Embarking on the best summer hikes in Washington State is an unparalleled experience for any adventurer seeking to explore the diverse beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Washington State is home to a wealth of remarkable landscapes, from meadows abundant with blooms and ancient woodlands to alpine lakes and snow-covered summits.
From iconic destinations such as Mount Rainier National Park to hidden gems like North Cascades National Park, we will explore some of the best summer hikes Washington has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a strenuous trek through rugged terrain, these trails promise breathtaking views and unforgettable memories.
Furthermore, we’ll provide valuable tips for planning your summer hike in Washington’s magnificent outdoors. So lace up your hiking boots and prepare yourself for an exhilarating journey through some of the most captivating scenery that Mother Nature has to offer.
Table of Contents
1. Exploring the Enchantments: A Guide to Washington’s Best Summer Hikes
Washington’s varied topography offers hikers an array of remarkable and picturesque trails to traverse this summer. From lush forests and alpine meadows to rugged mountain peaks and pristine lakes, there are countless trails waiting for you to explore this summer. In this guide, we’ll take you through some of Washington’s best summer hikes, including an unforgettable journey into the magical world of The Enchantments.
Ape Caves: Venture Deep Underground
If you’re looking for something unique and off-the-beaten path, consider exploring the Ape Caves. Located near Mount St. Helens in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, these fascinating lava tubes offer a thrilling subterranean adventure that will leave you awe-struck by nature’s power.
- Distance: 3 miles round trip (Upper Cave) or 1.5 miles round trip (Lower Cave)
- Elevation Gain: Minimal; however, expect uneven terrain inside caves.
- Tips: Bring warm clothing as temperatures can be chilly underground even during summer months; also pack headlamps or flashlights with extra batteries.
Skyline Divide Trail: Panoramic Views Galore.
The Skyline Divide Trail offers one of Washington’s most breathtaking vistas. This trail takes hikers through wildflower-filled meadows and along a ridgeline that offers panoramic views of Mount Baker, the North Cascades, and even the Canadian Coast Range. It’s an ideal hike for photographers or anyone seeking jaw-dropping scenery.
- Distance: 9 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 2,500 feet
- Tips: Start early to avoid crowds; bring plenty of water as there are no reliable sources on the trail.
The Enchantments: A Bucket-List Hike in Washington State
Nestled deep within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area lies one of Washington’s most coveted hiking destinations: The Enchantments. This magical landscape is filled with turquoise lakes, jagged granite peaks, and enchanting larch forests – it truly lives up to its name. However, be prepared for a challenging trek as this hike involves significant elevation gain and rugged terrain.
- Hiking Options: The Core Enchantment Zone can be explored via two primary routes:
- A day hike (20+ miles) starting from either Stuart Lake Trailhead or Snow Lakes Trailhead; (Note: this option requires excellent physical fitness).
- An overnight backpacking trip.
Other Washington hikes worth exploring include:
- Heather Meadows Visitor Center: This easy hike in North Cascades National Park Preserves offers stunning views of wildflower meadows and Mount Baker.
- Spruce Nature Trail: Located in Olympic National Park, this short hike takes you through old-growth forests and offers gorgeous views of the Hoh Rain Forest Loop.
- Mount Rainier National Park: For a strenuous hike, consider the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trek around Mount Rainier with subalpine meadows and stunning views of the mountain and Puget Sound.
- Deception Pass State Park: This level trail offers great views of Puget Sound and is a popular destination for families and picnickers.
- Ross Lake: For a great route with stunning views of Diablo Lake, consider the hike to Ross Lake in North Cascades National Park.
- Stehekin Valley: This great option for backpackers takes you through the remote and beautiful Stehekin Valley in North Cascades National Park.
Exploring the Enchantments is an amazing way to experience Washington’s natural beauty and one of its best summer hikes. To make sure you get the most out of your adventure, be sure to plan ahead with our next heading which covers Tips for Planning a Summer Hike in Washington.
Key Points To Remember:
This guide highlights some of the best summer hikes in Washington, including a unique underground adventure at Ape Caves and panoramic views from Skyline Divide Trail. The Enchantments is also featured as a bucket-list hike with turquoise lakes, granite peaks, and enchanting larch forests. Other notable hikes include Heather Meadows Visitor Center, Spruce Nature Trail, Mount Rainier National Park’s Wonderland Trail, Deception Pass State Park trail for families and picnickers, Ross Lake for stunning views of Diablo Lake and Stehekin Valley for backpackers seeking remote beauty.
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2. Tips for Planning a Summer Hike in Washington
Planning a summer hike in Washington can be an exciting and rewarding experience. With the right preparation, you’ll have an unforgettable adventure exploring the state’s stunning landscapes. Here are some essential tips to help you plan your perfect summer hike:
Selecting the Right Trail
Washington offers a wide variety of trails suitable for all skill levels and interests. When deciding on the right path for your journey, take into account aspects such as length, elevation increase, challenge level and desired landscape. Websites like Washington Trails Association or AllTrails provide detailed information on various hikes throughout the state.
Packing Essential Gear
Packing appropriate gear is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Some essentials include:
- A sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes with good traction.
- A comfortable backpack with enough capacity to carry all necessary items.
- Layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed depending on weather conditions.
- Rain gear (such as waterproof jackets and pants) since sudden rain showers are common during the summer months in Washington.
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen).
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to explore some of the best summer hikes in Washington:
1. Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state. With over 260 miles of trails, there’s something for everyone. The Skyline Trail is a popular choice, offering stunning views of the mountain and surrounding landscapes. For a more challenging hike, try the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile loop that circles the entire mountain.
2. Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is another must-visit destination for hikers. The Hoh River Trail is a favorite among visitors, taking you through lush rainforests and along the Hoh River. For a more strenuous hike, try the Mount Ellinor Trail, which offers panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.
3. North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a hidden gem, with over 400 miles of trails to explore. The Cascade Pass Trail is a popular choice, offering stunning views of glaciers and alpine meadows. For a more challenging hike, try the Sahale Arm Trail, which takes you to the summit of Sahale Mountain.
With so many incredible hikes to choose from, Washington is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s a trail out there waiting for you. So pack your bags, lace up your boots, and hit the trails.
Organizing an excursion in Washington during the summertime can be both pleasurable and gratifying, yet it’s vital to prepare ahead for a favorable result. For those looking for something truly special, The Enchantments are a must-see destination that should not be missed.
3. The Enchantments: A Must-See Summer Hike
The Enchantments is a stunning alpine area located in the heart of Washington’s Cascade Mountains and offers some of the most breathtaking summer hikes you’ll ever experience. This enchanting destination features crystal-clear lakes, vibrant wildflowers, towering granite peaks, and magical larch forests that make it one of the state’s most popular hiking destinations.
A Glimpse into The Enchantment Lakes Basin
The crown jewel of this region is undoubtedly the Enchantment Lakes Basin, which consists of five major zones: Lower Enchantments, Middle Enchantments, Upper Enchantments, Snow Zone (also known as Perfection Lake), and Prusik Pass. Awe-inspiring sights await you in each of the five zones, from shimmering lakes to craggy cliffs.
- Lower Enchantments: Home to several beautiful lakes such as Crystal Lake and Nada Lake surrounded by lush greenery.
- Middle Enchantments: Features picturesque tarns nestled among rugged granite cliffs with panoramic views of surrounding peaks.
- Upper Enchantments: Boasts dramatic landscapes with jagged mountain ridges overlooking pristine alpine lakes like Isolation Lake.
- Snow Zone / Perfection Lake: Offers an otherworldly landscape dotted with snowfields even during summer months along with vivid wildflower meadows around Sprite Lakelet.
- Prusik Pass: Provides sweeping vistas over both sides of the range and a thrilling scramble up the iconic Prusik Peak.
Planning Your Enchantments Hike
Due to its popularity, hiking in the Enchantments requires a permit during peak season (May 15 – October 31). The permit lottery system opens in February each year, so make sure you apply early for your chance to secure one. If you’re unable to obtain a permit through the lottery, limited day-use permits are available at ranger stations on a first-come-first-served basis.
The 18-mile journey, beginning at Stuart Lake Trailhead and finishing up at Snow Lakes Trailhead, is a demanding yet beloved trek. This hike typically takes two days with an overnight stay in one of the designated camping zones within the basin. However, if you’re looking for something less strenuous or short on time, consider tackling smaller sections like Colchuck Lake or Aasgard Pass as day hikes.
Packing Essentials for Your Enchantment Adventure
To fully enjoy your enchanting experience, it’s crucial to pack appropriately for this high-altitude adventure. Here are some essentials:
- Hiking boots: Sturdy footwear with good ankle support is essential due to rocky terrain and potential snowfields along certain sections of the trail.
- Layers: Weather can change rapidly in alpine environments; bring moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers such as fleece jackets or down vests/pullovers, and waterproof outerwear (jacket & pants).
- Navigational tools: Carry maps and/or GPS devices since trails may not be well-marked in some areas.
- Food & water: Bring enough food and water for the duration of your hike, as well as a portable water filter or purifier to refill from lakes and streams along the way.
- Sun protection: High altitude means increased UV exposure; pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from harmful rays.
The Enchantments offer an unforgettable summer hiking experience that will leave you spellbound by its beauty. With proper planning and preparation, you’ll be ready to embark on this magical adventure through Washington’s alpine wonderland.
The Enchantments is a must-see summer hike, offering spectacular views of the Cascades and plenty of opportunities for exploration. For an epic adventure this summer, consider tackling Mount Rainier – one of Washington’s most iconic peaks.
Key Points To Remember:
The Enchantments in Washington’s Cascade Mountains is a must-see summer hike, featuring crystal-clear lakes, vibrant wildflowers, towering granite peaks and magical larch forests. The Enchantment Lakes Basin consists of five major zones with awe-inspiring sights including shimmering lakes to craggy cliffs; planning and preparation are crucial for this high-altitude adventure.
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4. Mount Rainier: An Epic Summer Adventure
There’s no denying that Mount Rainier National Park is home to some of the most iconic summer hikes in Washington State. With its breathtaking views, diverse ecosystems, and challenging trails, this park offers a truly epic adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.
A. Skyline Trail Loop: A Classic Hike with Stunning Views
The Skyline Trail Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Mount Rainier National Park – and for good reason. This 5.5-mile loop trail takes you through beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, past cascading waterfalls, and offers stunning views of Mount Rainier itself. As you traverse the maintained trail, keep a watchful eye out for animals such as marmots and deer.
B. Burroughs Mountain Trail: Get Up Close and Personal with The Mountain
If you’re looking to get even closer to Mount Rainier’s majestic beauty, consider tackling the Burroughs Mountain Trail. This moderately difficult 9-mile round-trip hike takes you up three separate peaks on Burroughs Mountain while offering incredible panoramic views of glaciers, valleys, and other nearby mountain ranges like Mt Adams or Mt St Helens.
C. Wonderland Trail: A Challenging Multi-Day Trek Around The Mountain
For those seeking a more ambitious hiking experience at Mount Rainier National Park during the summer, the Wonderland Trail is a must. This 93-mile loop trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier and takes hikers through lush forests, alpine meadows, and past roaring rivers. The demanding 93-mile circuit around Mount Rainier can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days, with an elevation change of over 22,000 feet. Make sure you’re well-prepared with proper gear and permits before embarking on this epic journey.
D. Tips for Hiking at Mount Rainier National Park
- Check weather conditions: Weather can change rapidly in the mountains; always check the forecast before heading out on your hike.
- Pack essentials: Bring plenty of water, snacks, or meals depending on your hike’s duration, sunscreen, insect repellent (especially during mosquito season), a map, or GPS device with offline maps saved just in case there’s no signal up there.
- Camp responsibly: If you plan to camp overnight while hiking at Mount Rainier National Park make sure you have the necessary permits obtained from visitor centers beforehand as backcountry camping requires reservations most times during peak season.
No matter which trail you choose at Mount Rainier National Park this summer – whether it’s an easy day-hike like Skyline Trail Loop or a challenging multi-day trek such as Wonderland Trail – be prepared for an unforgettable outdoor adventure filled with stunning views and exhilarating experiences that will leave lasting memories.
Mount Rainier is an incredible adventure for any summer hiker, with its beautiful meadows and stunning views of the mountain itself. Now let’s explore another hidden gem in Washington: North Cascades National Park.
Key Points To Remember:
For a truly unforgettable experience, take on the Skyline Trail Loop in Mount Rainier National Park to enjoy spectacular views and wildlife sightings. For a more challenging adventure, consider tackling the Burroughs Mountain Trail or even embarking on the demanding 93-mile Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. Remember to check weather conditions, pack essentials like water and snacks, and obtain necessary permits for backcountry camping before heading out on any hike at this epic outdoor destination.
5. North Cascades National Park: A Hidden Gem
Uncover the hidden gems of North Cascades National Park and discover why it’s one of Washington’s best-kept secrets for summer hiking. Discover why North Cascades National Park is a hiker’s paradise, boasting 500,000 acres of diverse terrain with trails suited to all abilities.
A Few Must-Try Trails in North Cascades National Park
- Cascade Pass Trail: This moderate hike takes you through lush forests, alpine meadows, and past stunning glaciers as you make your way up to Cascade Pass. The panoramic views at the pass are well worth the effort. (Trail info)
- Heather-Maple Pass Loop: One of the most popular hikes in North Cascades National Park, this loop trail offers breathtaking views of jagged peaks, wildflower-filled meadows, and sparkling lakes. It’s perfect for those looking for a challenging yet rewarding day hike. (Trail info)
- Sourdough Mountain Trail: For experienced hikers seeking a challenge with incredible rewards, Sourdough Mountain is an excellent choice. Climbing steeply through dense forest before opening up onto rocky slopes with sweeping vistas – including Diablo Lake – this trail is not for the faint-hearted but promises unforgettable memories. (Trail info)
Preparing for Your North Cascades Adventure
Before heading out on your North Cascades journey, make sure to plan and prepare adequately. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Pick the right trail: With so many trails available, choose one that suits your skill level and interests. The park offers everything from short, easy walks to challenging multi-day backpacking trips.
- Check trail conditions: Before heading out, check the current trail conditions on the North Cascades National Park website. This will ensure you’re aware of any potential hazards or closures.
- Pack appropriately: Be prepared for changing weather by packing layers of clothing, rain gear, plenty of water, and snacks. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Familiarize yourself with park regulations: Make sure you know about any permits required for camping or parking at trailheads. Familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on this pristine wilderness area.
The beauty and diversity of North Cascades National Park make it an unforgettable destination for summer hikers seeking solitude amidst breathtaking landscapes. So lace up those boots and start planning your next Washington State adventure.
North Cascades National Park is a secret treasure tucked away in Washington, featuring breathtaking and difficult trails for those who wish to traverse them. Next up on our list of summer hikes in Olympic National Park, which offers an even wilder wonderland with its vast wilderness areas and stunning mountain peaks.
Key Points To Remember:
Uncover the concealed jewels of North Cascades National Park, boasting 500k+ acres of untamed terrain and pathways to fit all levels. Must-try hikes include Cascade Pass Trail, Heather-Maple Pass Loop, and Sourdough Mountain Trail. Before embarking on your adventure, pick the right trail for you, check trail conditions beforehand on the park’s website, and pack appropriately while familiarizing yourself with park regulations.
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6. Olympic National Park: A Wild Wonderland
Olympic National Park is a diverse and breathtaking destination for summer hikers in Washington State. With its rugged coastline, lush rainforests, alpine meadows, and glacier-capped peaks, this park offers an incredible variety of landscapes to explore. In this section, we’ll delve into the reasons why Olympic National Park is a wild wonderland for hiking enthusiasts and provide some tips on how to plan your own adventure there.
A Diverse Range of Trails
The vast array of trails within Olympic National Park caters to hikers of all skill levels and interests. From leisurely strolls along the beach to challenging treks up mountain ridges, you’re sure to find a trail that suits your preferences. Some popular hikes include:
- Hoh Rainforest: Explore one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S., complete with moss-covered trees and vibrant greenery on trails like the Hall of Mosses or Spruce Nature Trail.
- Rialto Beach: Take a scenic walk along this beautiful stretch of coastline featuring sea stacks and tide pools teeming with marine life.
- Hurricane Ridge: Enjoy panoramic views from high above as you hike through subalpine meadows filled with colorful wildflowers during the summer months.
- Sol Duc Falls: Embark on an easy hike through the old-growth forest leading up to these picturesque cascading waterfalls – perfect for families.
Tips for Hiking in Olympic National Park
Before you set off on your adventure, consider these helpful tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Check the weather forecast: Weather conditions can change rapidly in Olympic National Park. Be prepared for sudden rain showers or cooler temperatures by dressing in layers and packing waterproof gear.
- Purchase a park pass: A valid entrance pass is required for all visitors to the park. You can purchase one online at the Recreation.gov website.
- Bear safety: Black bears are common in Olympic National Park, so be sure to store food properly and maintain a safe distance if you encounter one during your hike.
- Tide tables: If hiking along coastal trails, consult tide tables before heading out as some areas may become inaccessible during high tides.
Olympic National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty while enjoying exhilarating hikes through diverse landscapes. The park is a popular destination for Washington hikes, and it’s easy to see why. With stunning views of the Pacific Northwest, gorgeous views of the North Cascades, and great routes like the Wonderland Trail, it’s no wonder that Olympic National Park is a favorite among hikers. Whether you’re looking for an easy hike or a strenuous hike, Olympic National Park has something for everyone. So, if you’re planning a trip to Washington State, be sure to add Olympic National Park to your list of must-see places.
Olympic National Park is a breathtaking spot, offering numerous chances for outdoor escapades. For those looking for shorter hikes in Washington State, the next heading will discuss some of the best day hikes around.
Key Points To Remember:
Olympic National Park in Washington State is a diverse and breathtaking destination for summer hikers, offering an incredible variety of landscapes to explore. With trails catering to all skill levels and interests, including the Hoh Rainforest, Rialto Beach, Hurricane Ridge, and Sol Duc Falls, hikers can immerse themselves in nature’s beauty while enjoying exhilarating hikes through diverse landscapes.
7. Best Summer Hikes in Washington
Washington State is an ideal destination for hikers, with trails to suit all levels of experience and interests in the summer months. Whether you’re seeking panoramic mountain views, serene lakeshores, or lush forests, there’s something for everyone during the summer months. Here are some must-do day hikes to add to your adventure list:
- Rattlesnake Ledge: Located near North Bend, this popular trail offers stunning views of Mount Si and the surrounding valley from its rocky ledge summit. The hike is relatively short at 4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 1,160 feet – perfect for beginners. Learn more about Rattlesnake Ledge here.
- Skyline Divide Trail: This moderately challenging hike takes you through picturesque meadows filled with wildflowers before reaching breathtaking vistas of Mount Baker and the surrounding peaks in North Cascades National Park. The trail spans approximately 9 miles round trip with an elevation gain of around 2,500 feet. Discover more details on Skyline Divide Trail here.
- Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls: Nestled within the Central Cascades region near Gold Bar lies this enchanting combination hike featuring both a tranquil alpine lake and a majestic waterfall. The trek covers roughly 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain close to 2,000 feet – making it suitable for intermediate hikers looking for a rewarding challenge. Find out more about Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls here.
- Shi Shi Beach & Point of the Arches: For those seeking a coastal adventure, this hike in Olympic National Park is a must. The trail meanders along pristine beaches and dramatic sea stacks before reaching the impressive Point of the Arches rock formations. This relatively easy hike covers approximately 8 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain. Learn more about Shi Shi Beach & Point of the Arches here.
No matter which hikes you choose to embark on, always remember to pack essential gear such as water, snacks, sunscreen, and appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions. Additionally, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles by respecting nature and leaving it just as you found it for future hikers to enjoy.
With so many incredible trails waiting to be explored across Washington State during the summer months, there’s no better time than now to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. Happy hiking.
Key Points To Remember:
Washington State offers a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels and interests during the summer months. Some must-do day hikes include Rattlesnake Ledge, Skyline Divide Trail, Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls, and Shi Shi Beach & Point of the Arches. Remember to pack essential gear and practice Leave No Trace principles while enjoying nature’s beauty.
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Washington State is a hiker’s paradise, with stunning views and gorgeous trails for all skill levels. From the Enchantments to Mount Rainier to Olympic National Park, there are endless options for those looking to explore the Pacific Northwest on foot. Whether you’re seeking an easy hike through old-growth forests or a strenuous trek up subalpine meadows, Washington has something for everyone.
If you’re looking to explore the Pacific Northwest on foot this summer, check out some of Washington’s best hiking trails. With so many great routes and parking lots available at popular destinations like North Cascades National Park and Deception Pass State Park, it’s never been easier to experience the beauty of Puget Sound firsthand.