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Hiking in Washington State: The 16 Best Hikes in Washington

Despite growing up in Washington State, I had never really explored the hiking trails in my home state until relatively recently. By the time I was into hiking, which is all thanks to Alysha who was essentially born with a backpack on, I had moved down to the Bay Area in California.

But, every summer when I made it back home for a week or two, we would head out and explore some of the hiking trails near where I grew up. And we were blown away pretty much every single time.

In this guide, we’ll take you through our pick for the best hikes in Washington State – all of which we’ve personally done and can vouch for. Over time, we’ll be adding more as we’re able to tackle more of them.

In 2020, when we quit our jobs in February to travel the world after years of planning only to have to scramble and adjust our plans (oops!), a silver lining appeared when we realized we would get to spend over two months living in our van, exploring the Pacific Northwest.

Over that time, we started to complete some of the things on our Washington State bucket list, including backpacking the Enchantments and spending the night on the beach in Olympic National Park.

We fell in love with the Pacific Northwest (well, I was already in love, but Alysha quickly followed), and now split time between the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area, which are definitely not the worst places to spend most of our time.

This guide is based on our personal experience that summer, when we spent our mornings hiking 8-10 miles a day, and our afternoons and evenings relaxing around camp. 

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one and purchase something, we make a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you. It goes without saying that we would never recommend something we wouldn’t use or do ourselves.

16 Washington State Hikes to Add to Your Hiking Bucket List

Here are our favorite hikes, in order of our preference. 

This is by no means a guide to every single one of the amazing hikes in this beautiful state. It would take a lifetime to explore all of the trails in Washington – which we fully intend to do – and as we make it to more of them, we will update this list with our finds. 

It’s also worth noting that this guide doesn’t include some of the more tame (but still spectacular) hikes in the state, like the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest, or Tipsoo Lake near Mount Rainier.

We love hikes that combine a great workout with an incredible reward – we like to work for the views. The hikes in this guide are thigh-burners (to various degrees) with a payoff that will make it all worth it in the end.  

There are also hikes that should be on this list – like the Cascade Pass / Sahale Arm – one of the best hikes in the North Cascades – and the Skyline Divide near Mount Baker – but aren’t because we didn’t have the type of car required to navigate the long and bumpy forest road that takes you to the trailhead. Who knew a Honda Odyssey isn’t made for off-roading? 

And if you have any hikes that you love that you think we should add to our agenda, please please please contact us and let us know, or leave a comment below! 

Think of this as a curated guide to our picks for the best hikes from two hiking enthusiasts who love the Pacific Northwest. We hope you discover AT LEAST one amazing hike that you didn’t know about before.

Heather – Maple Pass Loop (North Cascades National Park)

  • Length: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 540 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

We think this is the best hike in the state in terms of bang for your buck. We’ve done it twice, and would do it again in a heartbeat. You’ll get the picturesque rocky peaks that are quintessential North Cascades, a gorgeous lake framed by said rocky peaks, and panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top of the pass. Plus, marmots. 

We recommend tackling this hike counter-clockwise for a couple of reasons.

First, if you choose to do it counter-clockwise, the views will be in front of you as you climb.

Second, the trail is more gradual along the north side of the lake, which means you’ll have a more gradual climb and a steeper descent, which we prefer. If you have knee problems, you might want to go the other direction to save your knees.

If you choose to go the same direction we did, you’ll start with a series of switchbacks, climbing away from the parking lot. It’s a gradual climb to the top of the pass, and you’ll gain about 2,000 feet of elevation in 3.5 miles – just over 500 ft per mile.

Not too hard, but plenty of climbing to get a good workout in. 

About a mile and a half in, take the fork in the trail to the left to make a quick detour to Lake Ann. It adds a mile to your trip, but is worth seeing the lake from the shoreline before you climb the pass and see it from above. 

At the top of the pass, you’ll have panoramic views over Lake Ann and the surrounding peaks. The views to the east are particularly impressive from the summit, with the trail winding its way through the landscape, with the Cascade Range in the distance. 

This trail is amazing in the summer and fall. In the summer, which is mid-July for the North Cascades due to late snowmelt, wildflowers are everywhere. In the fall, the larches turn yellow, and fall color illuminates the landscape with beautiful hues of red, orange, and yellow. 

Remember that the scenic North Cascades Highway closes seasonally, often between November and May. But you’ll still find tons of snow on the trails through mid-July, which is the earliest you should consider visiting if you plan on doing some hiking. 

Read Next: A Complete North Cascades National Park Itinerary

Skyline Trail (Mount Rainier National Park)

  • Length: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 600 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: America the Beautiful Pass

This is at the top of our list of best hikes at Mount Rainier, and also the best day hikes near Seattle, which means it HAS to be on this list.

The hike leaves from the Henry Jackson Visitors Center on the Paradise side of the mountain, which is the most popular area for visitors. That means that the trail will be packed, but the up-close-and-personal views of the mountain are well worth braving the crowds for. 

We did this hike counter clockwise, which has its pros and cons, but is the direction we’d recommend. 

On the pro side, the ascent up the eastern half of the trail is much more gradual, which makes it a bit more pleasant. We strolled along the path (which was eventually covered in snow… in late July), passing babbling brooks and fuzzy marmots on our way to Panorama Point. 

On the con side, you’re going against the flow of traffic, which given the crowds means you might be waiting for people going the other way to pass a lot. But, on the other hand, you might just be waiting behind them to pass them if you were going the other way, so it’s probably a wash. 

The views from Panorama Point are incredible – you can see the face of Mount Rainier so close it seems like you can basically reach out and touch it, and to the other direction you’ve got panoramic views of the Tatoosh Range, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens.

It’s truly spectacular, and we think it’s one of the best views in all of Washington. 

Read Next: A Local’s Guide to the 17 Best Hikes in Seattle, Washington

The Enchantments (Near Leavenworth) 

  • Length: 18+ miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft.
  • Trail Type: Thru-hike
  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

We were lucky to snag some last minute permits to backpack the Enchantments in 2020, and it was an experience we won’t soon forget.

We were harassed by an aggressive male mountain goat (toxic masculinity is the worst) who headbutted our tent at one point, and 50 mph winds made us pack up camp as sunset was approaching and move to find a more protected place to set up camp – which, by the way, doesn’t seem to exist in the Enchantments.

While that might sound like complaining, the natural beauty we got to experience for three days and two nights made it all worth it. Sunrises and sunsets over some of the most gorgeous alpine lakes in the world. Mountain goat babies frolicking on the rocky terrain. It’s spectacular.

This hike leaves from the same trailhead as Colchuck Lake, which you’ll find below, but takes you up Aasgard Pass, through the Enchantments Basin with ALL of the alpine lakes, and down past Snow Lake. You’ll end at the Snow Lake trailhead. 

To do this as a thru hike, which is what we’d recommend so that you don’t have to go up AND down Aasgard Pass, you need two cars. And you need to start early – this hike will take most people AT LEAST 12 hours, no matter how in-shape you think you are.

In the summer months, that’s less of an issue, with the sun sticking around well past 9pm, but in the fall you’ll want to make sure you’ve finished your descent before it gets dark between 5 and 6pm. That means you need to start between 5 and 6am

Now, in normal times, permits to backpack the Enchantments are nearly impossible to get. Thousands apply for just a handful of permits a day. You can read more about that process here.

If you are one of the lucky few, lucky you! If not, you can still experience the beauty of the Enchantments as a brutal day hike, but it is not a hike that you should take lightly.

It’s 18 miles long, starting from Colchuck Lake Trailhead and climbing past Colchuck Lake and up Aasgard Pass, which gains a smidge under 2,000 feet in ¾ OF A MILE.

It was easily the slowest we’ve ever hiked, and we had 30 pound packs on. There’s no clearly defined trail either – you mostly scramble your way to the top across loose rocks and boulders.

Under no circumstances should you do this hike if it is raining, or it has rained recently. It’s slippery and dangerous. 

That all being said, once you reach the top of the pass, you’re golden. It’s quite literally all downhill from there. You’ll descend past a series of pristine alpine lakes – our favorites were Perfection Lake, which is where we slept the first night, and Lake Viviane, which is where we tried to sleep the second night.

Then, continue the descent past Snow Lake and out to the Snow Lake trailhead, where you’ll pick up your second car and drive back to the Colchuck Trailhead to retrieve the other car. 

Hidden Lake Lookout (North Cascades National Park)

  • Length: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 825 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: None

First, it’s worth noting that the road to get to the trailhead is a disaster. It’s uphill the whole way, unpaved, and more than a little bumpy. We definitely recommend both a 4WD vehicle and high clearance, though somehow we saw a Prius at the parking lot? Not sure how that happened.

Take it slow, and you’ll be fine. We borrowed my mom’s SUV because we weren’t sure that our minivan was going to make it. 

This hike was our first foray into the North Cascades, and it set the bar REALLY high for everything else to come. It’s a hard hike climbing steadily and gaining over 800 feet per mile – with several false summits where you’ll think you’ve made it and SURPRISE MORE CLIMBING!

The climb is beautiful though, with views back towards Mount Baker in the distance, and wildflowers galore in July. Over the course of the climb, you’ll progress from dense forest and babbling brooks to granite slabs and rocky terrain. 

Eventually, you’ll reach the star of the show – a gorgeous perched lake with the backdrop of the Cascade Range. AKA nature’s best imitation of an infinity pool. The lookout is a bit further, and you’ll have to do some scrambling to get there.

The views from the lookout are great, and you can spend the night there. It’s first-come-first-served, which means you’ll need to start the hike at sunrise in the summer because demand is so high. You’ll also need a backcountry permit

This hike is truly spectacular, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Bring plenty of water, food, and sun protection for the climb.

Read Next: The 9 Best Hikes in North Cascades National Park

Boroughs Mountain (Mount Rainier National Park)

  • Length: 9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 555 ft.
  • Trail Type: Lollipop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: America the Beautiful Pass

First of all, if you’ve got gas in the tank, definitely make it all the way to the third boroughs. It’s worth it. We were a bit confused by the information in the National Park brochure, which seemed to show the trail ending at the second borough.

It doesn’t. Go to the third one, you won’t regret it. 

The hike up Burroughs Mountain is the best of the many hikes on the Sunrise side of Mount Rainier, which is less visited but is the highest point you can drive to in the park.

Not that the elevation of the parking lot really matters that much, since you’ll be climbing several thousand feet above it on this hike. Go counter-clockwise. That will have you climbing Sourdough Ridge, doing the out-and-back to the three boroughs, and returning via the sunrise trail, which is a nice stroll through the woods. 

You’ll start the climb up to Sourdough Ridge from the parking lot, and follow that until you reach a three-way junction in the trail at Frozen Lake.

To the right is the trail up the ridge to Mount Fremont, which is also among the best day hikes at Mount Rainier. Straight ahead is Berkeley Park, which is wildflower central during the peak summer months. And to the left is what you came for – the climb up to the three boroughs. 

As you ascend to the three vistas, you’ll probably encounter marmots and mountain goats, and maybe even a black bear if you’re lucky (though that would probably be in the meadows on the way down).

Read More: Hiking the Amazing Burroughs Mountain Trail in Mount Rainier National Park

Hole in the Wall at Rialto Beach (Olympic National Park)

  • Length: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: None
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: America the Beautiful

We did this hike at sunset, and it was one of our favorite experiences on our Washington Road Trip.

It’s more of a stroll along a sandy beach, with the Pacific Ocean lapping at your hiking boots as you make your way north along the Washington coastline.

You’ll pass photogenic rocks and driftwood, and just before you arrive at Hole in the Wall are a couple of extremely photogenic sea stacks that make a great subject for sunset photos. 

Just under two miles from the parking lot for Rialto Beach, you’ll arrive at Hole in the Wall, which is an arch formed by years and years of erosion. 

The best picture here is from the far side of the hole, where you can get a perfectly-framed picture of the sea stack, framed by the hole in the wall. There are also some great tide pools on either side.

Make sure to look up as you walk! We saw two bald eagles – I saw one hanging out high in a tree above us, and as Alysha was scanning the treetops looking for it, she spotted another one just a few trees over. Bald eagle family!

A note: You need to do this hike at low tide. Check the tide charts before you go to plan out your hike. 

Planning a Trip to Olympic National Park? We’ve got guides to help you plan the perfect trip!

Naches Peak Loop (Mount Rainier National Park)

  • Length: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 600 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 275 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: America the Beautiful Pass

The Naches Peak Loop be the best bang-for-your-buck hike in Washington State. It has everything you’re looking for – a picturesque lake (with stunning views of the Mountain), wildflower-laden meadows bursting with all sorts of color in the early summer, and great views of Mount Rainier. All for a relatively easy 3.5 miles!

One thing you should definitely know before you hit the trail – do this hike clockwise starting from the Tipsoo Lake parking lot (or from one of the other parking lots nearby – it doesn’t matter, just do it clockwise!).

The reason? For the second half of this hike, you’ll be walking straight towards Rainier, and there are a couple of places where the views rival any view of Rainier in the park. 

The trail starts with a slight uphill climb through the forest, where there are usually nice blankets of wildflowers on the ground. You’ll cross a bridge across the highway, and immediately the trail leaves the national park and becomes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Follow the PCT, which meanders its way along a ridgeline with great views to your left, as it gradually climbs. 

Right before the summit, you’ll reach a particularly picturesque tarn. 

When you get to the highest point in the hike – which happens at around 1.8 miles in, just after the PCT cuts to the left down to Dewey Lake, you’re in for a treat.

First, another tarn. But this one has the snow capped peak of Mount Rainier as its backdrop.

Next, an unobstructed view of the Mountain from a ridge, where we saw a wedding photoshoot happening and spent the rest of the hike marveling at the fact that the bride made it up there in her dress. 

The last part of the hike is straight downhill (which is why you should do it clockwise), and you’ll come out at the south end of Tipsoo Lake. 

P.S. Tipsoo Lake is an amazing sunrise location – the sun rises behind you as you look west towards Rainier’s face, and lights up the peak with a golden orange light. 

Read More: Hiking the Naches Peak Loop in Mount Rainier National Park

Yellow Aster Butte (Mount Baker)

  • Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,600 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 693 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

This is our pick for the best hike near Mount Baker. It has literally everything you could possibly want in a hike, with the exception of a pristine alpine lake with picture-perfect reflections, I suppose. Wildflowers. Panoramic views. Plenty of climbing to have you waddling around in pain for a few days afterward. 

This hike is equally good in the summer and fall. In the summer, which really starts in August for the whole area around Mount Baker, you’ll get wildflowers lining the trail for miles.

In the fall, the landscape lights up with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.

The main downside of this trail, along with the other hiking trails around Mount Baker, is that it’s only reliably accessible two months out of the year – August and September, with October being a little bit sketchy due to snow.

The snow lingers on the trail through July, and then returns quickly in October most years. 

This is another hike that requires some tricky driving, at least if you have a low-clearance car like us, to access. The trailhead is up a narrow forest road with questionable maintenance.

But once you get there and park, the stress changes to an “oh man, this hike is going to be tough” kind of stress instead of an “is my car going to survive this?” kind of stress. 

The climb begins with switchbacks right off the bat before turning into a gradual climb through dense forest. Eventually, you’ll get your first glimpse of Baker as you emerge into a wildflower meadow and curve around to the left, following the valley.

You’ll emerge onto a ridge, with Mount Baker views galore, before starting the final ascent up to the butte, which is a steep one. 

From the top, you can continue on to another summit, which requires climbing along a narrow ridge with steep drop offs on either side.

We decided to skip it, mostly because I’m not a huge fan of heights, but saw two hikers do it while we were at the summit. 

Colchuck Lake (Enchantments Basin / Leavenworth)

  • Length: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 575 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

If the 18 mile hike through the Enchantments Basin seems a little too aggressive, then the hike to Colchuck Lake is going to be for you. 

Colchuck is probably the most accessible of the lakes in the area, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly beautiful. Before the sun rises above the nearby peaks, the water is still, with perfect reflections. When the sun is at its highest point, the water turns an unbelievable shade of blue-green. 

The hike itself isn’t too bad – at 8 miles and 2,300 feet of elevation gain. It’s a fairly gradual climb through the forest, but as you approach the lake it definitely gets a little bit rockier and steeper, making it harder as you go.

The views from where you emerge onto the lake are great, but you should definitely explore along the shoreline to the left and right. The left, in particular, has great views of Dragontail Peak and Aasgard Pass across the lake. 

The trailhead gets super crowded, especially in the summer and fall, so we’d recommend getting there before 6:30, which is when we got there and snagged one of the last parking spots.

The road up to the trailhead is a bit bumpy, but if Homer (that’s our Honda Odyssey) can make it, so can you! Take it slow and you’ll be fine. 

Read More: How to Hike the Colchuck Lake Trail

The Enchanted Valley (Olympic Peninsula)

  • Length: 27 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 126 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: None

We finally made it out to the Enchanted Valley, and it did not disappoint.

First thing’s first – this is DEFINITELY an overnight backpacking trip. The trail isn’t particularly hard. There’s some up and down, but climbing 1,700 feet over 13.5 miles is really a walk in the park when you’re talking about hiking in Washington.

Round trip, it’s 27 miles long, which means AT LEAST one night in the backcountry.  Overnight permit information is here.

The trail itself is gorgeous, particularly after the first two miles of the trail, which take you up, then down to Pony Bridge, which is where you meet the East Fork of the Quinault River.

As you start the descent down to Pony Bridge, you’ll hear the roar of the river, which will continue all the way through the rest of the hike, which follows the river closely up into the Enchanted Valley. 

The lush rainforest here is second to none in terms of scenery, with dense ferny forests with plenty of hanging moss basically the entire way through.

Alysha and I were joking about how we were so jaded by the end of it. “Oh, ANOTHER gorgeous stretch of trail with ferns covering the ground, mossy trees towering above us, and sunlight streaming through the rainforest canopy? BORING.” 

Eventually, you reach the Enchanted Valley, which is most famous for the 1930’s chalet that sits in the middle of it. Unfortunately, you can’t actually go inside these days, but it used to be a place where you could spend the night.

We think this is best done as a three day / two night trip, spending one night at Pyrites Creek on the way up, one night in the valley, and the final day doing the whole 13.5 mile hike out. The river provides plenty of water access along the trail, which is always nice.

Read More: Backpacking the Enchanted Valley Trail in Olympic National Park

Blue Lake (North Cascades National Park)

  • Length: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000  ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 444 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

Another gem in North Cascades National Park. Unlike the others on this list, this one is relatively short with great views awaiting you after minimal climbing, making it one of the best easy hikes in Washington.

We did this hike on a beautiful summer morning, and got to the lake before the crowds. We’d recommend you do the same, because the parking lot is small, and by the time we were on our way back down, the crowds had shown up. 

Blue Lake is, you guessed it, a blue lake. It’s crystal clear – so clear that you can see the fishies swimming – and is surrounded by some of the most famous peaks in the North Cascades, including the Liberty Bell.

When you arrive at the lake, take the fork to the right, cross the stream, and walk along the lake. This is where you’ll see all the other hikers who made it up that day. 

For a more secluded experience, take the trail up the hill to the right, keep left at the fork, and make your way down to the lakefront, where we found exactly zero people.

This is also a good place to see mountain goats, who sometimes make their way down that gravel slope at the far end of the lake. 

Harry’s Ridge (Mount St. Helens)

  • Length: 8.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 243 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: National Parks Pass / National Monument Fee

The best part about this hike is the continuous views of Mount St. Helens’ north face throughout the entire hike. It’s a pretty easy hike that climbs over rolling hills that are dotted with wildflowers in the summer (June is the best time here).

The only thing that puts it in the moderate category is the distance at a hair over 8 miles. Bring plenty of water and snacks. 

The hike starts from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is worth a stop to learn all about the active volcano and the eruption that covered the entire Pacific Northwest in ash just a few decades back.

From there, you’ll traverse the surprisingly barren terrain east with minimal elevation gain and loss.

You’ll reach a couple of forks along the way – stay left at the first two to continue northeast, then take the marked turnoff to Harry’s Ridge to start the short and sweet climb to the top of the ridge that overlooks Spirit Lake to the left, and Mount. St. Helens to the right. 

From here, you can see the thousands and thousands of logs that are in Spirit Lake to this day from the eruption 40 years ago. The devastation is mind boggling. 

Enjoy a snack, taking in the views, and return the way you came. 

Park Butte (Mount Baker) 

  • Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,200 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 586 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

Another hike to another one of Washington’s Insta-famous fire lookouts? BORING. 

Just kidding. We loved this hike, and think you will too. 

This hike was one of our favorites near Mount Baker, though it’s on the south side of the mountain along Highway 20, which is the gateway to the North Cascades, rather than along Highway 542 (the Mount Baker Highway). 

The trailhead is along the western edge of Baker Lake, about eight miles up a treacherous forest road that we barely squeaked through with white knuckles and Alysha at the wheel (she doesn’t like me driving the bumpy roads very much). Take it slow. But if you happen to have a high-clearance vehicle, definitely drive that. 

This hike starts with roughly a mile of meandering through meadows before crossing a bridge over rip-roaring creek (at least when we were there) and you start the climb in earnest.

You’ll climb a series of switchbacks before emerging into some of the most spectacular meadows you’ll encounter anywhere north of Rainier (which has the best meadows in the world, we think).

One after another, you’ll stroll through meadows exploding with wildflowers and amazing views of snow capped Mount Baker before, once again, starting to climb.

This is the final ascent up to the fire lookout, which has jaw dropping views of the surrounding area and Mount Baker. 

Norway Pass (Mount St. Helens)

  • Length: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 850 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 378 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: National Parks Pass / National Monument Fee

This hike is accessed from the east side of Mount St. Helens along NF-99 and NF-26, which is partially paved and generally fine for cars of all shapes and sizes. 

We did it as a sunset hike, arriving at the pass about 45 minutes before sunset, and doing the descent in the dark. We definitely recommend it, but make sure to bring a headlamp. It gets dark FAST. 

The climb is fairly unremarkable. The view of Mount St. Helens is blocked, and the views behind you of the valley are nothing particularly exciting or interesting. BUT, the views from Norway Pass itself are pretty stunning, so the climb is well worth the effort. 

You’ll have Mount St. Helens in the distance, with the log-filled water of Spirit Lake in the foreground.

In the early summer, you’ll have wildflowers in the foreground, which creates a scene that seriously looks like it’s a painting. 

Dog Mountain (Columbia River Gorge)

  • Length: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,800 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 823 ft.
  • Trail Type: Lollipop
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

Most people associate the Columbia River Gorge with Oregon for obvious reasons, but there are a couple of great hikes on the north side of the Gorge that make the Washington list.

The most exciting one, we think, is Dog Mountain. Particularly in the spring, when the wildflowers are in full bloom. 

Note that during wildflower season, which is generally late May to mid June, you will need a permit. They limit the number of people on the trails on the weekend in early summer to protect the fragile wildflowers. 

This hike starts with switchbacks in the forest. About two thirds of a mile in, you’ll reach a fork in the trail which is the starting point for the loop.

We went up and down the trail to the right, which is apparently the harder option, but I don’t think we knew that at the time. Make sure to stop at the two viewpoints on the way up, both of which have great views of the Columbia River Gorge. 

We made it to the top and it was… completely shrouded in fog. Despite being sunny a few minutes earlier. We waited for about fifteen minutes at the top in the frigid wind and mist before deciding we were over it and retreating back to the sunny slopes just below the summit.

Be prepared for fog and wind with plenty of layers. 

Hurricane Hill (Olympic National Park)

  • Length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 650 ft.
  • Elevation Gain / Mile: 406 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Trailhead Location
  • Pass Required: National Parks Pass

This is one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, and is a great family-friendly option with spectacular panoramic views of Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Olympic National Park to the southwest, Victoria, B.C. to the north, and Mount Baker to the east. 

It’s a wide, paved trail basically the whole way, and is super accessible for most hikers of all experience and fitness levels.

It’s a must-do when you’re exploring Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

That’s all folks! Now you’ve got 16 amazing hikes to add to your Washington State bucket list.

We know we missed some – even some that we have personally done – but what is the one hike that you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Washington State? We’d love to hear from you what you think is the best hike in Washington – leave us a comment below!

Passes and Permits You Might Need to Go Hiking in Washington State

Let’s talk about the passes you might need to go hit the hiking trails in Washington. 

For the hikes that are inside a Washington State Park, like Mount Si and Little Si, you’ll need a Discover Pass. It costs $10 for a one-time entry that covers your entire vehicle (and the people in it), or $30 for an annual pass. Buy it at REI here, or find it at a machine at these parks (bottom of the page). 

For hikes in one of Washington’s many areas that are run by the US Forest Service, like Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest or Olympic National Forest, you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass.

We found that this is the pass we used most often in Washington (and Oregon, too). It will cost you $5 for a day use permit, which I’d recommend buying online in advance since you can’t reliably find them at trailheads (I’d suggest buying multiple and filling them out as you use them), or $30 for an annual Northwest Forest Pass that covers all US Forest Service land in both Oregon and Washington. Find both at REI here

Last, but certainly not least, is the National Parks Pass. This one is useful if you’re planning on hiking in any of Washington’s National Parks – Rainier, Olympic, or the North Cascades (though the latter technically doesn’t require it for entry).

A seven day pass costs $30 per car, and the America the Beautiful Pass, which actually includes US Forest Service lands covered by the Northwest Forest Pass, costs $80 for a year.

Basically, if you’re planning on going to more than two US National Parks within a  year, buy the annual America the Beautiful Pass.

What to Pack for Tackling These Washington Hikes

If you’re new to hiking in the Pacific Northwest, there are some things you should know to help you navigate the trails in this part of the world. 

The first thing to know is that, many times, hikes in Washington are straight up and straight down. You’ll start at the base of a mountain, hike up to a viewpoint often on steep switchbacks or stairs, and hike right back down the way you came.

The second thing you should know is that you’re likely to encounter water in some form, usually either in the form of rain (even in the summer, though it’s definitely more rare) or a creek / river crossing. 

For those reasons, there are a couple of things that we would say are essentials for hiking in the Pacific Northwest (aside from the ten essentials, which you should bring along on every hike, regardless of which state or region you’re in). 

  • Sturdy hiking boots / shoes: Preferably waterproof. We’re partial to the Adidas Terrex Swift GTX shoes (Alysha has had two pairs that she has hiked in for almost a decade) and Columbia Newton Ridge Boots (a great entry-level waterproof hiking boot).

  • A rain jacket: Self-explanatory. There’s always a chance that the weather turns to rain when you’re in the mountains, and we never hit the trail without a rain jacket in our backpacks. I like my Columbia rain jacket, which is a nice affordable waterproof jacket, perfect for Washington. Waterproof pants are nice too – there is absolutely nothing in the world worse than soggy pants.

  • Trekking poles: Hear us out. We thought they were lame too (or only for older hikers), but now we never, ever do a tough hike without them. You know the part where we said that you’re going to be hiking up and downhill a lot? Trekking poles help in both directions. On the way up, they give you more leverage and help you set a nice pace. On the way down, they’ll save your knees. We both have these REI trekking poles, though the buckles are failing (and have been for awhile) and we’ll be investing in a pair of these Black Diamond poles next, which have a different three-piece setup that is more durable.  

There are also some other things to pack for your hike, like a good daypack (we like Osprey backpacks for their lifetime guarantee, particularly the Talon / Tempest, which is what Alysha currently has), a reusable water bottle (we each carry two of these collapsible water bottles, which are perfect for both hiking and travel), and snacks. 

The Best Time to Hike in Washington State

Summer brings blue skies and warmer days, making it the best time to visit, especially if you’re planning to go hiking in Washington. 

July to September is the ideal time to visit Washington State for the most consistently nice hiking weather, but it is also peak tourist season – expect accommodations and flights to be the most expensive if you’re coming from out of town. During the peak summer months of July and August, most if not all trails will be snow-free. 

If you want to avoid premium prices and crowds, September and October are super nice, but there will definitely be a higher chance of gray and drizzly days. We were in Washington State in August and September on our last trip, and the weather was fantastic, with clear sunny days interspersed with the occasional dreary drizzly day. 

Spring, fall, and winter are rainy and gray, but as long as you pack a rain jacket and waterproof boots, you will be fine. The rain in Washington is mostly a light mist rather than heavy rain, which is annoying, but shouldn’t stop you from getting out and hiking if you’re set on it. 

The biggest problem with hiking outside of the summer season is the strong likelihood of snow on the trails.

For the most part, trails at higher elevations – this includes Mount Rainier, the North Cascades, Snoqualmie, and Mount Baker – are covered in snow from November to June, sometimes later. 

This picture was taken in mid-August. Still snow at Mt. Baker!

On our first trip together to Washington, we tried to visit North Cascades National Park in mid-June. I had flown up to Seattle (Alysha was set to follow shortly) before we realized that roads were closed, and the trails were still covered in snow and mostly inaccessible. We ended up re-booking for a mid-August trip, which turned out to be MUCH better. 

Even when we were hiking in Mount Rainier National Park last year, there was still snow on the famous Skyline Trail during the last week of July! And not just a dusting –  a LOT of snow.

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