Washington state has a rich abundance of world-class hiking trails ranging from a pristine coastline in the west to the desert dunes in the east, including majestic mountains and breathtaking wildflower alpine meadows. Simply put – you are spoilt for choice!
Hiking in Washington state is a great way to discover the region’s exceptional biodiversity encompassing the Olympic Peninsula, North and Central Cascades, Mount Rainier National Park, and Alpine Lakes Wilderness regions that cater to day-trippers backpackers alike.
You could be forgiven for being indecisive with so many incredible hiking trails. So, let me guide your path to select an Instagram-worthy hiking trail that will “tick all your boxes.”
Breathtaking Hiking Trails In The Cascades
The Cascades is a hiker’s paradise as it caters to day-trip hikers with short routes and overnight backpackers who want to explore magnificent landscapes.
Cascades Pass Hiking Trail: A Seven Miles Return Route
This trail is one of the best accessible hiking trails in the North Cascades National Park as the terrain is easy to navigate.
It allows you to enjoy breathtaking mountainous views and glorious valleys with an elevation gain of 2000 feet without having to be super fit. So, don’t be surprised if you spot large crowds along the route.
If you are an experienced hiker and need to get away from the crowds – explore the Sahale Arm Trails to enjoy the picturesque subalpine pastures and mountain peaks.
Gothic Basin Hiking Trail: Under Ten Miles Return Route
With an elevation gain of a mere 2840 feet and a relatively short route of 9.2 miles, you would be forgiven for assuming that the magnificent Gothic Basin trail in the North Cascades is a “walk in the park.”
The trail was constructed for seasoned hikers who are not put off by the fact that there are no switchbacks, or zigzagging, even paths on this trial.
However, the unparalleled views at the highest peak of 5200 feet are well worth it if you persevere all the way.
While the Gothic Basin trail is suited to daytime hikers and backpackers, it’s an incredibly fragile landscape.
For camping purposes, choose a location with a solid rocky area where your tent will not harm the delicate meadows or grasslands.
Park Butte Alpine Hiking Trail: Under Eight Miles Return Route
This incredibly beautiful 7.5 miles alpine trail in the North Cascades offers panoramic views of the Twin Sisters, including Mount Baker, especially during early fall when mother nature displays all her autumn hues.
The trail that leads to Park Butte features a magnificent array of picturesque wildflower meadows, exotic mushrooms, refreshing waterfalls, and rustic campsites along the way.
With an elevation gain of 2,200 feet and a staggering 5450 feet top height, this enchanting trail is well worth exploring either as a day-hike or as a camper.
Blue Lake Hiking Trail: Under Five Miles Return Route
Situated in the North Cascades, the Blue Lake trail is a perfect choice if you are looking for a sedentary 4.4-mile hike with a gentle elevation that is easy to navigate.
The pristine navy-blue mountain lake is surrounded by stately granite towers dotted with peaceful meadows and abundant wildflowers, including a larch tree forest that turns golden yellow in fall.
However, if you plan to explore the Blue Lake and all its glory, do so in summer when it is far less crowded.
Carne Mountain Hiking Trail: Under Eight Miles Return Route
The awe-inspiring Carne Mountain trail amid the dazzling Central Cascades region is legendary for its panoramic mountainous vistas and golden autumn larches.
While the initial 2,600 feet climb for nearly 3 miles is challenging, you can fully immerse yourself in the spellbinding forest with its fiery autumn-tinged shrubs and majestic vine maples.
The switchback route, which meanders through the vast talus hill, includes a refreshing waterfall tucked away on the edge of the route.
There you can enjoy listening to sweet pika sounds scurrying through the undergrowth while taking in the sublime beauty of the surrounding mountainous valleys.
Kendall Katwalk Hiking Trail: Twelve Mile Return Route
While the Kendal Katwalk is my last suggested Central Cascades region hiking trail suggestion, it should not be the least as it is well worth a visit, especially between late July and September.
Located in the magnificent Snoqualmie region, the 12-mile trail, with its 2600 feet elevation gain, is a nature lover’s paradise.
While the trail is relatively narrow and rocky, you will be able to enjoy its vibrantly colored array of wildflowers and sublime views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, where the trail commences under Kendall Peak.
Magnificent Mount Rainier National Park Hiking Trails
The Mount Rainier National Park is perfectly suited to visitors who would like to spend a day viewing the iconic mountain, including backpackers who are fortunate enough to spend 14 days exploring the majestic landscape.
Skyline Trail Mount Rainier National Park: Under Six Miles
The Skyline Trail is situated in the Paradise region of the iconic Mount Rainier National Park, which is aptly named as it’s a picturesque route that is enormously popular for viewing Washingtons’ most renowned mountain.
While the Skyline Trail is suited to experienced and amateur hikers, it’s important to note that the 5.5-mile circular route has a strenuous elevation gain of more than two miles.
Although the Skyline Trail attracts large crowds in summer, the trail’s path is wide and connected to various other longer trail options along the route.
The Skyline Trail starts at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and the Paradise Inn (built-in 1916) scenic parking lot where hikers are surrounded by glorious meadows adorned with an abundance of vibrantly hued wildflowers, especially from July to August each year.
Hikers will also enjoy listening to the soothing, flowing water and encountering marmots and other delightful wild creatures along the scenic route while enjoying the magnificent vista of Mount Rainier, including the Nisqually Glacier along the way.
Visitors will also enjoy a spectacular up-close view of the neighboring Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, including Mount Hood at the aptly named Panorama Point on a clear day.
Hikers are also spoilt for choice at the Mount Rainier National Park as there are numerous other trails to explore, like Spray Park or the spectacular Nerada Falls.
The Wonderland Fourteen Day Hiking Trail
The Wonderland Trail is perfect for hikers who would like to spend a couple of days exploring the magnificent 93-mile circular route around the base of Mount Rainier.
However, count yourself fortunate if you manage to obtain a summer permit to overnight on the Wonderland Trails as they are in great demand.
The park issues summer permits (for up to 14 days) by selecting the applicants based on a lottery system from March 15. However, some permits are available to the lucky few upon arrival.
The Wonderland Trail also includes glorious Cascades landscapes dotted with pristine alpine lakes, river crossings, and meadows teeming with spectacular wildflowers.
The Olympic National Park & Peninsula Hiking Trails
The Olympic Peninsula, including the National Park, offers untouched oceans, biodiverse rain forests, awe-inspiring mountains, invigorating waterfalls, and so much more!
Olympic Coast: Four Miles Round Trip Hiking Trail
This incredibly picturesque Olympic Coast trail starts at Rialto Beach (at the parking area) along the coastline for two miles to the Hole-in-the-Wall, which features numerous scenic attractions.
Hikers will enjoy spotting the lushes James and Little James forested islands toward the south, including the infamous Gunsight Rock.
There is also a profusion of wildlife on the route comprising sea lions whales, including cheeky offshore otters.
Bird lovers will enjoy spotting many seabird varieties gliding over the ocean and swooping eagles in the forests.
The route to the Hole-in-the-Wall also includes an exciting Ellen Creek crossing approximately a mile from the beginning of the route, so be well prepared to get your feet a little wet along the way.
The Mount Angeles: Under Seven Mile Roundtrip Hiking Trail
The Mount Angeles trail is ideal for experienced hikers who love a little adrenalin.
The 6.25 miles roundtrip trail starts at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center parking area, followed by the High Ridge Nature trail dotted with trees and beautiful lilies all the way up to the top of the open ridge.
At the top of the ridge, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Puget Sound in the north and the majestic Olympic Mountain towards the south.
From there, head towards the Klahhane Ridge Trail and follow the route for approximately 2.5 miles until the road diverts to the left towards the Mount Angeles climbing route.
The steep route features peaceful meadows and forests until you reach the gravelly slope, sometimes dotted with rotten snow – so be careful where you step.
Adrenaline will start kicking in at this trail stage as Mount Angeles, with a class 3 ascension, is not for the faint-hearted.
But you would be well rewarded with the breathtakingly beautiful views once you reach the top – be careful on your descent.
Hoh River Hiking Trail: Bespoke Routes
The biodiverse Hoh Rain Forest forms part of the Olympic National Park located in Western Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
The park encompasses pristine ocean shores and the Olympic Mountain’s snowcapped peaks dotted with 60 glaciers, alpine pastures, and glorious wildflowers.
While there are three family-friendly hiking trails in the Hoh Rain Forest, the 17-mile Hoh River Trail leads via a steep path at the end of the trail to Mount Olympus’ magnificent Blue Glacier.
Moreover, you can choose how far you want to hike through the lush forest in a circular route.
It’s also suited to family hikes as the beginning of the trail can accommodate large groups of visitors during the summer, and the first 13 miles of the trail is relatively flat as it snakes around the circumference of the beautiful Hoh River.
The Hoh Rain Forest is densely populated with four types of conifers: red cedar, Douglas firs, Sitka spruce, hemlock tree varieties, and gigantic Oregon maples that reach a staggering 330 feet.
But the most striking aspect of this magnificent rain forest trail is the Selaginella moss that adorns the trees like elegant flowing garlands.
Backpacker overnight self-service permits are also available should you decide to spend a magical evening in this enchanting rain forest.
The Sol Duc Falls: Two Miles Hiking Trail
This short and sweet trail is perfect for a family day out or for hikers who want to enjoy longer trails to explore the magnificent Sol Duc Valley and its cascading river.
The trail may be accessed either from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort or via the Sol Duc Campground; from there, it’s a short 2mile walk to the magnificent Sol Duc Falls.
If you prefer a longer trail, simply follow the route to the Seven Lakes Basin with its sublime meadows and pristine lakes. If you have a pre-arranged permit, it is also possible to camp in that region.
Then visit the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort for a therapeutic dip in their mineral baths or a relaxing massage.
The Enchantments Trail: Eighteen Mile Round Trip
While the challenging 18-mile Enchantments Trial is certainly not for the faint-hearted, it is the ultimate Washington high-level alpine forest adventure.
Set in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness region of the splendid Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest
It’s the perfect setting for a multi-day hiking getaway should you be fortunate enough to obtain a permit. Although seasoned hikers could challenge themselves to complete the entire trail in one day
The Aasgard Pass trail, with its elevation gain in excesses of 4.500 feet, is probably one of the most daunting parts of the trail. It should only be attempted by experienced hikers who are used to demanding hiking routes.
Although, you would be enchanted with breathtaking views comprising of 700 pristine alpine lakes with jaw-dropping mountainous peaks. Clearly, this trial was aptly named!
Nothing compares to the sheer delight of hiking in the sublime wilderness of Washington State, exploring spellbinding Cascade landscape, lush rain forests, and the majestic Mount Rainier that simply takes your breath away.