It’s the first day of summer, at least officially, and you want to take advantage of all the outdoor fun Washington has to offer.
In many years, as Washington outdoors enthusiasts know, the summer fun season doesn’t hit full stride until mid-July and August. Because of lingering snow, you would have to wait to do some high-altitude hiking or look for wildflowers. But because of low winter snowfall and good conditions in Puget Sound, you can get an early start on your summer fun.
Here is a look at some of the places to go and enjoy the outdoors, just earlier this year:
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Recreational crabbing is already open in the waters off Olympia and Hood Canal.
The action in Marine Area 13, south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, has been slowly improving since the area opened June 1.
“It started out slow, but we’re definitely getting happier reports now,” said Clayann Lankford of Zittel’s Marina in Olympia. “Early, people were catching lots of red rock crab, but the Dungeness crabs are starting to show up in pots.”
With few salmon being caught these days, Lankford said crabbing is definitely the most popular recreational activity right now.
In Hood Canal, opening day action Monday was very slow. Fishermen were catching a lot of female crabs, which have to be released, said Walt Harvey of Verle’s Sports Center in Shelton. The action was slow in part because of big tidal changes.
Crabbing in Olympia waters is open seven days a week. Hood Canal is open to crabbing Thursday to Mondays.
Anglers typically set their pots from 60-200 feet deep. As for bait, “pretty much anything that smells. What smells the worst, the better it seems,” Lankford said.
That can include salmon heads, cat food, chicken legs, squid and dead clams.
The key, Lankford said, is to make sure your crab pots are weighted enough so they don’t move during tidal changes. Also use plenty of line so if you set your pot at low tide, your buoy will not be underwater at high tide.
Crabbing in Tacoma, Marine Area 11 and many other areas of Puget Sound will open July 2.
For more information, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab.
A good option for those seeking an easier hike, but one offering great views and wildflowers, is the Naches Peak Loop Trail in the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park. This is a 3.5-mile loop with just 500 feet of elevation gain. Doing the loop in a clockwise direction will give you the best views of Mount Rainier. The wildflowers along the trail are in full bloom.
The hike to the Mount Fremont lookout at Mount Rainier is almost snow free, said Kindra Ramos of Washington Trails Association. A 5.6-mile round trip from Sunrise, Ramos said hikers will encounter snow only at the top of mountain.
For those traveling the North Cascades Highway, the 3.4-mile round-trip hike to Lake Ann is a good choice right now. Starting from the trailhead at the Rainy Pass Picnic Area, this hike gains just 700 feet, but takes you to a high point of 5,500 feet. Along the way you’ll pass through forest, patches of huckleberry and wildflower meadows. Recent trail reports say the flowers are in bloom. The lake sits in a cirque, surrounded by high ridges.
An easier hike from the picnic area, with just 70 feet of elevation gain, leads 1 mile to Rainy Lake.
At Olympic National Park, rangers are reporting there is minimal snow on the 7.4-mile trail from Obstruction Point to Deer Park. Hikers have reported online they have seen black bears, deer and marmots along the trail. Another good option, Ramos said, is Sunrise Ridge Trail at Hurricane Ridge. The 5.2-mile round-trip hike has great views of the Olympics, wildlife and wildflowers.
“The flowers are out and the trails are calling, but folks should pack some extra water when they venture out this year,” Ramos said. “An early season can mean a dry season, so be sure you have enough water, and practice good fire prevention habitats in the backcountry.”
Hikers should be aware some trails are closed because of early-season wildfires.
The Queets River Trail in Olympic National Park is closed at Bob Creek until further notice because the Paradise Fire is burning about 12 miles from the trailhead.
In the North Cascades National Park Complex, the 103-acre Thunder Creek Fire has forced the closure of arts of the Thunder Creek and Fisher Creek trails.
Mount Rainier National Park is almost as famous for its meadows of wildflowers as it is for its 14,411-foot namesake mountain.
Typically, it is early July before the flowers start appearing in large numbers.
This season, however, the flowers are blooming weeks earlier than normal. Avalanche lilies, often one of the first wildflowers to bloom, are at their peak right now.
“In some areas, they carpet the meadows in as much white as the snow they replace,” said a park wildflower report.
Some good places to find avalanche lilies at their peak right now are around Reflection Lakes, the upper parts of the Comet Falls Trail and Mildred Point.
Other places to find wildflowers at the park include Stevens Canyon, where you can find magenta paintbrush and alpine aster; in the White River area you can see lupine and sitka valerian; and at Paradise, the glacier lilies, phlox and Jeffrey’s shooting stars are blooming.
On the Olympic Peninsula, there are reports of bear grass, foxgloves and daisies already in bloom. Fans of rhododendrons might want to take the hike up Mount Zion or Mount Townsend.
At Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the Boundary Trail along Johnston Ridge right now offers plenty of wildflowers and great views of the crater.
For people on Puget Sound or on shore, there’s a lot of wildlife to be seen these days, Lankford said.
“There’s the transient orca pod, harbor porpoises, and all kinds of waterbirds,” she said.
There have been numerous reports this month of orcas in the South Sound.
A pair of orcas was seen Tuesday morning off the Luhr Beach boat ramp near the mouth of the Nisqually River. On Monday, several orcas were seen from Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park swimming toward the Tacoma Narrows. Other sightings have been off Harstine Island in Dana Passage and Budd Inlet.
A reminder to marine life viewers: State rules make it illegal to approach within 200 yards of an orca. This includes people aboard kayaks, rafts and personal watercraft.
If you prefer your wildlife viewing in a drier location, hikers are reporting seeing mountain goats on snow-free Mount Ellinor on the Olympic Peninsula.