IT’S TRICKY, ASSEMBLING a cover story that sets out to name the best trails around the state. Especially if, like our editor Laura ­Dannen, you’ve lived in Seattle less than a year. The first thing that struck her when she moved here—from New Jersey by way of New York, Boston, and Singapore—is that Seattleites are obsessed with three things: dogs, music, and the great outdoors. Laura is an intrepid hiker herself, and she knew the town would be crawling with experts who could show her the way.

Her goal was to compile a list of the most beautiful trails our state has to offer. Not the best-kept secrets or hidden bushwhacks, but five-star, well-maintained drop-dead-gorgeous trails for hikers and bikers of varying ambition and skill. She put out the call for suggestions, and the ideas came flooding in for ascents to sparkling waterfalls, panoramic mountain views, icy alpine pools, old-growth forests, or bracing beach walks. (Another thing Laura noted: The keyword here is ascent. In contrast to a mild walk along the Appalachian Trail, here in the land of 10,000-foot peaks, the difficulty of a climb is always measured by the rate of change in elevation.)

In the course of her research, Laura tracked down one of Seattle’s leading trail geeks to write for this issue. Craig Romano is a prolific writer of Northwest hiking guides who reports that he has hiked over 13,000 miles of Northwest trails. He is a passionate naturalist and has traveled the world in search of wild and spectacular landscapes, but he chooses to live here in Washington state, which he ranks among “the most beautiful places on the planet.” We couldn’t agree more.

Once you’ve hiked all 25 trails in this issue, if you still want more options, may I direct you to seattlemet.com/trails, where you can search and sort for even more outdoor adventures in Washington and Oregon.

Completely unrelated to our Trails issue is an announcement that came as we went to press. Kelly Miller, our ad and marketing coordinator, is leaving the magazine and moving to San Diego, for typical good reasons: a job and a man (maybe not in that order). The news is significant because, before any editors and ad sales reps came on board to launch our new magazine in the fall of 2005, Kelly was Seattle Met’s very first hire. Fresh out of UW, she signed on as a temporary receptionist, and her effervescent good cheer has set the tone for our office culture ever since. Oh yes, she will be sorely missed.

So, here’s a message to Kelly: Happy Trails. And here’s a suggestion for everyone else: Take a hike.

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