Essential guides for hiking, camping, climbing and winter sports
There's no shortage of books on the topic of biking in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, but only a few should be considered must-reads. The four listed below cover the major trails and rides in the Puget Sound area plus several multi-day state-wide routes. Keep in mind that these routes, especially near Seattle, can rapidly go out of date so be sure to double-check what you read in the guidebooks.
This is the definitive guide to road riding in WA, it includes several of the area's iconic routes, plus lesser-known gems. It's also a great jumping-off point for people who like to put together their own rides. The 75 rides are spread across the state, with the heaviest concentrations in the area of Seattle, North Sound and the Central Cascades. There are not many on the Olympic Peninsula or in southwest Washington.
There's also 75 Classic Rides Oregon if you want to ride farther south.
Biking Puget Sound, now in its second edition (2014), serves as an excellent compliment to 75 Rides in Washington State because of it's focus on trails in Seattle and King County (roughly 30 of the 60 rides). There are also many rides in Kitsap County and the San Juan Islands. But the main benefit of this book is that it touches on just about every major bike trail in the region - and it's a great planning tool. Just be sure to check the trails against Google Maps or some other current source, the trails are constantly evolving and this route information is already out-of-date.
Obviously the focus here in on the Seattle area. This book is part of the Best Rides series, it's written by Gene Bisbee of BikingBis. The caveat from Biking Puget Sound also applies here.
One of my personal favorites, this guide has nine well-planned tours throughout the state - one in the San Juan Islands, one on the Peninsula, a couple near Seattle and several more in the northern and eastern parts of the state. An excellent resource that stands the test of time.
There's also a Cycling Sojourner for Oregon
A note about mountain biking: I haven't been able to find an acceptable guide for the Seattle or Puget Sound area. Most are either out-of-date or poorly written. Your best source is Evergreen Mountain Bike's Trail Guide.
Unlike the biking books, hiking guides do not fall out-of-date very quickly. A ten-year old guide is perfectly adequate in most cases. Just be sure to check the most recent conditions against the Washington Trails Associations Trail Guides and Trip Reports for the latest conditions. In addition to the guides, there are a couple essential books about outdoor skills that everyone should read: Freedom of the Hills and Trail Tested.
This is the bible of mountaineering, and has been for more than 50 years. Even if you never plan to do any technical climbing, there are chapters on clothing and equipment; camping, food and water; conditioning; navigation; wilderness travel; snow travel; avalanche safety; glacier travel; and mountain weather. I consider it to be a must-own for all outdoor enthusiasts.
This is the Freedom of the Hills for those of us who don't climb or travel on glaciers - a comprehensive guide to hiking and backpacking, with a special focus on long-distance trips. About half the book is devoted to selecting the right gear, equipment and food; the rest is focused on wilderness skills and campcraft. The book is information-rich, with hundreds of tips and tricks, and lots of photographs. Underrated in my opinion.
Mountaineering First Aid and Wilderness First Aid are two well-organized introductions to backcountry medical care. For information on navigation, consider The Essential Wilderness Navigator or Wilderness Navigation.
Definitive guide to hiking the trails near or along I-90. Be warned, because they are close to Seattle, they can be quite crowded on summer weekends.
There are several guides to the Wonderland Trail at Mt Rainier National Park: Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail , One Best Hike: Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail, and Hiking the Wonderland Trail: The Complete Guide to Mount Rainier's Premier Trail, are three of the most popular.
Whether you climb, backcountry ski, snowshoe, or hike in the winter, there are handful of helpful books that will help keep you safe and find the best routes.
There's really no substitute for in the field avalanche training from professional, but this guide from the Mountaineers provides a very detailed introduction to the subject. Topics include mountain weather and snow climates; snow formation and snowpack; avalanche terrain, formation, motion, and effects; risk factors and forecasting. There's only a single chapter on safety measures and rescues, so you might consider Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain as a companion guide.
This book (part of the the Mountaineer's Outdoor Expert series) is relevant for anyone who's hike, climb or expedition takes them onto glaciated terrain. Key topics include reading glaciers, team travel, crevasse rescue techniques, routefinding and expedition skills. Keep in mind that a book is no substitute for real-world training and experience. Consider a course from the Mountaineers.
This long-lived book is also part of the Outdoor Expert series and provides a great introduction to snowshoeing. In addition to a detailed breakdown of the snowshoe components and options, there are chapters on clothing, conditioning, technique, route finding, safety and snow camping.
Try out your snowshoe technique on one of the 100 routes included in this definitive guide (now in its third edition as of 2018) to Washington State. There's some brief introductory material on snowshoeing, but it's almost entirely a route guide. Each one includes a summary of the key stats, rating, walkthrough, and basic map. Nearly all are in the Cascade - both sides -but there are few out in the Olympics. This is really the only guidebook your need for snowshoeing.
This is the most comprehensive reference I've come across for cross-country ski trails in Washington, but it was written in 2002. Most of the trails are in the central and south Cascades. Use it as a starting point, but do your research online before heading out.
This recent (2014) guide describes over 80 backcountry routes in the Cascades (75) and Olympics (5) and includes a convenient chart categorizing them by region and time (day, overnight, multiday) for easy planning. There's a nice introductory section on the history of backcountry skiing/snowboarding in Washington State plus a summary of techniques and resources required to be successful on these routes. A very thorough and well-organized book.
There's also one for Oregon
This is the newest 'winter hiking' book, which generally means lower-elevation or rain shadow hikes that tend to be free from snow year-round. The fifty hikes in this book are largely in the Olympics and Central Cascades, including many that are quite close to Seattle.
If you're looking for more lower elevation hikes you can do in the winter (or year round), this book has many good suggestions, mostly on the Olympic Peninsula.
For some additional ideas, you can check out Best Rain Shadow Hikes: Western Washington. Note that these books are from 2002 and 2003, so be sure to confirm the routes.
For hiking and winter sports, you can't do better than Green Trails maps .
For bike touring routes, go with maps from the Adventure Cycling Association.
If you want to cross the state on dirt from north to south, you're going to want the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route map.
Hiking with Dogs: If you like to enjoy the outdoors with your do, you'll want to check out Best Hikes with Dogs Western Washington and The Dog Lover's Companion to the Pacific Northwest.
Lightweight backpacking: Lightweight Backpacking and Camping is well out-of-date, but is worth a read. I'd recommend the Mike Clelland illustrated guides Lighten Up, Ultralight Backpackin' Tips, and the Backpackin' Book. They're funny and hold up better.
Scrambling and Climbing: Washington Scrambles is the definitive guide to non-technical ascents around the state. Even true climbing guides, like the Cascade Alpine Climbing Guide (Climbing & High Routes), Selected Climbs in the Cascades, and Olympic Mountains - A Climbing Guide, have useful information for hikers.
If you want to do some 'climbing' in Seattle, try one of the Seattle Stairway Walks.
The North Cascades Highway: A Roadside Guide is an excellent introduction to the North Cascades. A perfect companion for the drive through the park.
Northwest Mountain Weather: Understanding and Forecasting for the Backcountry User , is a classic guide to weather patterns and forecasting for the Pacific Northwest.