Ultimate Guide: The 25 best hikes in Washington state

Hiking in Washington means you’re spoiled. Just the fact you’re spending time in the Pacific Northwest gives you views most of the country dreams of. But like any other state, there are good views, and there are great views. So grab your camera, fill up your backpack, and lace up your boots.

We’re diving into the best hikes in Washington State and steering you toward some jaw-dropping views.

Your guide to the best hikes in Washington state

But first, here are a few things to keep in mind while checking off the best hikes in Washington:

  • Keep your rain jacket handy while hiking in Washington.
  • Bring microspikes. North slopes can hold snow.
  • Summer days go to nearly 10 pm. Plan your food/meals accordingly.
  • Parking lots at the most popular trailheads will be packed by 8:30 am. Start early or go for sunset.
  • Finally, download your maps offline the night before tackling the best hikes in Washington.

The 25 best hikes in Washington you can’t miss

Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm

best hikes in washington sahale arm
North Cascades National Park | best hikes in Washington

One thing to know: This is personally one of my favorite hikes. While the views at Cascade Pass are lovely, keep hiking to the left. You’ll soon hit a lake below; if you want, keep hiking to the top of the arm. I promise the views will be worth it.

Yellow Aster Butte

A hiker walks on a small hill in front of a mountain with a small pond reflecting the mountain.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

I tackled this as my first solo backpacking trip post-bone marrow transplant in early fall 2023. Let me tell ya, it’s a beauty. The colors were magical, and the views spectacular.

The trail is pretty consistent the entire way, with nothing too challenging or arduous. Though, if you’re backpacking, you will feel it in your legs. I found a perfect spot down in the basin by one of the lakes. I had no one around me for this mid-week trek which made it perfect.

Trip Report.

Summit Lake

Summit Lake is one of the best hikes in washington hands down!

One thing to know: The Summit Lake hike is one of the best bang for your buck hikes in Washington. While the hike is pretty moderate, the road to the trailhead has six miles of crud that will take you about 45 minutes to drive. There were low-clearance cars, but you’ll be happier with clearance and AWD.

Park Butte Lookout

 Park Butte Lookout best hikes in washington

One thing to know: This is a rad hike and one I know you’ll love. It’s the closest fire lookout to Mt. Baker and offers incredible views of the volcano and Puget Sound to the west. You can also sleep in it if no one has claimed it yet. At only 7.5 miles round trip, it’s easily one of the best hikes in Washington.

Sahale Glacier Camp

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One thing to know: An add-on to the above. If you’re looking for the most unbelievable view while hiking in Washington, get to the Sahale Glacier Camp. Overnight camping is by permit only, but day hikes are more than possible.

About 14 miles round trip, this is one of the best hikes in Washington.

Vesper Peak

washington hiking stuart peak layers best hikes in washington state

One thing to know: A rugged, four-mile, four thousand-foot ascent will leave you hurting, but the views will fill your soul with joy! It is considered one of the best hikes in Washington State due to its views, proximity to Seattle, and lack of technical attributes.

Read more here.

Naches Peak Loop

best hikes in washington
best hikes in Washington

One thing to know: Are you looking for a casual yet visually rewarding hike near Mt Rainier? If so, the Naches Peak Loop is one of the best hikes in Washington, with gorgeous wildflowers and stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

I recommend visiting in August and going when the flowers are in peak bloom.

Mount Daniel

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One thing to know: This is an 8-mile, 5,000-foot ascent butt burner, but the trek is worth it. You’ll have scree, steep traverses, and snow travel throughout the hike. But if you make it through, the views will wow. Additionally, there’s water at Peggy’s Pond and any snow runoff you find. But no technical water sources near the top.

Even though it’s strenuous, it’s a classic for hiking in Washington.

Trip report

Boulder River Trail + Waterfall

One thing to know: On its surface, the Boulder River Trail doesn’t seem like much when you read about it. But when you arrive, it’s a wonderful 3+ mile hike to a stunning unnamed waterfall. The trail is relatively flat, with a slight uphill towards the end.

If you’re looking to get down to the water, you’ll also have a steep downhill for 10 yards when you arrive at the waterfall.

Camp Muir

camp muir pnw hikes hiking in Washington

One thing to know: This is a challenging hike. With nearly 5k of elevation in four miles, your ascent is demanding. Add in the fact most of it is on snow, and your hiking speed will be like a snail. So make sure to bring microspikes, hiking poles, and something to glissade down on.

But what makes it one of the best Washington hikes is its proximity to Mt. Rainier. Unless you’re summiting, no other trail in the park gets you as close to the summit.

Trail Report here.

Lake of the Angels

best hikes in washington

This is a daunting hike with over 3,500 feet of elevation gain in about 3.5 miles. But the payoff is a stunning basin nestled inside the Olympic Range. Plus, most people visit Lena Lake, so you’ll have the Lake of the Angels generally to yourself.

So while the struggle does suck, it’s one of the best Washington hikes because of the solitude and majestic nature of the destination.

Hurricane Ridge

hurricane ridge best hikes in washington

One thing to know: This can be very hit or miss regarding the weather. Due to its proximity to the water, finding yourself in the clouds is not a low probability. So before you visit, take a good look at the weather forecast. To reach this view, it’s about a mile hike from the parking lot.

Learn more here.

Blue Lake

best hikes in washington blue lake north cascades

One thing to know: It’s quite a drive from Seattle and near the far eastern side of North Cascades National Park, but it’s a beautiful and moderate hike. At 4+ miles, you get stunning views of the Cascades and then arrive at a beaming blue lake!

Once you start, you’ll quickly realize it’s one of the best Washington hikes you can do. Keep this in mind for the fall as the nearby larches will turn.

Burroughs Mountain

best hikes in washington burroughs mountain

One thing to know: A true gem on the north side of Mt. Rainier. It’s the closest you can get to the Mountain on this side. There are three “mountains” you can hike to, the longest being an 8-mile hike. With views to the north and west and Rainier to the south, it’s easily one of my best hikes in Washington State.

Make sure to have good hiking shoes, as it can be rocky in some parts!

Colchuck Lake

top hikes near Seattle colchuck lake best hikes in washington state

One thing to know: You surely know of Colchuck Lake. Its immense popularity has grown in the last five years for a good reason. Try to avoid this place during the weekends and at peak hours. While popular, it’s not a walk in the park.

It’s about 8 miles round trip with 2,200 feet of elevation gain – the majority of it on the backend as you climb to the lake.


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Sol Duc Falls

sol duc fall olympic best hikes in washington

One thing to know: A short hike to a unique waterfall in Olympic National Park. Sol Duc Falls is perfect for the entire family and those looking for a quick stop while adventuring throughout the park.

Unfortunately, the trailhead is also the jumping-off point for various popular backcountry spots, so the parking lot will fill up quickly.

Chain Lakes Loop

best hikes in Washington

One thing to know: This is the most popular hike at Artist Point near Mt. Baker. Knowing this, be prepared for many people on weekends, especially in the fall when the colors change to vibrant reds and oranges.

Still, it’s one of the best hikes in Washington state, with a massive reward for less effort.

Trip Report.

Maple Pass

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One thing to know: Another GEM and arguably one of the finest views in the PNW. While you can complete the loop, many return to the saddle. This is perfect in all seasons, especially in fall when the colors change. Once you reach the ridge line, you’ll quickly realize why this is one of the best hikes in Washington state.

The bugs can be nasty, so wear a long-sleeved sun shirt to help them off your skin!

Fremont Lookout

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park Fremont Lookout best hikes in washington
best hikes in washington

One thing to know: Keep an eye on the weather because if you can get an inversion like the above, you’re one lucky duck. The trail is about seven miles round trip and accessible to most individuals. You won’t be alone here, as it’s a popular hike but so worth it.

You’ll be hiking back in the dark, so bring a headlamp!

Thorp Lookout

best hikes in washington thorp mountain lookout
best hikes in washington

One thing to know: One of the coolest hikes I’ve done. The trail meanders at first before gaining elevation to the lookout. Then, the wildflowers will bloom in the summer, creating the most magical view. Overall, it’s a pretty moderate hike and is about seven miles round trip. But what makes it so unique is the Mt. Rainier view.

To me, this elevates it to the best hikes in Washington status.

Trail report.

The Enchantments thru hike

best hikes in washington

One thing to know: This is one of the hardest to secure permits in the area. With nearly 25,000 people applying, getting one is like winning the lottery. The trip is 22-ish miles with plenty of alpine lakes and side hikes. Everyone should aim to do this once in their life.

Trip reports

How to Thru-hike the Enchantments

Lake Serene

lake serene best hikes in washington

One thing to know: This is a lovely hike that’s actually harder than we expected. At 2,200 feet of gain, most of it happens over the back end of the hike. The spires are insanely cool at the top. Lastly, a waterfall about halfway in is worth the visit!

Furthermore, this is one of the best Washington hikes early in the season.

High Rock Lookout

best washington hikes pnw best hikes in washington
High Rock | best Washington hikes

One thing to know: The entire hike up is not noteworthy. Keep your camera tucked away but be ready for sheer brilliance. For those scared of heights/ledges, please avoid the sides. Also, you can’t sleep inside but can pitch a tent nearby.

It’s a truly stunning view on top.

Trail Report

Cutthroat Pass

backpacking cutthroat pass best hikes in washington state
East side of the north cascades | best Washington hikes

One thing to know: One of my favorite Washington fall hikes, this is best done, in my opinion, from the Cutthroat Lake side and not the PCT. You get better larches, and the trail is less traveled. The only downside is there is some mountain biking traffic.

Still, it’s unbelievably beautiful. Because of the larches, it’s totally one of the best hikes in Washington.

Trail Report

Grasshopper Pass

best hikes in washingtong grasshopper pass

One thing to know: Grasshopper Pass is an adventure to get to, but it’s well worth it. But first, you have to get there. The road starts near Mazama, where you’ll quickly leave the pavement and drive on NF5400, a bumpy road that turns very bumpy and narrow. Once you’re here, stay a while. The Meadows Campground is a perfect home base.

You can hike north and south (to Grasshopper Pass) on the PCT or up the short steep trail to Slate Peak, an old fire lookout tower.

Silver Peak

mount rainier with gorgeous sunset colors
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

One thing to know: Silver Peak is an epic hike in the Snoqualmie Pass area. It requires a 3-4 mile dirt road that can be bumpy places. You start hiking south on the PCT for about 1.5 miles before branching off toward the summit. It is a six-mile round trip and deserves to be on this best hikes in Washington state list.

Overall, this is a wildly awesome trail, and you’ll have a Rainier view on a clear day!

What to know about the best hikes in Washington

What permits or passes do I need to hike in Washington?

Your America the Beautiful Pass will cover nearly everything as you tackle the best hikes in Washington. This is especially true for National Forests or National Parks. Unfortunately, state Parks are not covered with the AB Pass. To visit Washington State Parks, get the Discover Pass. It is only $30.

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Are there bears in Washington?

Yes, you might run into a black bear while hiking in Washington. However, they will likely not care about you as they will be munching on endless amounts of blueberries. Adding to that, there’s no need to carry bear spray, especially if you’re hiking in a group.

bears in Washington

What are some good backpacking hikes in Washington State?

Here are four top-notch backpacking trails in Washington that don’t currently require permits:

  1. Gothic Basin
  2. Cutthroat Pass
  3. Wing Lake
  4. Tuck and Robin Lakes

What are some hikes around Seattle I can do alone?

There are some amazing hikes near Seattle, and some of them are the best hikes in Washington.

  • Mailbox Peak (Hard)
  • Tiger Mountain #3 (Moderate to Hard)
  • Discovery Point to the Lighthouse (Easy)
  • Coal Creek Falls (Easy)

Hiking gear for the best Washington hikes in the Cascades and Olympics

When is the best time to visit Washington?

July through September is the most reasonable time to visit and do the best hikes in Washington. You’ll find the weather is excellent, trails have melted out, and days last forever. This will let you hike to your heart’s content.

The only downside to summer hiking in Washington is the risk of wildfire smoke. Smoke can be hit or miss and it can drift down from Canada or up from Oregon. In 2022, it was terrible as we had almost no rain during the summer months.

However, in 2023, we had a wetter year with little smoke, but fewer days of sun.

What else you need to know about the best hikes in Washington:

Hiking in Washington doesn’t start until the mountains melt out in July.

So if you’re planning a trip for the best hikes in Washington, aiming for anything before July can lead to some disappointment. Or, bring snowshoes/expect muddy trails.

Know what lands your best hikes in Washington are on

While the significant destinations (Mt. Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades) require backpacking permits, a lot of National Forest/Wilderness land does not require it. If you do your research, you should have no issues finding amazing overnight trips.

The best Washington hikes are hardly secrets.

If you want some solitude, hike on the weekdays or in the evening for sunset. Or, look at the surrounding trails that can still pack a punch visually but have less fanfare.

Best hikes in Washington – Wrapping up

As you hike and recreate in the Washington Mountains, please remember to Leave No Trace and to practice sustainable tourism. This land needs our help to survive, and you are a key component in helping preserve it for future generations.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.


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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside