Best trails for isolation?

Trip recommendations, current conditions, and other trail related Q&A
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Best trails for isolation?

Post by roosterrocker » March 18th, 2021, 11:14 am

Hi folks. This is my first time posting here but I really love this site and am very grateful for it.

I have been wanting to do a meditation hike, which means that ideally I would not run into *any* other people while on the trail. I would welcome suggestions for trails of any difficulty for a hike of up to 5 miles or so, within a 1.5-2 hour drive of Portland, that might fit the bill. I'm happy to hike early in the morning if it means I'll be on my own. Obviously I know there's no guarantee of not seeing other folks on the trail. :)


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retired jerry
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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by retired jerry » March 18th, 2021, 11:42 am

east side of cascades has fewer people, especially in the winter

for example ... ntain_Area

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by Aimless » March 18th, 2021, 12:50 pm

Retired Jerry's suggestion of east side trails is a good one. If seeing zero people is your goal, then you are definitely better off finding solitude if you can do it midweek rather than on a weekend. Choose a trail that has no clearly identifiable scenic destination, such as a waterfall, lake or the viewpoint from a peak. Lastly, fewer people will be out hiking when it is 50 degrees or less in showery conditions, even though hiking is often quite pleasant in those conditions.

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by leiavoia » March 18th, 2021, 1:16 pm

Go off-season. Most hikers go home in the winter. If you're willing to hike through snow, there are many places you can go and be away from people.

Shoulder season works too. I just got back from the Lewis River in Washington. Saw no one in two days. No cars at the trailhead. But in summer, its busy with people swimming and fishing and whatnot. Many other hikes that i've done in March or October, I saw no one.

Consider going off-trail. I hammock camp, so i can disappear into the forest and set up camp anywhere i find two decent trees. I would still prefer an established site, but if you must avoid people, then that's an option.

Caves are an interesting year-round option too. There are many undocumented, unmarked caves in the Mt St Helens region that rarely get visited by anyone other than cave enthusiasts. If you must have isolation, caves are great. I will not tell you where these caves are. you need to do your own research.

Please keep in mind that hiking alone in the winter, in a cave, or off-trail carries risks.

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Chip Down
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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by Chip Down » March 18th, 2021, 1:56 pm

Although I don't keep a log of human encounters, I think it's safe to say I rarely see any. I can say for sure I didn't see anybody on my last two adventures, and that wasn't at all surprising. There are days when I don't even see another car until I get down closer to civilization.
My motivation isn't meditation, it's misanthropy. :D
But seriously, I can't offer advice. Solitude isn't the primary outcome, it's a nice benefit of going weird places. If you ask a community of hikers to name some places where nobody ever goes, you might not get much feedback.

A tip springs to mind: One of the nice things about snow is it tells you when you're in an unpopular place. Find a trail with no footprints, and it's unlikely you'll meet anybody. Hikers hate snow. They'll turn back at the first flake.

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by lordgares » March 18th, 2021, 3:17 pm

Chip Down wrote:
March 18th, 2021, 1:56 pm
Hikers hate snow. They'll turn back at the first flake.
SOME hikers hate snow. I personally love being out in the snow (don't tell my wife). Postholing isn't really fun however. :lol:

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retired jerry
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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by retired jerry » March 18th, 2021, 3:20 pm

go off trail

those trails east of cascades are a starting point, then find places you can just walk to, off trail, in the same area

vegetation is a lot sparser on east side so you don't need a trail

read all of Chip's reports, he goes off trail a lot

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by johnspeth » March 18th, 2021, 3:46 pm

Consider a night or early morning hike, particularly with respect to sunrise and sunset. For example, I sometimes hike from T-line to Zigzag canyon at night on full moon nights. It's a whole different world at night. I recommend that you be familiar with the trails and roads before going because getting lost at night can be fatal.

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by drm » March 19th, 2021, 6:44 am

Although people have made many suggestions, all good, I will generalize: avoid easy. Look for hard.


Gated forest roads. Most hikers don't like hiking roads and cars can't drive them if they are gated. Or a road that is blocked by a washout that you can hike around.

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Re: Best trails for isolation?

Post by squidvicious » March 19th, 2021, 7:03 am

drm wrote:
March 19th, 2021, 6:44 am
Gated forest roads.
is there a way to research these, other than just making a note of what you happen to see when you're out and about?

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