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12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Washington State

Mar 13, 2017
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park Brad Lane
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Among the many recreational opportunities found in Washington, the state is perhaps best known for some of the top hiking trails in the world. Trails span the rugged coast on the western edge of the state to the high desert landscape found inland to the east. Whether you're looking for waterfalls, mountain tops, or a glimpse of the geological past, Washington has enough trails to keep your calves burning throughout the year. While there are many great trails to choose from, and plenty of side-trips to explore along the way, what you will quickly find on every hiking trail in the state of Washington are spectacular views that you don't think could get any better - until you visit the next trail.

1 The Enchantments Trail

The Enchantments Trail
The Enchantments Trail Brad Lane
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The Enchantments Trail, in the aptly named Alpine Lakes Wilderness, is the epitome of high alpine exploration in Washington. This grueling 18-mile trail can be done in multiple days by obtaining a much sought-after permit, or for a real challenge, the entire trail can be done in one long day of hiking. The sweat equity is well worth the views though, as you will see, making your way through the craggy peaks and interlinking alpine lakes of the Enchantments basin, and while the climb up or down Aasgard Pass is tough on the knees, the Enchantments truly live up to their name.

2 Skyline Trail

Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail
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In the Paradise hiking area of Mount Rainier National Park, the Skyline Trail is one of the most popular trails to explore the scenery surrounding the iconic Mount Rainier. Despite its crowds in the peak summer season, with a wider trail and 5.5 miles to explore, plus ample access to longer trails in the area, the Skyline Trail offers plenty of scenery to share. Departing from the parking area near the 1916 historic Paradise Inn, visitors and tourists can expect to see subalpine meadows brimming with color; cascading water worthy of a postcard; and of course, an up-close view of the majestic Mount Rainier the entire way. Whether you are just getting introduced to Mount Rainier National Park and the surrounding Pacific Northwest scenery, or you're looking for a refresher to remind yourself why Washington has the best hiking trails around, the Skyline Trail is an easily attainable adventure.

3 Cascade Pass Trail

Cascade Pass Trail
Cascade Pass Trail
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The Cascade Pass trail is one of the most accessible trails in the relatively remote North Cascades National Park and provides some of the easiest terrain to take you deep into this wondrous mountain environment. The ease and accessibility of this trail makes it one of the most popular in the park, but with multiple views of craggy Cascade peaks and the glaciated valleys that define them, the Cascade Pass Trail is worth the sometimes crowded conditions. Big views and family-friendly terrain can be found by taking the seven-mile round-trip to Cascade Pass and back, but more seasoned explorers can continue on the Sahale Arm Trail for more views of subalpine meadows and mountainous landscapes.

4 Rialto Beach Trail

Rialto Beach Trail
Rialto Beach Trail
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While the state of Washington isn't necessarily known for its sun-soaked beaches, the west coast does provide dramatic shoreline attractions for every level of hiker. Perhaps the best example of Washington's wild coast can be found on the Rialto Beach Trail, on the Olympic Peninsula within Olympic National Park. This moderate, four-mile round-trip trail parallels the Pacific Ocean and features tide pools to explore; wildlife that can be seen in the water; and outstanding rock formations, including the impressive Hole-in-the-Wall, which serves as most people's turnaround point on this epic coastal hike.

5 Editor's Pick Goat Rocks Crest Trail

Goat Rocks Crest Trail
Goat Rocks Crest Trail Brad Lane
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While the entire portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that spans Washington is worthy of the list, if you don't have time to trek these 500 miles, the section from Chinook Pass to White Pass, including the Goat Rocks Wilderness, is a must-do overnight hike for your bucket list. Covering roughly 28 miles and more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain, this section usually requires at least one night spent on trail, if not multiple, but because it's the PCT, campsite availability should never be a problem. It's the weather that is the biggest concern while climbing across the Goat Rocks Crest, because the route follows a stunning, exposed ridgeline comprised of dinner-plate sized boulders. Hit this trail at the right time of year, however, and you can expect to see some spectacular views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens, among many other Cascade Mountain highlights.

6 Wallace Falls Trail

Wallace Falls Trail
Wallace Falls Trail
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The Wallace Falls Trail within Wallace Falls State Park is one of the most popular trails in the state of Washington. It's not just its easy accessibility and moderate grade that draws crowds of hikers here, but also the incredible scenery found on every stretch of this roughly five-mile round-trip. The trail encompasses nine different waterfalls, split between the lower, middle, and upper sections, and each dazzling display of cascading water is worth the trip itself. The only real climbing on this trail comes between the middle and upper falls, and even if you don't want to trek the entire trail, the lower and middle portions of the Wallace Falls Trail expose you to enough outstanding views of the surrounding Skykomish River Valley to keep you satisfied.

7 Steamboat Rock Trail

Steamboat Rock Trail
Steamboat Rock Trail
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While the western half of Washington gets most of the hiking notoriety, the high desert in eastern Washington provides a good concentration of amazing trails worth exploring. Perhaps one of the best examples is the Steamboat Rock Trail, next to Electric City in Steamboat Rock State Park. Steamboat Rock itself is a basalt butte that juts 800 feet up from the shores of Banks Lake with a surface area on top of 600 square feet. To hike up to this impressive geological feature, the Steamboat Rock Trail includes a bit of a climb, but the panoramic views of the surrounding region are well worth the sore calf muscles. Atop the butte is a visual example of the impact the Ice Age had on eastern Washington thousands of years ago, and if you plan your hike for the spring, chances are you'll be trekking next to a bountiful concentration of wildflowers to accompany this age-old view.

8 Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail
Wonderland Trail
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Circling the entire base of what is possibly Washington's most iconic peak, the Wonderland Trail travels for 93 miles around Mount Rainier, offering some of the best scenery in the state. To hike along the many ups and downs of the Wonderland Trail, particularly during the peak season of summer, hikers are required to have a much sought-after permit to stay overnight. The National Park Service allows for a maximum of 14 days to travel the 93 miles, and in that time, you can expect to not only see a healthy collection of stunning views of Mount Rainier, but also get a full dose of the Cascade environment including luscious meadows, shimmering alpine lakes, and rushing river crossings.

9 Sol Duc Falls Trail

Sol Duc Falls Trail
Sol Duc Falls Trail
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The Sol Duc Falls Trail, easily accessed by either the Sol Duc Campground or Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park, is a family-friendly and popular outlet to explore the surrounding Sol Duc Valley, including the cascading Sol Duc River. The nearly two-mile hike to the impressive Sol Duc Falls is just a small portion of what you can enjoy on your next Olympic National Park excursion, and for those seeking a longer haul, the continuing Lover's Lane trail offers more views of the alpine lakes and subalpine meadows found in the area. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort itself offers plenty of attractions to explore before or after your hike, including mineral baths, massages, and a comfortable place to recharge before your next hike in the park.

10 Lake Ann Trail

Lake Ann Trail
Lake Ann Trail
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Not to be confused with the nearby Lake Ann Trail found at Rainy Pass in North Cascades National Park, the Lake Ann Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offers unparalleled views of both Mount Baker and, more notably, Mount Shuksan, all from the calm shores of the serene Lake Ann. This 8.2-mile trail isn't just another walk in the park, however, and the steep elevation in both directions at the beginning of the trail will test your legs and leave you wondering if the pain is worth it. Once you approach the shoreline, though, and witness the pristine Washington wilderness reflecting off the glacier-fed water of Lake Ann, you'll see for yourself that the hard work was well worth the effort.

11 Umatilla Rock Trail

Umatilla Rock Trail
Umatilla Rock Trail
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If you are seeking to immerse yourself in the eastern Washington landscape, there is no better place to do it than Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park near Coulee City. The defining feature of this high desert landscape is the cliffside of Dry Falls, which thousands of years ago, during monumental Ice Age floods, was more than twice the size of Niagara Falls. While there are many great ways to witness this massive geological namesake, including the nearby Lenore Caves Trail, the view along the Umatilla Rock Trail is the way to go. Featuring an upwards look from the bottom of this 400-foot cliff at the impressive Dry Falls, the Umatilla Rock Trail is a looped trail that circumnavigates Umatilla Rock itself, providing a unique look at an arid landscape not always associated with the state of Washington.

12 Ape Cave Trail

Ape Cave Trail
Ape Cave Trail iwona_kellie
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The Ape Cave Trail, in the Mount St. Helens National Monument within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, plunges you deep into the subterranean world. Extending for more than two miles underground, the Ape Cave Trail provides access to one of the longest lava tubes in the nation, if not the most easily accessible, meaning that every member of the family can explore this new world beneath their feet. For more adventurous explorers, the Ape Cave Trail also offers plenty of nooks and crannies to wiggle yourself through and get a little dirty.

Of special note concerning the Ape Cave Trail and any commercial or wild cave is that no matter how well explored they are, caves can be a dangerous environment, and they are also extremely fragile. While visiting the Ape Cave Trail, it's not only important to pack the necessary gear, including multiple light sources, but to also respect the cave's resources by staying on the trail and not disturbing the naturally quiet and darkened environment.

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