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More people are taking to Washington's trails after a year stuck inside

During the height of the pandemic, so many used the trail system as a way to get out of the house. That trend is still going strong as more people get vaccinated.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Just outside of Issaquah sits a crowded parking lot close to one of the most popular hiking trails in western Washington.

“It helped us get out of the house it helped us connect with something bigger than our little apartment,” said hiker Mia Oppenheim.  

The Poo Poo Point trail takes hikers on a seven-mile round trip journey up West Tiger Mountain. You can do the trail in half the time if you choose to paraglide to the bottom.

During the height of the pandemic, so many used the trail system as a kind of refuge, a way to get out of the house, and in those early months, the numbers showed that.

According to the National Park Service – trails near urban areas saw an increase in visitors early on amid COVID-19.  

“We would drive down I-90 and look for trailheads that were not completely overrun with cars and it was hard to find them and that’s how we would choose a hike,” Oppenheim recalled.

KING County Search and Rescue called 2020 a record year as more unexperienced people ventured into the backcountry – and unfortunately got themselves into trouble.

On this memorial day weekend – sunshine reveals a different reality from a year ago. As of mid-last week, the Washington State Department of Health reports that 52 percent of Washingtonians 16 and up are fully vaccinated.

“We were able to enjoy the stunning day and it’s just such a beautiful area and we were just lucky to see paragliding on the way back and I’ve never seen it,” said one mother from the parking lot.

And with each safe landing – a reminder of the calm that can be found just a few miles outside of the city.