13 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Washington State

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Feb 7, 2023
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()

Author Brad Lane lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves exploring its trails. His most memorable hiking experience in Washington was finishing up a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.

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, crossing several mountain ranges along the way.

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

National parks in Washington deliver with a true smorgasbord of great hiking trails. Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades earn the big crowds that gather throughout the summer season with an absolute choose-your-own-adventure amount of trails.

But don't overlook Washington State Parks and national forests for places to go hiking. Whether you're seeking waterfalls, mountain tops, or a glimpse of the geological past, these Washington open spaces deliver a full dose of unique landscapes to discover.

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
The Enchantments Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Enchantments Trail is the epitome of high alpine exploration in Washington. It's within the aptly named Alpine Lakes Wilderness of 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.

Visitors still enjoy the Enchantments without the 18-mile hike through its core. The trail's most common starting point, the Stuart Lake trailhead, also leads to several easier (but still uphill) day-hiking destinations.

Colchuck Lake is perhaps the most popular, and for good reason, glistening with its namesake appeal below Aasgard Pass.

Read More:

2. Skyline Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is the main hiking trail in the Paradise hiking area of Mount Rainier National Park. It's also one of the most popular trails to explore the scenery surrounding Washington's most iconic mountain.

The Skyline Trail offers plenty of scenery to share, despite the crowds that gather during the peak summer season. The 5.5-mile trail itself is wider than average trails and includes ample access to longer treks in the area.

Subalpine meadows immediately greet visitors upon departing from the parking area near the 1916 historical Paradise Inn. Farther down the trail, tourists encounter cascading water worthy of a postcard. Along the entire way, an up-close view of the majestic Mount Rainier gains better perspective with each step.

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, most commonly accomplished with a commercially guided adventure tour.

Read More:

3. Cascade Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park

Cascade Pass Trail
Cascade Pass Trail

The Cascade Pass Trail is one of the most accessible trails in the relatively remote North Cascades National Park. This trail is one of the best hikes in the North Cascades and provides some of the easiest terrain leading deep into this wondrous mountain environment.

The ease and accessibility of this trail make it one of the most popular in the park. The trail is worth the sometimes crowded conditions, with multiple views of craggy Cascade peaks and the glaciated valleys that define them.

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.

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.

Late summer is the best time to explore the area snow-free.

4. Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park

Hoh River Trail
Hoh River Trail

Olympic National Park encompasses a wide variety of stunning landscapes on the Olympic Peninsula of Western Washington.

This national park is home to a rugged ocean shore, snowcapped Olympic Mountains, and a stunning rainforest. 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. Other notable treks include the trip to the top of Hurricane Ridge and sidestepping tide pools on Rialto Beach.

Accommodation: Best Lodging Options for Olympic National Park

5. Boundary Trail from Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Boundary Trail #1
Boundary Trail #1

Johnston Ridge Observatory is one of the first places to head when checking out Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in southern Washington. It's at the end of Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (Highway 504), near the northwest flank of the mountain, facing the crater formed after the 1980 historic eruption event.

Boundary Trail #1 is the top hiking trail at Mount St. Helens, extending in either direction from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The entire trail spans more than 50 miles, once serving as the border between the Columbia and Rainier National Forests. But, visitors to the observatory only have to travel less than a half-mile for some of the trail's most dramatic views.

The Boundary Trail heads toward the mountain and blast zone from the Observatory. On clear days, the up-close view of the crater from here is unbeatable anywhere else in the park. The trail spans in either direction from the observatory, connecting with other day-hiking destinations like the Hummocks area and Coldwater Peak.

Read More: Best Places to Camp near Mount St. Helens, WA

6. Goat Rocks Crest Trail

Goat Rocks Crest Trail
Goat Rocks Crest Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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.

The Goat Rocks section covers roughly 28 miles and more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Covering the entire trail usually requires at least one night of camping. 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 expect to see some spectacular views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens, among many other Cascade Mountain highlights.

7. Wallace Falls Trail, Wallace Falls State Park

Wallace Falls Trail
Wallace Falls Trail

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 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. Each dazzling display of cascading water is worth the trip itself. Because of the nature of the falls, expect moments of slippery footing when exploring the cascading attractions.

The trail has an elevation gain of 1,300 feet, but the only real climbing comes between the middle and upper falls. Even if you're not interested in trekking the entire trail, the lower and middle portions of the Wallace Falls Trail expose enough outstanding views to make it worth the trip.

8. Steamboat Rock Trail, Steamboat Rock State Park

Steamboat Rock
Steamboat Rock

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 jutting 800 feet up from the shores of Banks Lakeā€”an equally massive reservoir with a surface area covering 600 acres.

To hike up to this impressive geological feature, the Steamboat Rock Trail includes a bit of a climb. However, the panoramic views of the surrounding region are well worth the sore calf muscles.

It's approximately a six-mile loop with 700 feet of elevation gain to make it to the top of Steamboat Rock. 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.

9. Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

Wonderland Trail
Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail travels 93 miles around Mount Rainier, circling the entire base of what is possibly Washington's most iconic peak.

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, 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.

If you're not up for such a big undertaking, consider one of the other popular hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park.

10. Sol Duc Falls Trail, Olympic National Park

Sol Duc Falls Trail
Sol Duc Falls Trail

The Sol Duc Falls Trail is a family-friendly and popular outlet to explore in Olympic National Park.

This trail navigates the surrounding Sol Duc Valley, including the cascading Sol Duc River. And 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

The trail is easily accessed by either the Sol Duc Campground or Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. It's a less-than-one-mile hike to reach the waterfall. This short distance and wide trail makes Sol Duc Falls a popular family destination, including for those with little kids.

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 a hike, including mineral baths, massages, and a comfortable place to recharge before your next hike in the park.

11. Lake Ann Trail, Mount Baker Highway

Lake Ann Trail
Lake Ann Trail

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. This trail offers unparalleled views of Mount Baker and, more notably, Mount Shuksan, all from the calm shores of the serene Lake Ann.

This hike is accessible from the Mount Baker Highway, and the aptly named Artist Point marks the beginning of this wild and wonderful route. 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.

12. Umatilla Rock Trail, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Umatilla Rock Trail
Umatilla Rock Trail

If 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.

This high desert landscape's defining feature is the Dry Falls cliffside. 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.

13. Ape Cave Trail, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Ape Cave Trail
Ape Cave Trail

The Ape Cave Trail plunges visitors into a subterranean world within Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The trail extends for more than two miles underground and 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. 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.

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.

Map of Washington State - Top-Rated Hiking Trails

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

image

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.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Washington