to Sunrise for more choices. The road to Sunrise is scheduled to open July 1. The park is warning visitors to be aware that, unlike this time last year, there is still snow at Sunrise.
Umatilla National Forest
Most of the Blue Mountains and Umatilla National Forest are in Oregon, but they spill over the border into the southeast corner of Washington creating a quiet getaway for outdoor lovers. The highest point in Washington’s Blue Mountains is Oregon Butte.
A lookout atop the 6,387-foot butte offers a panoramic view of the mountains that were one of the last major obstacles on the Oregon Trail. Reaching the lookout requires a 6-mile round-trip hike but less than 1,000 feet of climbing. Check with the Forest Service for current route conditions.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
John Adams signed the Declaration of Independence, served as George Washington’s vice president and was the second president of the United States. Washington’s second-highest volcano is named for the founding father.
The 12,281-foot summit is most easily accessed via it’s southern slopes. While the climb shouldn’t be taken lightly, it is less technical than most of Washington’s volcanoes and permits are considerably easier to come by than nearby Mount St. Helens.
Most take two days to make the trip — about 12 miles round trip — and spend the night at a spot know as Lunch Counter. Don’t let the name fool you. Lunch is only served if you bring your own. One-day climbs are not uncommon.
The road to the south climb trailhead opened in mid-June. Be sure to check current weather and contact the Mount Adams Ranger District for up-to-date route conditions before your trip.
Near Port Orchard
This unspangled banner is a popular destination for mountain bikers and other trail users. The forest is packed with trails for all ages. Trail names include Trepidation, Tunnel Vision, Donald Duck and Lizard King.
An access road cuts through the 635-acre park. There have been several black bear sightings in the park and the surrounding area over the years and the Kitsap Parks website urges visitors to learn how to react if they encounter one of these creatures.
Mountain Loop Highway
Located not far from the popular Big Four Ice Caves and picnic area, Independence Lake is a short, easy hike on a rough trail. The hike requires less than 3/4 mile of hiking each way and climbs less than 200 feet. Top off this trip by exploring other places along the Mountain Loop Highway, or keep hiking beyond Independence Lake. Traveling all the way to North Lake requires considerably more effort. The Independence Lake Trail sometimes still has snow in places in early summer. Get current trail conditions before attempting this hike.
High-clearance vehicles are recommended on Forest Road 4060.
Liberty Lake Regional Park sits near the Washington-Idaho border and is a good place to launch a weekend of recreation. Trails in the park lure mountain bikers and hikers and even though it’s close to Spokane you sometimes feel as if you’ve found a remote getaway. The 3,000-acre park allows camping, fishing, boating and swimming and is home to an off-road vehicle park.
The park isn’t far from the paved Liberty Lake trail, which links to the Centennial Trail and allows cyclists and other users to pedal west through Spokane or east to Coeur d’Alene.
FIRECRACKER FUN RUNS
Olympia, Steilacoom and Tacoma
There are no shortage of opportunities to race on the Fourth of July. The Capitol Campus is site of the second Firecracker 5K which travels around the north basin of Capitol Lake and visits Marathon Park before finishing at the campus.
Those looking to set a personal record, might consider the Point Ruston Independence Day 5K. The race starts at Tacoma’s Vassault Park and finishes at Point Ruston. The course is almost entirely downhill or flat, making it super fast.
None of the local races has as much tradition as the Fort Steilacoom Running Club’s Four on the Fourth. The 4-mile race starting from Steilacoom’s Town Hall is in its 28th year.