Washington state is full of extraordinary hiking trails worth exploring. With so many gorgeous national parks that boast countless rushing streams, thundering waterfalls and spectacular wildflowers, hiking through Washington is guaranteed to be an experience you will remember for a while.
The state is particularly popular with experienced hikers, due to the number of strenuous hiking trails that pose a challenge even to the veterans. With snow and ice on the ground in the middle of August, you always have to be adequately prepared. And alert of your surroundings, since you’re going to encounter all sorts of wildlife along the way.
From easy loops near waterfalls to challenging ascents with spectacular views, we bring you the best hikes in Washington!
If you want to explore multiple trails it’s best to rent a car. A lot of trailheads are next to parking lots that are off the highway, so they’re not so easy to reach without a vehicle. If you opted for taxis or Ubers instead of renting a car, you’d unnecessarily spend a fortune more.
Those of you that are visiting Washington in spring or summer should bring lots of bug repellant. There are a lot of mosquitos on the trails in warm weather, especially on those hikes that are near a river or a lake.
Also, spring is tick season in Washington, so we highly recommend long sleeves and pants instead of shorts. In fact, convertible pants are probably the best thing you could wear – ticks will latch onto your legs near the ankles and go upwards. The flap will trap them and you will be able to get rid of the tick before it can do any serious damage. Additionally, wearing lighter colors will help you spot any ticks on the clothes sooner rather than later.
Washington boasts some stunning untouched forests that are home to all sorts of wonderful creatures. But it’s not wonderful to encounter them all on the trails – while it might be adorable to spot a marmot during the hike, some people might need a fresh pair of underpants if they come across a bear. Just don’t disturb any of the animals and you will be fine. However, we still recommend you go with someone more experienced if you are a novice with encountering wild animals during hikes.
Weather changes rapidly in Washington and it’s very important that you are prepared for everything. Even if it’s a clear, sunny day, there’s a good chance you’ll get hit by a rainstorm on the trail. Always pack a waterproof shell jacket and don’t forget a rain cover for your backpack – it’s better to be safe than to have to hike for hours soaking wet.
The Mailbox Peak is a very demanding trail suitable only for hikers with lots of experience. With a total elevation gain of more than 1100 meters, you have to have very high fitness levels in order to complete the hike successfully.
The trail is pretty easy to follow and it actually combines two different trails in order to take you to the famous Mailbox Peak – the Old Trail and the New Trail. Both are very well marked and you shouldn’t really have issues staying on the trail, apart from one section that’s covered with pine leaves. But that’s just before the two trails meet and it’s a pretty short section.
Parts of this trail are very exposed, so you should definitely dress for colder weather. Great hiking boots are also a must because the terrain is extremely rocky and steep. The good news is that dogs are able to use the trail – they might even find the adventure more fun than you. At the top of the summit you get to see the famous colorful mailbox, as well as enjoy some spectacular panoramic views, provided it’s not a very foggy day.
Poo Poo Point Trail is an out and back hike in Tiger Mountain State Forest. It’s a great trail for experienced hikers who are looking for a challenge – it might have a funny name, but the elevation gain of this trail is no joke. It starts off easy but it just gets steeper and steeper as you cover more path, and it’s definitely not a beginner friendly trail.
The trailhead is near the parking lot in Park Pointe, right next to the Issaquah High School. Enjoy those first few kilometers because they’re the the easiest part of the trail – the true ascent starts once you hit that 2-kilometer mark, and it only gets steeper until you start heading back.
Even though it’s a strenuous hike, it’s more than worth it to put in the effort. You can see all sorts of wild flowers along the way, enjoy spectacular views on the trail and even have a picnic at the top. Poo Poo Point is also very popular with hang gliders and paragliders, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see some people in the air.
The Lake 22 trail is a moderately difficult loop near Granite Falls. It features a waterfall, as well as spectacular views of the lake and Mount Pilchuck. It’s not a very demanding hiking trail but the rocky terrain and the high elevation gain make it very challenging for total hiking newbies. Which is why the Lake 22 trail is best suited for people with some hiking experience at the very least.
Parts of the trail can be very muddy and slippery, so it’s best to wear shoes with great traction. You should also bring hiking poles, as they’ll make the the uphill sections a lot easier. The trailhead is right next to a parking lot and it’s very easy to find.
The best piece of advice we can give you is be at the trailhead early in the morning. The parking lot gets full pretty quick, and if you’re not there at 8AM at the latest you’ll hardly find a spot. And that’s the only parking lot in the area, so if you don’t find a spot there you can’t really do the hike.
Tolmie Peak Trail in Mount Rainier National Park is a moderately difficult hike past alpine lakes and through meadows. The out and back trail is rated as moderate due to high elevation gain with some very steep sections, making it best suited for experienced hikers.
Also, you will need a high clearance car to reach the trailhead since you’ll have to drive for about 24 kilometers along a gravel road. The road to the trailhead is closed off during the winter. And if you’re going in the warmer months definitely bring bug repellant as there are swarms of mosquitos on the trail.
The Tolmie Peak trail starts off at Mowich Lake and is pretty easy at the very beginning. The ascent starts at around the 2.2 kilometer mark, but there are some switchbacks that make the high elevation gain a bit easier. Towards the end of the trail you will pass by Eunice Lake, which is a great spot for a quick rest.
At the very end of the trail you will reach the Tolmie Peak Lookout point, which offers some amazing views of the lakes, forests and mountains. It’s extremely rewarding and the panoramic vista will make you forget all about the mosquito bites and steep ascent.
Washington’s Enchantments trail is a favorite among backpackers. The long hike takes you through meadows, next to lakes, streams and unique rock formation, making you feel like you’re not even in Washington.
It takes about two days to complete the hike – you could do it in one go, but it would be a very strenuous experience. It’s important to note that you need a permit to camp in the area, and they are usually distributed several months ahead. If you really want to explore the Enchantments trail, you will need to plan ahead.
Also, you will be granted access to a random camping zone, which might just decide how you’re going to do the hike. We’d recommend starting from the Colchuck Lake entrance because of the Aasgard Pass – it’s much easier to climb it during the early stages of the hike, than to have to descend it when you’re already exhausted.
Another thing you should do before the hike is arrange transport from the end of the trail to the parking lot where you left the car.
This trail is rated as hard because of the steep climbs and the total elevation gain. We don’t recommend it to hikers who only have experience with short day-hikes, as camping out in the wilderness and setting out on the trail at 6AM is not really for beginners.
The Wallace Falls trail is a moderately difficult loop hike that features some spectacular waterfalls. It’s a pretty short hike and the only difficult thing about it is the elevation gain – the terrain itself is nor very rough or demanding. Especially because the trail features bridges for safe crossing of the streams as well as railed lookouts that allow you to admire the waterfalls safely.
In fact, it’s even okay to bring kids and dogs, which should give you a better idea of the overall difficulty of the trail. Even though it’s rated as moderate, most beginners should be able to handle the trail – the main requirement is that you’re able to hike for two hours in one way, which is not that hard.
Most of the trail goes through forests, while parts of it even follow dirt roads. It is very well marked, so it’s not really easy to get lost. You will also see various public bathrooms along the way, and there are plenty of water sources so you don’t need to pack a lot of it.
The Bottom Falls are normally thought to be the end of the trail because there’s a picnic area there. Most people will just stop to rest there or turn around and head back immediately. We highly recommend that you continue hiking for another mile or so because you will get to see the Upper Wallace Falls, which are absolutely breathtaking.
The Mount Si trail is a strenuous ascent near North Bend, Washington. With a total elevation gain of more than 1000 meters on a hike you can cover in less than three hours, this particular trail is recommended only to experienced hikers who don’t shy away from a steep climb.
The majority of this trail is shaded, making it great option for warm summer days. You will see all sorts of gorgeous wild flowers along the way, but their beauty is nothing compared to the spectacular views from top of the Haystack. That’s the very end of the trail – a rocky surface that you have to climb if you want to officially make it to the top. Just be very careful and wear hiking boots with really good traction, since Haystack tends to be slippery.
This Washington hike is exhilarating, tiring and very rewarding. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking, and they make all the climbing worth it. Also, the return will take about an hour less than the ascent, since you’re mostly just heading downhill.
It’s okay to bring your dog along for the hike but you will have to keep him on the leash. There are actually reports of bear sightings on this trail, so you might want to be cautious and really aware of your surroundings. The sightings are not an often occurrence though, and it’s not very likely that you will spot one during your hike.
The Skyline Trail is a moderately difficult hike in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a loop trail so it’s possible to do it in two different directions – we highly recommend doing the trail clockwise, as it puts Mount Rainier directly in front of you, allowing you to enjoy some spectacular views while you are hiking.
One important thing to note here is that hiking poles are highly recommended, and it’s not a bad idea to pack crampons even if you’re doing the hike in the middle of August. The area tends to be snow and icy even in summer, and having the necessary equipment will make it easier to enjoy the trail.
The terrain itself is not very demanding – it’s the elevation gain that makes this trail a bit tricky for the beginners. Especially with the snowy patches that really require you to be adequately prepared. But other than that, it’s a fairly easy hike you will enjoy.
There are many different wild flowers along the way, and you might even spot some marmots if you do the hike in the summer – they’re absolutely adorable, and there’s no reason to be scared of them. And you might even see a bear – just don’t disturb them and you will be fine.
The Marymere Falls trail is an easy hike in Washington’s Olympic National Park. It’s a short out and back trail that features only a slight elevation gain, and even total hiking newbies can complete it in just about an hour.
The terrain is easy and the trail is mostly flat. There are two or three switchbacks, but there’s absolutely nothing scary about them. Along the way you will spot some beautiful wild flowers in the forest and you might even see some unique birds if you bring along the proper bird-watching equipment.
Most of the trail goes through a forest, so you won’t be able to enjoy stunning mountain and lake views all the time. Eventually you will make it to the gorgeous waterfall – you can stand right next to it for photos, but only do that if you’re wearing a nice, waterproof jacket. Otherwise you’re going to get wet, which will just make you uncomfortable on the way back.
One thing worth noting about the Marymere Falls trail is that it tends to be pretty crowded because it is so approachable to everyone. It’s best to do the hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon, if you want to avoid crowds of people. In fact, an evening hike might be a good idea as well – just remember to pack a headlamp, if you don’t make it back into town before nightfall.
The Mount Pilchuck trail is a difficult ascent near Granite Falls. This challenging hike takes you to a lookout tower that offers some of the best views in this part of Washington. The only problem is that the tower is at the top of the mountain, and only advanced hikers will be able to reach it.
The total elevation gain is more than 600 meters for a 10-kilometer hike, which is a lot. You will need to scramble at times, as well as cover a lot of rocky pathways that require you to have a good sense of balance. The last few miles of the trail are particularly demanding; they are in really rough shape, with lots of potholes and crushed stone. But it’s nothing experienced hikes won’t be able to handle in a good pair of hiking boots.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there’s usually snow and mud on the trail even in mid August, so be prepared. It is a strenuous ascent, but the views from the top really reward you for all your effort. On a clear day you can actually see Mount Rainier from the trail!
This is one of the more popular hikes in the Mount Pilchuck State Park, so it’s highly recommended you arrive early in the morning if you want to avoid crowds. And if you want to secure a parking spot, since it’s normally half full as early as 7 AM!