12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Washington State
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.
National parks in Washington deliver with a true smorgasbord of great hiking trails, and state parks in Washington also deliver with miles to explore. In fact, the entire state offers many great trails to choose from and plenty of side trips to explore along the way, and you will quickly find that many offer spectacular views that you don't think could get any better - until you visit the next trail.
Lace up your boots and head outdoors with our list of the best hiking trails in Washington state.
1. The Enchantments Trail, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
The Enchantments Trail is the epitome of high alpine exploration in Washington. Within the aptly named Alpine Lakes Wilderness of the Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest, the grueling 18-mile "Enchantment Core" trail can be done in multiple days by obtaining a much sought-after permit. For a real challenge, the entire trail can also be done in one long day of hiking.
With over 4,500 feet of elevation gain along the route, day hiking the Enchantment Core is recommended only for those in strong hiking condition. The hike up or down the formidable Aasgard Pass (depending on which way you go) is one of the most challenging sections of the trail. The sweat equity is well worth the views, though. The trail passes by several craggy peaks and interlinking alpine lakes. One hike and you'll be hooked, and you'll realize the Enchantments truly live up to their name.
2. Skyline Trail, Mount Rainier National Park
The main hiking trail 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 Washington's most iconic mountain. Despite its crowds in the peak summer season, the Skyline Trail offers plenty of scenery to share. The 5.5-mile trail itself is wider than average trails, and it includes ample access to longer trails in the area.
Departing from the parking area near the 1916 historic Paradise Inn, visitors are immediately greeted by subalpine meadows brimming with color. Farther down the trail, tourists encounter cascading water worthy of a postcard. An up-close view of the majestic Mount Rainier is also presented the entire way.
The Skyline Trail is just one of many great hiking trails in Mount Rainier National Park. Other highlights in the park include Narada Falls and Spray Park. The Skyline Trail is also the first leg for many looking to summit Mount Rainier - which is mostly done with a commercially guided adventure tour.
3. Cascade Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park
The Cascade Pass Trail is one of the most accessible trails in the relatively remote North Cascades National Park. The trail is one of the best hikes in the North Cascades 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.
The trail is accessed by driving 23 miles on Cascade River Road from Highway 20 near Marblemount. The road is partially paved to begin with and turns to gravel around the halfway mark. It's a seven-mile round-trip to Cascade Pass with a total of nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain spread across several switchbacks. More seasoned explorers can continue on the Sahale Arm Trail for more views of subalpine meadows and mountainous landscapes.
4. Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park
On the Olympic Peninsula of Western Washington, Olympic National Park encompasses a wide variety of stunning landscapes. Alongside a rugged ocean shore and snowcapped Olympic Mountains, the national park is also home to a stunning rain forest. One of the best ways to explore this lush environment is on the Hoh River Trail on the northwest side of the park.
At over 17 miles in length, the Hoh River Trail offers a choose-your-own-adventure for visitors. Users can travel as far as they'd like through the dense forest before turning back around. The trail is fairly level the entire way and wide enough at the beginning to support the crowds it receives in the summer.
Backpackers can get a self-issued permit to spend the night on the trail. The trail gains significant elevation towards the end, where a stunning view of Blue Glacier and Mount Olympus await intrepid explorers. The Hoh River Trail is just one of several great hiking trails in Olympic National Park.
5. Goat Rocks Crest Trail
The entire portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that spans Washington is worth checking out. 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. 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. 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.
- Read More:
- Best Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail
6. Wallace Falls Trail, Wallace Falls State Park
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 the easy accessibility and moderate grade that draws crowds to this state park an hour from of Seattle, but also the incredible scenery found on every stretch of this 5.6-mile round-trip.
The trail encompasses nine different waterfalls on the Wallace River, split between the lower, middle, and upper sections, and each dazzling display of cascading water is worth the trip itself.
The trail has an elevation gain of 1,300 feet, but the only real climbing on this trail comes between the middle and upper falls. 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 State Park
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 spectacular basalt butte that juts 800 feet up from the shores of Banks Lake with a surface area on top of 600 acres.
To hike up to this impressive geological feature, the Steamboat Rock Trail includes a bit of a climb. The panoramic views of the surrounding region, however, 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. 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, Mount Rainier National Park
Circling the entire base of what is possibly Washington's most iconic peak, the Wonderland Trail travels for 93 miles around Mount Rainier. 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 camp overnight. A lottery system for summer permits begins March 15. About 30 percent of permits are available on a walk-up basis.
The National Park Service allows for a maximum of 14 days to travel the 93 miles. In that time, you can expect to see a healthy collection of stunning views of Mount Rainier from every angle. Hikers also get a full dose of the Cascade scenery including luscious meadows, shimmering alpine lakes, and rushing river crossings.
9. Sol Duc Falls Trail, Olympic National Park
The Sol Duc Falls Trail is a family-friendly and popular outlet to explore the surrounding Sol Duc Valley, including the cascading Sol Duc River. The trail is easily accessed by either the Sol Duc Campground or Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park. The nearly two-mile hike to the impressive Sol Duc Falls is just the beginning of a longer trail that dives deep into the heart of the national park.
For those seeking a longer haul, the trail continues into the Seven Lakes Basin with several views of alpine lakes and subalpine meadows. Advanced permits are required to camp in the Seven Lake Basin area of the park.
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, Mount Baker Highway
Not to be confused with the nearby Lake Ann found at Rainy Pass in North Cascades National Park, this Lake Ann Trail is in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Accessed from the Mount Baker Highway, this trail offers unparalleled views of Mount Baker and, more notably, Mount Shuksan, all from the calm shores of the serene Lake Ann. The aptly named Artist Point marks the beginning of this wild and wonderful trail.
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. The trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet, with some sections including large boulders that hikers must navigate. 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, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park
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. Thousands of years ago, during monumental Ice Age floods, this massive water feature 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. This five-mile trail features an upwards look from the bottom of the 400-foot cliff that is the impressive Dry Falls.
The Umatilla Rock Trail is a looped trail that circumnavigates Umatilla Rock itself, providing a unique look at the arid landscape presented by Eastern Washington.
12. Ape Cave Trail, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Within Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the Ape Cave Trail plunges visitors into a 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 Upper Cave trail features a point-to-point two-mile hike with scrambling involved.
This unique lava tube is just one of many great hiking trails at Mt. St. Helens. 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.
For an easier trek, the Lower Cave trail is an out-and-back, three-quarters-of-a-mile trail with few features to climb over.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
More Hiking Trails in Washington: Washington's national parks are hot spots for hiking trails in the state. The best hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park feature waterfalls, alpine meadows, and plenty of great views of the mountain. Likewise, the top hiking trails in Olympic National Park feature paths that traverse coastal environments, rain forests, and mountainous landscapes. For some fun in the North Cascades, our guide to hiking trails in North Cascades National Park will truly test your legs.
More Washington Wonders: Our guide to the best state and national parks in Washington can have you exploring wild landscapes for a lifetime. For some steamy appeal and sore muscle relievers, the top hot springs in Washington feature luscious surroundings and hot water. If winter is more your thing, the best ski resorts in Washington deliver adventure during the colder months of the year.