Book Buzz: Hiking Washington’s History

Hiking Washington’s History by Judy Bentley and Craig Romano

A few sunny days are all it takes to start getting excited about hiking season. One way to add variety to your repertoire of favorite trails, and add some mental stimulation, is to choose hikes with historical significance.  

The second edition of Judy Bentley’s guidebook “Hiking Washington’s History” (now co-authored by Craig Romano) serves up 44 historical hikes around the state. While the ones in the Puget Sound Region, North Cascades and Central Cascades may be the most suited for day trips, there are great options on the Olympic Peninsula and on the east side for longer getaways.

In the introduction, Bentley explains the need for a second edition. The Puget Sound region is growing and changing; new historic trails have been established; the removal of the Elwha dams affected trail access. This edition of the guidebook includes 12 new trails and three significantly revised hikes. It also provides supplemental, nearby hikes to the main hikes for folks who have time to fully explore a region.

The historical details are what make this book stand out from other trail guides. You may be familiar with the infamous San Juan Island Pig War, but how much do you know about the ill-conceived Press Expedition, which called for “men of vim and vigor” to cross the uncharted Olympics in the depths of winter.

How about the Knights of Labor strikes at coal mines near Roslyn, when the Northern Pacific Coal Company brought in hundreds of African Americans to replace the striking workers and greatly increased the Black population in the state? Those interested in learning more can reference a lengthy list of books for further reading.

Bentley and Romano make excellent co-authors. Bentley used to teach Composition, Literature, and Pacific Northwest History at South Seattle College for more than 20 years and has written multiple books, including “Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities.” She is also past president of the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild and leads history walks and hikes around the Puget Sound region.

Romano came on board for the second edition of “Hiking Washington’s History.” He’s one of the leading authorities on Washington’s trails, having hiked more than 30,000 miles in Washington alone. His writing has appeared in Backpacker, Paddler, Northwest Runner and more than 20 other publications; he’s authored more than 25 guidebooks.

Together, Bentley and Romano have crafted a book that is informative, clear and entertaining. You can read it cover-to-cover, immersing yourself in Washington state history, or you can use it to plan out your next excursion. This guidebook is the perfect size to tuck into a backpack, and the full-color photos and handy maps make it a reading pleasure.

Speaking of backpacks, Whatcom County Library System and our partner Bellingham Public Library both offer Check Out Washington backpacks that come complete with a Discover Pass, binoculars and plant and wildlife identification guides. You can search for “Check Out Washington” in the library catalog at and place a hold on a backpack just like you would for a book or movie.

Christine Perkins is the executive director of the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS), which brings the power of sharing to rural Whatcom County, including a wide selection of online content. Last summer she convinced her husband to take a side trip to Monte Cristo on a gloriously sunny day along the South Fork Sauk River. This year she’s gearing up to hike to the Sourdough Mountain Lookout.

(Originally published in Cascadia Daily News, Friday, March 11, 2022.)