Washington gives a great taste of the beautiful nature of the Pacific Northwest. Temperate rainforest scenes and massive haystack rocks off the coast likely come to mind. But, the Evergreen State has so much more to offer.
- 10 volcanoes
- 3,000 glaciers; the most of any U.S. state!
- 3,167 named mountains
- Over 8,000 lakes
- Over 100 waterfalls
- 157 miles of coastline, 60 of which belong to Olympic National Park
It's easy to see why so many hikers love spending time here. Looking to visit yourself? Here are some of the best backpacking trips in the state.
Featured Photo: Wonderland Trail (Photo by pixelgerm)
Marmot and Jade Lake
At 20-miles, this out-and-back trail is perfect for a long weekend. Rated as difficult, you'll gain about 4,500 feet in total elevation gain. Be ready for many river crossings and disappearing trail. (Be sure to have a good map and know how to use it.) Look for an ice cave in the Hozbizz Basin. Marmot Lake offers a lot of nice campsites along its shores. It can be difficult finding the way to Jade Lake from here. Keep an eye out for rock cairns guiding the way. If you cross over a small waterfall, you should be on the right path. Don't give up. The beautiful blue-green water of Jade Lake is worth the extra distance. Plenty of streams and waterfalls feed into it as well.
Spider Meadow to Buck Creek Pass
This 40-mile loop trail is rated as moderate to difficult with nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain. Being immersed in all the wonders of the Washington wilderness are worth it. You'll pass by plenty of alpine lakes, including the Lyman lakes, Image Lake, and Hart Lake. (Don't miss the side trip to Lyman Falls too.) The side trips to Middle Ridge and Flower Dome are worthy. Other highlights include colorful alpine meadows, glaciers, and amazing views of Glacier Peak. If you're looking for solitude and chances to view local wildlife, you'll love this route. Be sure to not leave your packs unattended. Marmots enjoy this area too. You can learn more about this trip in our full write-up.
The trip to Goat Lake and back is a moderate 10.5-mile loop. This makes it a great overnight trip or one to do with the kids. The 1,400 feet of elevation gain is doable for most. The majestic mountains rising around the lake create photogenic reflections. Tons of waterfalls dot the route. The path to the right follows a creek closely, but the stream crossings are reasonable. (Perhaps a better route for beginners and kids.) The path to the left runs up and down an old road. The stream crossings here are trickier. Don't expect too much seclusion once you reach Goat Lake. (Popular area) Do expect to catch some fish if you bring your backcountry fishing poles!
For the ultimate PNW adventure in Washington, head out on the Wonderland Trail. Be sure you're in top trail shape for this strenuous 93-mile trek. You can expect 3,500 feet of elevation change...Per day. The trail circumnavigates Mt.Rainier, which rises over 14,000 feet. The path takes you through vibrant wildflower meadows, verdant valleys, and past clear mountain lakes. And, of course, offers the best views of Washington's tallest mountain. Pack load seem daunting? You can arrange food caches at ranger stations. This trail does require permits and they are hard to get. Plan accordingly. Check out this Washington Trails Association page for a jumping-off point to plan your hike.
Hoh River to Sol Duc
For another lengthy adventure, head out on this 51-mile point-to-point route. Located in Olympic NP, you'll start in the infamous temperate rainforest. Meander along the river before splitting off to the base of Mt. Olympus. Head up through alpine meadows and pass several lakes that make great rest stops. Make your way past waterfalls and traverse switchbacks along ridgelines. Finally, descend back to the Sol Duc River Valley. Don't miss out on relaxing in the hot springs before heading home. Find out more about this amazing Cascadian trip in our detailed article.
High Divide and Seven Lakes Basin
For a shorter trip nearby, head out on the High Divide Trail in the Seven Lakes Basin area. This 19-mile loop has a total of 4,000 feet elevation gain. It is rated as moderate to difficult. If you love water features and great views, you'll enjoy this trail. Highlights include Sol Duc Falls, walking along the Sol Duc River, and several lakes. The High Divide Trail, the midpoint, offers incredible views of the surrounding area. This includes Bogachiel Peak, Mount Olympus, and the Hoh River Valley. Plenty of campsites can be found along the way. If you're lucky, you may see some mountain goats, black bears, and other wildlife. The popularity of this area means a limited number of permits are awarded each season. Plan accordingly!
Salmon la Sac to Spade and Venus Lakes
For a moderate 3-day wilderness adventure, head to Spade and Venus Lakes. This trail takes you 28 miles out-and-back to the crystal lakes. They are arguably two of the most remote and photo-worthy in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The 2,300 feet of elevation gain might sound daunting to some. But, the toughest part is the 4-mile section between Waptus and Spade Lake (lots of elevation gain). Other challenges include a wide, cold river crossing and finding the route between Spade and Venus Lakes. Plenty of campsites and water sources are available. The leisurely pace of the first two days allows extra time to explore all the beauty of the area. You can even make it a 4-day trip if you don't want to rush back to the trailhead on your third day. Get more details on this trail in our full write-up.
At 13 miles round-trip, the Siouxon Trail is another laid-back option for beginners or families. Elevation gain is minimal at 600 feet. Start in an ethereal fern-covered forest. The trail becomes rockier with some stream crossings, so wear your quick-drying shoes. The route ends with some lovely canyons covered with rock outcroppings. The moderate out-and-back trail will delight waterfall lovers. The path follows beside boulder-strewn Siouxon Creek. The rocks make for lots of rapids and stunning waterfalls. Notable cascades include Siouxon Falls, Chinook Falls, 14-Mile Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Be sure to check closures before leaving. As of April 2021, the trail was closed due to fire damage.
This 20-mile point-to-point trek is one of the most popular in the region. The terrain is difficult, so plan for a 3-4 day trip. You can expect everything from an alpine hike: Craggy peaks rising towards the sky, unique blue glacier-fed lakes, and sprawling flower-filled meadows. Fall is a wonderful time to visit to enjoy the larches. Keep a lookout for mountain goats as well. This is one of those hikes that words don't really do justice. It's worth noting that backpacking permits are very hard to acquire through a lottery system. Plan ahead! Read our full post for more important information.
Who hasn't dreamed of camping on a beach? The Ozette Triangle is a short 9-mile trip. But, it's totally worth the unique experience of walking along a secluded Washington coast. The easy trail only has 100 feet of elevation gain. This makes it another great option for beginners and short overnight trips. Two legs of the triangle wander through quiet forests full of evergreens. Tskawahyah Island and many haystack rocks can be seen from the beach. Keep your eyes peeled for marine life, such as seals and otters. Take a moment to look over the petroglyphs at Wedding Rock too.
Whether you're seeking lakes, mountains, or beaches, there is no shortage of amazing backpacking trips in Washington. What is your favorite trail in The Evergreen State?
Looking for more hike ideas? Read our "Best Backpacking Trips on the West Coast" roundup post. Also, the following Hike of the Week articles cover other great west coast trips.
For even more amazing backpacking trips, visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up.
Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics. If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.