Plants to avoid when hiking in the Pacific Northwest

Plants to avoid when hiking the PNW

Now that hiking season is here, it’s important to be aware of plants that you should avoid on your next trip outdoors.

Poison Oak & Poison Ivy

Plants to avoid when hiking the PNW

The best way to identify these plants is to look for three leaves grouped together. A famous phrase “leaves of three, let it be”. They can grow fairly tall (around 8 feet), but are usually only knee height. If you come in contact with these plants, they can leave an itchy, painful rash with a streak pattern. The rash has a delayed reaction, so you wouldn’t see anything until 12-72 hours after you came in contact with them.

Poison Ivy vs. Poison Oak

Poison Ivy has a tip to the leaf. Poison Oak has a rounded edge to the leaf and is shiny. Both can cause rashes that itch and can be colored red or green.

TO TREAT: If you come in contact, rinse with warm soapy water immediately and remove any clothing that came in contact with the plant to wash it. The rash will usually go away in 1-3 weeks.

Stinging Nettles

Plants to avoid when hiking the PNW.pngYou will most likely see this plant next to a creek or stagnant water because it prefers to grow in wet soil. They have a heart shape to them, but with pointed edges. People claim that they can smell Stinging Nettles before they see it because it has a distinct iron scent. This plant has very small hairs and if you brush them, the hairs break and release an acid that can cause a burning sensation immediately.

TIP: If you accidentally rub against this plant, mix baking soda and water to put on the affected area. The baking soda neutralizes the acid from the plant.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly NightshadeAs the name says, they’re extremely deadly! These plants have distinct star shaped leaves that surround the berry. They’re only harmful if you eat them, so if you have children or dogs make sure they don’t eat these black berries.



If you have any of these symptoms after coming in contact with these plants, visit the emergency room immediately:

    • Trouble breathing/swallowing
    • Any swelling (throat, eyelids, etc)
    • If a rash has covered a majority of your body or if you have multiple of rashes
    • Rash on your face or genitals
    • If you can’t seem to make the itching stop
  • If you feel that you need to see a doctor, never hesitate–that’s what they’re there for!

Although the plants we talked about are poisonous, don’t let it stop you from having fun outside! The best thing to do is educate yourself so that you can avoid them when hiking. We’ve been hiking for years and have never had an emergency situation from these plants. Remember to respect your environment and have fun 🙂

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