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Essential Washington: 20 Must-Do Hikes

Whether you've just moved to Washington state or you just want to show off Washington's stellar hiking trails to your out-of-state visitors, this list of hikes shows off some of Washington's best trail diversity.

Whether you've just moved to Washington state, or you've lived here for years and just want to show off Washington's stellar hiking trails to your out-of-state visitors, our list of must-do hikes for is a great place to start. How did we choose these twenty out of the hundreds of incredible trails? It was tough, but taken together, we felt these hikes do a great job of showing off Washington's incredible trail diversity.


North Cascades

Horseshoe Basin

Location: Pasayten
Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1550 feet
Highest Point: 7200 feet
Best Season: July - October

Horseshoe Basin. Photo by Wild Side..jpegHorseshoe Basin. Photo by trip reporter Wild Side.

A backpacking favorite where you can spend a day—or a week—exploring the wonders of this alpine landscape. Climb the local peaks, check out the Canadian border monuments, or kick back and watch the marmots. At night, listen for the coyotes and count stars.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Blue Lake

Location: North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
Length:
 4.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
Highest Point: 6254 feet
Best Season: July - September

Blue Lake. Photo by Willow's Humans.jpeg
Blue Lake. Photo by trip reporter Willow's Humans.

When most hikers refer to Blue Lake, this is the one they're talking about. With towering granite peaks, forests, meadows, wildflowers, and of course the beautiful mountain lake surrounded by granite that reaches for the sky, this short hike is easily a classic and should be on your must-hike list. While the larches here turn a brilliant yellow in the fall, we recommend visiting this trail in the summer to avoid full parking lots and congestion.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Park Butte

Location: North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
Length: 7.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
2200 feet
Highest Point: 5450 feet
Best Season: Late summer - fall

Park Butte. Photo by geezerhiker..jpeg
Park Butte. Photo by trip reporter geezerhiker.

A stunning North Cascades alpine hike just south of Mount Baker. Day hike it or backpack here in late summer or fall, when it really shows off the best of autumn foliage. Along with unobstructed panoramic views of Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and the rest of the North Cascades, the route to Park Butte offers campsites, wildflower-filled alpine meadows, rushing waterfalls, and a stunning variety of mushroom species.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Gothic Basin

Location: North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Length: 9.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
 2840 feet
Highest Point: 5200 feet
Best Season: Late July - mid-October

Gothic Basin. Photo by mountain_vagabond.jpeg
Gothic Basin. Photo by trip reporter Mountain_Vagabond.

This hike is a thrill for backpackers and day hikers alike. While it may look like an easy trek from the moderate elevation gain and length -- it is anything but. The miners who originally constructed it had little time for switchback or nicely graded trails. That said, all who make it to the top will be rewarded with unmatched views.

If you plan on spending the night here, please note that Gothic Basin is an extremely fragile area. Be sure that you're camping on an established site or sturdy surface, like rock or dirt, and avoid camping in meadows or grasses, as this can damage the landscape. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Central Cascades

Kendall Katwalk

Location: Snoqualmie Region -- Snoqualmie Pass
Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
Highest Point: 5400 feet
Best Season: Late July - September

Kendall Katwalk. Photo by racheldavidson.jpeg
An abundance of wildflowers in Spider Meadow. Photo by Woodsy.

Hike an iconic section of the PCT north of Snoqualmie Pass. This narrow and rocky trail also includes old-growth forest, gorgeous wildflowers, and stunning views into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from both sides of the pass below Kendall Peak, where the Katwalk begins.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Carne Mountain

Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East
Length: 7.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
 3600 feet
Highest Point:
7085 feet
Best Season:
Late summer - fall

Carne Mountain. Photo by dbaile16.jpeg
Larches in the early fall. Photo by dbaile16.

This challenging yet rewarding hike is known for the brilliant gold colors of western larches. Against a backdrop of blue autumn sky and the magnificent peaks of the Cascades, they are a dazzling sight and a Washington essential.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Olympic Peninsula

Hoh Rainforest Trail

Location: Olympic National Park
Length: up to 37.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: up to 3700 feet
Highest Point:  4300 feet

Season: Year-round

Hoh River Trail. Photo by Akorn.jpegA view of the river. Photo by trip reporter Akorn.

There is something incredibly magical about the Hoh. The huge trees, the cascading moss, the birds and Roosevelt elk, the Olympic Mountains rising above and the broad river valley extending up and downstream, all make this a hike that must be done at least once in a lifetime. The trail can be tailored to your needs too — hike for as little or as long as you like along the nearly 19 mile route. If you're short on time or are hiking with a family, you may also want to check out the Hall of Moses — a short and sweet rainforest loop beginning from the same trailhead.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Rialto Beach and Hole-in-the-Wall

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
Length: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal
Best Season: Year-round

Rialto Beach. Photo by Erynn Allen.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter ErynnAllen.

With so many mountain hikes to choose from, many hikers forget about the glories of Washington's coast. There is some incredible coastal hiking all the way up and down the coast, but this little slip of the wild Olympic Coast is a classic. Plus, it's great for kids.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


mount angeles

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
Length: 6.25 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1254 feet
Highest Point: 6454 feet
Best Season: July - August

Mount Angeles. Photo by stani.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter stani.

You can't go wrong finding wildflowers at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. While many folks head up the paved path to Hurricane Hill, solitude seekers climb up the Mount Angeles trail and branch off to attain Sunrise Ridge. Phlox, penstemon, lupine, bistort, larkspur and more greet hikers here.

> Read the Hiking Guide for more information


Mount Rainier Area

Naches Peak Loop

Location: Mount Rainier Area -- SE - Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon
Length:
 3.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
600 feet
Highest Point: 5849 feet
Best Season: Late June - October

Naches Peak Loop. Photo by TheKingBoar.jpegA small tarn along the trail. Photo by trip reporter TheKingBoar.

This is a trail to save until August or September. In this short window of time, hikers will rejoice by frolicking along the trail surrounded by fields of wildflowers and soaking in one of the classic views of The Mountain. Because it's a short, flat, loop, this is our pick for taking out-of-towners who may not hike much.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Burroughs Mountain

Location: Mount Rainier Area -- NE - Sunrise/White River
Length:
 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
 2500 feet
Highest Point: 7828 feet
Best Season:
 Mid-July - October

Burroughs Mountain. Photo by NobleAdam.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter NobleAdam.

Potentially one of the most iconic Mount Rainier hikes, the Burroughs trail will get you up close and personal with the mountain -- so close you feel like you can touch the summit. It's near impossible to choose just one or two essential Mount Rainier hikes, but make this hike is so well-rounded, it makes the cut.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


South Cascades

Harry's Ridge

Location: South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens
Length:
8.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
 970 feet
Highest Point: 4792 feet
Best Season: Late June - November

Harry's Ridge. Photo by neverstophiking.jpegA cloud inversion below Mount St. Helens. Photo by trip reporter neverstophiking.

A classic Mount St. Helens hike, leaving from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The hillsides are alive with wildflowers at mid-summer, and the view from the end of Harry's Ridge has you looking straight into the mouth of the crate, not to mention views of Spirit Lake, Mount Adams and even Mount Hood on a clear day.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Bird Mountain Loop

Location: South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area
Length:
 10.25 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
1875 feet
Highest Point: 5230 feet
Best Season: July - October

Bird Mountain Loop. Photo by wishfulwanderer.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter wishfulwanderer.

A ten-mile loop that shows off the lakes, meadows and vistas (not to mention huckleberries) of Indian Heaven Wilderness and Mount Adams with a southern section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Lost Lake Lookout

Location: South Cascades -- White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Length: 14.0 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain:
 3897 feet
Highest Point: 6316 feet
Best Season: July - September

Clear Lost Trail. Photo by JimmyBob.jpeg
Photo by tripreporter JimmyBob.

The Goat Rocks Wilderness is a beauty, and this less-traveled access point is a great way to explore the area for yourself. Peaceful lakes, snow-capped mountain views, flower-filled ridgelines and more await you here.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Southwest Washington

Cape Disappointment state park

Location: Southwest Washington -- Long Beach Area
Length: varies
Elevation Gain: 
varies
Highest Point: 200 feet
Best Season: Year-round

Cape Disappointment. Photo by WonderSmash.jpegA peek out to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by trip reporter WonderSmash.

Cape Disappointment is a stunning getaway spanning the southwestern tip of our state -- and despite the name, it is anything but disappointing. There are plenty of trails to choose from across the park. Whether you want to visit a historic lighthouse, hit the sandy beach, or stroll through coastal forests and overlooks, there is something for anyone.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


cape horn

Location: Southwest Washington -- Columbia River Gorge - WA
Length: 7.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 
1300 feet
Highest Point: 1350 feet
Best Season: Year-round

Cape Horn. Photo by ZhuckYu.jpegViews across the river and into Oregon from atop Cape Horn. Photo by trip reporter ZhuckYu.

This trail is a classic Gorge-area hike. The full loop provides fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge, an intimate look at the Cape Horn Falls and a challenging workout as it climbs and descends the rocky slopes of Cape Horn. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Central Washington

Steamboat Rock

Location: Central Washington -- Grand Coulee
Length: 6.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
650 feet
Highest Point: 2250 feet
Best Season: spring and fall

Steamboat Rock. Photo by Kimlaree.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter Kimlaree.

Save a visit to this dramatic State Park for Spring or Fall (when things cool off). This hunk of rock in Banks Lake is a distinct example of massive Ice Age floods 15,000 years ago. Explore the geology and admire the unparalleled views.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


White Bluffs

Location: Central Washington -- Tri-Cities
Length: varies
Elevation Gain: 
varies
Highest Point: 900 feet
Best Season: spring and fall

White Bluffs. Photo by mytho-man.jpegClassic, wide, central Washington views. Photo by trip reporter mytho-man.

White Bluffs is divied up into three sections -- North, Central Slope, and South Slope -- and all three are worth a visit. From massive sand dunes to river vistas and excellent shrub-steppe, this unique are is a delight for hikers' looking to switch up their usual forested treks.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastern Washington

Mount Misery

Location: Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 16.0 mile, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:
 1000 feet
Highest Point: 6401 feet
Best Season:
 spring

Mount Misery. Photo by ejain.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter ejain.

Mount Misery is a delightful hike to the Oregon Butte Lookout, situated on a hilltop in the remote Blue Mountains. In the spring, this hike is a great one for wildflower meadows dotted with scarlet gilia, dutchman's breeches, calypso orchid, sulphur lupine, giant-head clover, elkhorn clarkia, and more. In autumn, the changing of the seasons brings Roosevelt elk to the area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Kettle Crest

Location: Selkirk Range
Length: 44.0 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain:
 8000 feet
Highest Point: 7140 feet
Best Season:
 June - October

Kettle Crest. Photo by Holley Weiler.jpeg
Photo by WTA staffer Holly Weiler.

The Kettle Crest is a high-country route stretching 44-miles along some of the most glorious areas of northeastern Washington. While this trail makes for an excellent thru-hike, it can also be be easily split into smaller chunks for a day hike or overnight.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide