20+ Beautiful Hikes in Washington State

Mountain with snow covering parts of it, reflecting in a lake. Around it are evergreen trees and a blue sky with some clouds

If you ever find yourself lucky enough to live in Washington state, you will never run out of things to do. From not being able to place Seattle on a map, to making it my home three and a half years ago, to very recently leaving for California, there have been so many amazing memories in between.

I have been whale watching and I have visited flower fields blooming in the Spring. I have been lucky enough to have seen the wild beaches on the Pacific, and watched landscapes change as you travel from West to the desert-like East.

By far, the thing I will miss the most about living in the evergreen state is the many opportunities for hiking. Whether you’ve never hit the trail or you enjoy long backpacking trips, there is something for everyone. Check out the list below for more than 20 hikes in Washington State, written by myself and some fellow adventurers, and save your favorites to do in the coming year. After all, what better than an outdoor socially-distanced activity in a time like this?

Table of Contents

Highway 90 (Snoqualmie Pass Region)

Starting with the busiest hikes, the I90 corridor is full of a range of adventures. If you’re looking to escape people, head further over the actual pass. Anything before the pass is best hiked early in the morning, later in the afternoon, or better yet, on a weekday.

The drive along the highway is a beautiful one, especially when the first snow dusts the surrounding mountain peaks in the Fall.

Truthful Travel Tip:

Tired of all the rain? Just travel to the other side of the pass, where you’ll likely be rewarded with great weather. Roslyn is a favorite place of mine to stop for food before or after an adventure!

Mount Si

Passes Required: Discover Pass ($11.50/day or $35 for a year, accepted across WA)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

If you can believe it, this was my first hike when my boyfriend (now husband!) moved to Washington State. I would recommend a few less strenuous hikes before attempting this one as the elevation gain is no joke.

Looking out at mountains in the distance, from a rocky cliff edge lined by trees
From the top of Mount Si before you climb the rocky cliff face

Approximately 3200 feet over 4 miles (8 miles roundtrip) makes for a sweaty, multi-hour hike. The view from the top is worth every step though. You emerge from the trees and many switchbacks to a final rocky scramble and a view down to Snoqualmie Valley below. As an overlook hike, it is best done in Summer when you have the greatest chance of a clear, blue -sky day. Washington’s hikes can be made or broken by the view from the top, so plan for a sunny day!

The view from the top is so memorable that I still consider it one of my favorite hikes!

Rattlesnake Ledge

Passes Required: None

Dogs allowed? Yes

NOTE: As of January 2021 this trail is closed indefinitely. I couldn’t find a definitive answer as to why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was due to overcrowding.

This is arguably the busiest hike in all of Washington State, mainly for its accessibility and beautiful views. A perfect Summer hike, there is a lake at the bottom of the trailhead for a cool dip after a hard climb.

One of the best hikes in Washington, looking down at Rattlesnake Lake and the surrounding mountains
From the top of Rattlesnake Ledge on a clear day!

Another overlook hike, this trek climbs about 1500 feet in just about 2 and a half miles (approx. 5 miles roundtrip). On a clear day you see the lake, forested surrounding mountains, and the hazy mountains off in the distance. Be mindful about your footing at the top, the hike culminates in exposed rock with sheer cliffs, and there have been numerous fatalities in recent years.

This hike is perfect for a picnic lunch at the top. With the cool breeze and the sun shining, it gives you time to rest before the descent back down!

Franklin Falls

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass ($5 day use or $30 annual pass, good for WA and OR forests)

Dogs allowed? Yes

This hike is another favorite of Washingtonians. As a relatively easy hike, it is frequented by beginners, toddlers, and even the occasional stroller. Although busy, that does not discount from the beauty.

The hike starts off pretty mellow, with most of the approximately 400 feet elevation gain later in the 1-mile (2-mile round trip) hike to the waterfall. You pass by a river and the beautiful cabins along it, and are surrounded by tall trees. A scramble down a rock face will lead to the end: the falls and its emerald pool.

Woman in purple jacket with red hair and glasses on her head, standing at the foot of a fast-moving tall waterfall tumbling down a rock face
Franklin Falls in the Early Fall

Spring and Winter have been my favorite times to visit. In Spring, the falls are flowing fast and you can spot trilliums along the trail. Winter really gives you a chance to see the falls in a different light. The 2-mile walk becomes significantly longer as the road to the trailhead closes with the snow. If you’re lucky enough, and the weather gets cold enough, you’ll hike down to a frozen waterfall.

Standing at the bottom of a 70 foot waterfall is worth the hike-crowded or not!

Waterfall rushing into a pool, surrounding rocks and rock face have a dusting of snow
The base of Franklin Falls in late November

Snow Lake

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see above hike for link)

Dogs allowed? Yes

Picture this: it is Fall. The crisp air has arrived, and down in the city leaves have started to change. If you take a hike up to Snow Lake, you’ll be greeted with layers of colors and mountains dusted in snow!

You start the hike in the Alpental parking lot, which is one of the area’s ski hills (for more advanced skiers). The trail offers peekaboo views of surrounding mountains as you climb. And the lake itself is magnificent; it is backed by mountain peaks that are covered with snow late into the Summer.

Smiling man in black jacket, multi-colored hat, holding a dog on a leash. In the background are snow covered mountain peaks and fall colored foliage.
Look at the snow and the colors from the Snow Lake trail! (feat my husband Adrian & our dog Mason!)

The hike to Snow Lake is a popular hike in the Summer, as swimming in alpine lakes is an experience unlike anything else. But this hike really shines in the Fall, when the 3.5 miles (approximately 7 roundtrip) to the top doesn’t seem that strenuous in the cooler weather. The 1800 foot climb features snowy mountain peaks and striking red and orange leaves.

Although closer to a moderate hike, Snow Lake is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with Washington’s alpine lakes.

Poo Poo Point

Passes Required: None

Dogs allowed? Yes

Yes, I know, the name. Although not technically on the I90 this hike in Issaquah is close by. There are multiple trails to get to the top, but the one I have always done is the shorter but steeper Chirico Trail.

This hike is a thigh burner, but the view from the top can be so worth it on a clear day. In just under 2 miles (about 4 roundtrip) of cool, forested trekking you will reach the top, which is used as a launching point for paragliders. You will gain over 1500 feet in that short amount of time, which makes for a moderate hike. Be sure not to mistake the first open area for the top. While there are views, they do not compare to what awaits you if you climb just a bit more.

Woman with blue shirt, pink shoes and a ponytail looking off into the distance. In her arms is a puppy with its paws draped over her arm, and they are looking out over a grassy cliff to a town and trees below.
My dog Olive & I at the top of Poo Poo Point (when she was a puppy!)

This trail is amazing in any season, provided you are met with blue skies at the top. Looking down into the valley below is amazing but the unobstructed view of Mount Rainier far off in the distance is really the prize. I had been to this trail many times before I was surprised with the view of “Washington’s mountain” one January morning. Wow!

This hike, in my opinion, can be the best investment of your time if you only have a few hours. Its proximity to the city and views are worth an afternoon!

Highway 2 (Stevens Pass Area)

This is my favorite area in Washington. The more jagged mountain peaks, the opportunities for more solitude, and the proximity of the beauty to the city have made it an also crowded destination in recent years.

While some of the favorites are beloved for a reason (just wait until you see Blanca- arguably my favorite hike of all time!), there are so many hikes in this area that are just as beautiful, and not as high in traffic.

Truthful Travel Tip:

For a view with very little effort, head to Espresso Chalet. Behind the roadside stand is an area that gives you a clear view of Mount Index. Be aware that you must purchase something from the coffee stand to be able to park in the lot!

Wallace Falls

Passes Required: Discover Pass (see Mount Si for link)

Dogs allowed? Yes

If waterfalls are your cup of tea, this is an opportunity to see one that seemingly goes on forever. Wallace Falls is such a rewarding hike. While rated as moderate, most of the elevation gain happens between the last two falls, so it is very doable.

There is so much that is unique and fun about this trail. It starts off with you walking through a field, where you will catch views of the distant Mount Index and Baring Mountain. The hike gives a chance to hike over streams, take a detour to a tiny waterfall, and walk along the river. and this is all before the first true waterfall view. In almost 3 miles and 1500 feet elevation gain you visit the Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls which are all unique and all worth seeing.

Multi layered waterfall running in between trees. The sunset is reflecting perfectly on the waterfall, casting a golden light upon it as it spills into an emerald pool.
Hiking back down Wallace Falls during sunset, this is one of my favorite hiking pictures ever!

This hike is fun in all seasons. In Winter the mossy green trees really show off their colors. In Spring the waterfalls are raging with all of the rain and snowmelt, and in Summer you’re almost guaranteed to have blue skies and sunshine.

If you’re new to waterfall hikes, Wallace Falls will definitely make you a convert (and Washington has so many amazing waterfall hikes!)

Looking down at canyon filled with water, surrounded by trees and a town and mountains in the distance
The view on a Winter day

Lake Serene

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls for link)

Dogs allowed? Yes

This hike is my husband’s favorite, and I totally get why. With views all the way up to the top, beautiful cascading waterfalls a short way off the trail, and an alpine lake, Lake Serene is hard to beat in terms of having it all as a trail.

Lake Serene is a busy trail. Rated moderate to hard, it gains over 2000 feet along the way. Throughout the hike up there are many opportunities to stop during the 4-mile (8-mile roundtrip) trek. You can veer off the main trail to reach Bridal Veil Falls about halfway in. Although this adds elevation and distance, the falls are amazing. They are so tall and wide. Back on the main trail, it gets narrower and steeper as you get closer to the top, and it can seem like forever that you’re climbing. Finally, you reach the lake, which on a sunny day is reflecting the surrounding mountains.

Sharp mountain cliff with piles of snow at the bottom, reflecting into a deep blue lake
Lake Serene in the Spring

This hike is amazing in all seasons, but for spectacular waterfalls you would want to visit in Spring. If alpine swimming is your goal, then you definitely want to visit in Summer. June is still too cold (unless you’re my husband…) to swim in the frigid water, but it can feel so refreshing in the warmest months after the long climb to the top.

Fun fact: if you travel further than Lake Serene on Highway 2 going East, you will be able to see Bridal Veil Falls from the highway coming back West. It’s a really cool sight!

Water falling down tall rock cliff, surrounded by trees
Part of the Lake Serene trail

Heybrook Lookout

Passes Required: None

Dogs allowed? Yes

One of the cool things about hiking in Washington is that you can visit decommissioned or functioning fire lookouts. Some you can even stay the night in! Heybrook Lookout is one of them (you can stay overnight for $75 USD, reservation required).

The hike up to the lookout is a short and relatively steep climb. As you ascend through the thick forest there aren’t too many views through the trees. Soon enough you have completed the 1.3 miles to the top (about 2.6 miles round trip) and gained 850 feet. This brings you to the base of the lookout. If you’re afraid of heights this may not be the hike for you, as the true view comes from climbing up the seemingly never ending staircase that runs through the middle of the lookout.

Jagged mountain peak in the distance, evergreen trees in the foreground
View from the fire lookout tower

Since this is a lookout hike, visiting on a clear day will give you the best views. With blue skies you can see many surrounding mountains. Take care if you visit in Winter. Although the elevation of the lookout is relatively low, it can still become covered by snow.

Heybrook Lookout is one of the easier lookout hikes in the state, so it’s a good starting point for anyone interested in seeing what these old structures look like!

Lake Valhalla

Passes Required: None

Dogs allowed? Yes

While the name of this hike sounds a little daunting, it is one of the coolest hikes I completed in Washington. This can be an out-and-back hike, but we decided to take a different route. Starting at a PCT entrance, we did a through hike.

For those who have never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a hiking trail that travels from Mexico to Canada along the mountain ranges of the West Coast. People take on portions, the entire trail, or weeks-long backpacking trips. Although I completed the tiniest portion in my 11 mile day hike it was such an exhilarating accomplishment to walk in the footsteps of all the hikers before me!

Panoramic view of one of the best hikes in Washington, looking out from Pacific Crest Trail. There is a boulder field, evergreen and layers of mountains in the distance
Looking out from the Pacific Crest Trail

Unlike a lot of other hikes in Western Washington, this trek is mostly out in the open- you are not hiking through the cover of the forest completely, but instead across boulder fields and meadows. There is a fair amount of climbing-about 2000 feet. Most of the 11 miles are spent trekking to the lake, with a short trip back down to the other trailhead.

We were lucky enough to visit while all the meadows were in bloom with all sorts of wildflowers, in August. Summer also brings the mosquitoes, and we were a great snack anytime we stopped moving. One tip I wish I would have known before hiking this trail: the mountain behind Lake Valhalla blocks out the sun in the afternoon. If you want to swim or get pictures of the shimmering blue lake, start your hike extra early!

Lake Valhalla is a really special hike, and you can have the hike almost completely to yourself if you start from the PCT entrance!

Mountain peak across from a lake, half covered in evergreens and half barren
Lake Valhalla

Blanca Lake

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls above)

Dogs allowed? Yes

If you only have time for one hike, let Blanca Lake let it be it. Be warned: it is a hard hike. But the view at the top is comparable to the most beautiful lakes from the Canadian Rockies. The mixture of the turquoise waters with the glacier in the background make for a spiritual experience. I cried on this hike, I laughed on this hike, and I definitely fell into the lake as I was excitedly hopping from log to log at the perimeter. Blanca Lake is something special.

Make sure you look up directions carefully before venturing to the trailhead- the original road washed out a few years ago and there is now a different access point. Unfortunately the change in location hasn’t made it any less busy; it was a hidden gem when I hiked it back in 2015, but no longer. The almost 4-mile trail (almost 8 miles roundtrip) itself is nothing remarkable, be prepared for a lot of trees and a lot of switchbacks, climbing 3300 feet. The gem is truly the lake itself. The lake owes its color to the glacial till from the Columbia Glacier that frames it. I will never forget the first peekaboo view I had of the lake. After mentally battling myself all the way up, seeing the lake made it all worth it in an instant.

Turquoise lake surrounded by mountains, and bowl shaped glacier
Blanca Lake & the Columbia Glacier

This hike is definitely a Summer hike. With the highest point at over 4500 feet, the road to the trailhead and the trail itself are covered in snow late into the Spring and as soon as the first snow hits the mountains in the Fall. Summer makes for an almost bearable lake to swim in. It is one of the coldest I’ve been in, but it is so refreshing.

Blanca Lake is definitely something to add to your bucket-list if you haven’t already!

Lake Stuart

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls above)

Dogs allowed? No

This hike was written about by Chelsey from Chelsey Explores. Check out her Instagram!

Washington is one of the most beautiful places to hike. With the vast landscape that is filled with mountains and lakes you really can’t go wrong with wherever you choose to hike. However, let’s focus on a hike in Leavenworth.

Leavenworth is a small town located about 4 hours from Mt. Rainier National Park or only 2.5hrs from Seattle. This makes for the perfect weekend road trip from Seattle. This German inspired town offers some great hiking.

One of the more well-known or “popular” hikes in this area is called Lake Colchuck; however, I highly recommend doing the sister hike to Lake Stuart. Both of these trails begin at the same trailhead, but end up splitting. Lake Stuart is an 8.7 mile hike and is rated as moderate.

As stated in the name of the trail itself, your end goal is to reach the Lake. You will be greeted with stunning mountain views and glacier cold water in the lake below. 

Looking at a lake and mountains from the edge of the lake, branches covering part of the view. Still lake and snow covered mountains in the background

Here are some insider’s tips: In order to even have the opportunity to do this hike you MUST arrive early. Before 8am. I personally arrived right at 8 and got one of the last spots. You need an adventure pass in order to park at the trailhead and lastly I highly recommend having 4-wheel drive to get to this trail. 

The road is extremely bumpy, steep and all dirt. You will be driving on the side of a cliff at times, so be aware that the dirt road may be slick after a rainfall. 

October is a beautiful time to visit as the Fall colors will still be present and you may also have some snow on the trails. The contrast between the white snow and the Fall leaves is incredible!

Mount Rainier area

If you’ve been to Washington, hopefully you’ve been lucky enough to see Mount Rainier in all her glory. Washington’s tallest and most famous mountain sits at 14, 411 feet, just shy of the height of Mount Whitney in California. While you can gaze at the mountain from afar, there is something extremely special about getting up close and personal to such a wonder of nature. There are endless hikes in and around the National Park area!

Truthful Travel Tip:

For the closest view of the mountain, if you’re not planning to summit it or do a multi-day hike, drive up to Sunrise. My favorite place to catch views of the mountain (and snow long into the Summer!) the visitor center sits at 6400 feet.

Fremont Lookout

Passes Required: National Park Pass (you can buy a day pass, a park-specific pass or an annual national park pass)

Dogs allowed? No

This hike was written about by Michelle from The Wandering Queen. Check out her Instagram page for more hiking inspiration!

One of the best hikes in Washington State is located in Mount Rainier National Park. It is called Fremont Lookout.

This moderate trail is around 5.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1200 ft. The trail features the famous Mount Rainier National Park. You practically see the mountain throughout the whole trail. It is just so fantastic!

Woman standing above the clouds, looking at a snow covered rounded mountain. The lighting is soft.

Now, as impressive as it is, this hike is only open during the summer. So, people flock to this one-of-kind trail. However, you can avoid the crowds by hiking during the sunset. The sunset is a great time to see the colorful sky with the stunning mountain and fire lookout. The fire lookout is located at the end of the trail and is a great spot to take pictures. Just don’t stay in the lookout as it is not allowed. Hiking back in the dark is not too tricky for this hike as you are above the treeline, and the trail isn’t too long.

Overall, Fremont lookout is probably the best Hike in Mount Rainier National Park and an absolute classic. 

Skyline Loop Trail

Passes Required: National Park Pass (see above hike for more info)

Dogs allowed? No

This hike was written about by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler. Check out her Instagram for more amazing photos!

The Skyline Loop Trail, a 5.5-mile moderate to challenging hike in Mount Rainier National Park, provides you up-close-and-personal views of Washington’s tallest mountain. The hike’s trailhead is located in the most-popular area of the park, the southern hub of Paradise, which is known for its beautiful wildflowers and sweeping valley views.

Insider tip: If you’d prefer making this hike a bit more on the moderate side, it should be hiked counterclockwise due to the lower elevation grade. However, if stunning views are your primary goal, hiking the trail clockwise is your best bet.

Woman next to a snow covered and rounded mountain, hiking beside a large boulder.

Best time to go: In the peak season of July and August, you can expect to have panoramic views of meadows, filled to the brim with technicolor wildflowers, rushing waterfalls, and towering glaciers. Fall is another spectacular time to visit, with the valley surrounding Rainier aflame in vibrant autumnal colors

Woman on hiking trail with rounded, snow covered mountain in the background and boulder fields and evergreens surrounding

Silver Falls Loop

Although this hike doesn’t offer views of Mount Rainier, the old-growth forest and crystal clear river make it a worthwhile adventure!

The hike starts around the Southeast park entrance. You hike mainly along the Ohanapecosh River, which is the most beautiful and clear water I’ve seen in the state. Almost right at the beginning of the 1.5-mile (3 mile round trip) loop there is a detour to the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Trail. It sounds a lot cooler than it actually is: people used to bathe in these springs for their supposed healing properties. Now they are little more than bogs. The star of this hike is Silver Falls, which is reached after gaining 600 feet in elevation as you trek through the forest. There is a bridge that offers a great view of the falls, but don’t forget to also look on the other side of the bridge to see the amazing rushing water.

Waterfall rushing over large boulders surrounded by evergreens, falling into deep blueish green pool
Silver Falls

Unfortunately this hike is only accessible as long as the roads within the park are open (unless you plan on finding an alternative way in- snowshoeing, hiking from the road closure etc.) The roads usually close mid October and reopen sometime in May. You can check the status of the roads by visiting Mount Rainier National Park‘s website.

If you’ve seen a lot of views of Mount Rainier while visiting the park and you’re looking for something a little different, Silver Falls Loop is the hike to try!

Woman standing on a rock located in clear, greenish blue water
The clear water!

The Wonderland Trail (*backpacking trip)

This hike was written about by Katy from A Rambling Unicorn. At over 93 miles in length and 22,000+ feet elevation gain, this hike is not recommended for anyone but the experienced! This hike will take days and requires a permit. You can read more about Katy’s hiking adventures on the A Rambling Unicorn Facebook page!

If the Wonderland Trail isn’t on your bucket list yet, it probably should be. At approximately 93 miles in length, the Wonderland Trail completely encircles Washington State’s tallest mountain – Mount Rainier. The trek showcases stunning views of the mountain from every possible angle, climbing to glorious alpine areas with massive glaciers and then falling to deep valleys in lush lowland forests.

An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. The mountain is revered by the native Puyallup people who refer to it as “Tahoma” – which means the Mother of Waters. Since the mountain is usually buried under snow for most of the year, the hiking season typically runs from late July through September.

Looking at evergreens and rounded mountain covered in snow

With a cumulative elevation gain of 22,000 feet, the Wonderland Trail is a strenuous hike that necessitates some significant planning. A wilderness permit is required to hike the trail, and these are highly competitive. Hikers must stay in designated backcountry camps to minimize impacts at delicate wilderness areas. Most hikers prepare food caches in advance which can be dropped or mailed to three different ranger stations along the route.

The effort is worth it, however. Nothing compares to the joy of waking up to a new view of this glorious mountain framed in your tent’s doorway each morning.

The Olympics

Located in the Northwest of Washington is the Olympic mountain range. Surrounding this area is one of Washington’s national parks, national forest land and the wild Pacific Ocean. There is no lack of things to do on the Olympic Peninsula. The area is amazing for hiking: there are waterfalls, coastal hikes and the most secluded mountains in the state!

Truthful Travel Tip:

While in the area, explored the lesser known but just as beautiful Hood Canal. The smaller version of Puget Sound, this area has swimming beaches, beautiful overlooks and some amazing camping areas.

Cape Flattery

NOTE: Currently this trail is closed as it sits on Makah land, and they are protecting the health, safety and welfare of the Makah people, in light of the pandemic. You can check their website to see if there have been any changes!

Passes Required: Since it is on traditional Makah land, it is required that you purchase a Makah Recreation Use Permit and display it within your car.

Dogs allowed? Yes

If you’re looking for something unique, taking a short hike to the westernmost point of the mainland United States is just that!

There aren’t many hikes in Washington that can be compared to Cape Flattery. The drive to the trailhead is an event itself, traveling through secluded forests and offering quick views of the shore. On your hike you walk through the forest on raised walkways, and the hike itself is pretty uneventful but peaceful. In a short .75 miles (1.5 miles round trip) after gaining only 200 feet you reach a series of overlooks. You see sea stacks in the distance, crumbling cliffs and swirling water.

Crumbling rock cliffs that drop right into swirling ocean below. The cliffs are covered in evergreen trees
Looking out at the Pacific from Cape Flattery

Doing this hike at any time of year is possible, but it is when the sun is shining that the beautiful color of the water below and the sudden cliffs really shine. Be sure to stay on the marked trail as a fall down these cliffs would be no joke.

Cape Flattery is quite out the way of anything else in the Olympic Peninsula, but it really is worth the extra time!

Marymere Falls Trail

Passes Required: National Park Pass (you can buy a day pass, a park-specific pass or an annual national park pass)

Dogs Allowed? No

This hike was written about by Rebecca from r-noelle.com. You can check out more adventure photos on her Instagram!

This hike is on the Olympic Peninsula near Lake Crescent. The is a beginner hiker trail. All levels can do this. The end of the path to the waterfall lookout can have roots sticking out from the trees. Mind your footing!

The trail is a 2-mile trail in and out. The trail is mostly flat. There is a 298 feet elevation gain. It is all so gradual that you won’t notice it. Going in the fall is peaceful, if you go in the spring the runoff from the waterfall will be strong from the snowmelt in the mountains.

Waterfall falling straight down into a small pool below. Trees and moss surround the waterfall

At the parking lot, there is a map. The trail goes to the back of the parking lot, and the trail leads to a walk under 101 Olympic Highway. From there you escape to a beautiful forest. Going along the stream, you get to follow it to a bridge that crosses the creek. From here it is a short walk to beautiful waterfalls. There is a second bridge that brings you close to the Marymere Waterfall.

If you time it right, by getting early, you can have this waterfall to yourself. Spend time here and hear the water flow and be in the mosses and green trees.

Mountain Loop Highway

The Mountain Loop Highway is a scenic drive through the Cascades, North of Highway 2 and South of North Cascades National Park. While the drive along the highway itself is worth your time, there are some real gems throughout the almost complete loop (it travels East, then North, then back West before joining Highway 530 that leads back to the main highway, I5.

Truthful Travel Tip:

Hiking is hard work. Treat yourself to a burger at Nutty’s Junkyard Grill in Arlington when in the area. The old-time diner decor and amazing milkshakes will make you want to return again and again.

North Fork Sauk Falls

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

As probably the least visited hike on this entire list of hikes in Washington State, North Sauk Falls is really just a short walk, but the view is amazing nonetheless.

Be warned: the drive to the trailhead is gnarly. There are big potholes and sometimes downed tree branches. There is only enough parking for a few cars, but you’ll probably be the only one there anyways. It is a short walk downhill 111 feet for only about .2 miles (approx. .3 roundtrip) and you hear the falls before you see them. They’re not spectacularly big or tall, but if you catch them at the right time they’re magical.

Waterfall on left side of photo falling into a pool below. Around the waterfall are ferns, mossy trees and rocks covered in ice
The viewpoint to North Fork Sauk Falls

Visiting right before the road to the falls closes in the late Fall (it is located East of Darrington on Sloan Creek Road) is a great time to visit. We were lucky enough to catch the falls just at the right time: when everything around was frozen, but the falls were still rushing. The contrast in colors was amazing!

While you may not drive out to the area just for this short hike, it is a great “add on” when visiting the Mountain Loop Highway.

Rushing water flowing in a river, with surrounding rocks covered in ice. Across the river is a fallen log with icicles hanging off of it
Everything around the waterfall was covered in ice!

Heather Lake

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (See Franklin Falls)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

If you judged this hike by the state of the road to the trailhead you’d expect no one to be there. But you’ll learn early on that massive potholes don’t deter Washington hikers- no matter their car. Heather Lake is one of a few hikes located near the start of the Mountain Loop Highway in Granite Falls, so it can get quite busy.

The trail travels through forest, and across seasonal streams and waterfalls for 2.5 miles (5 miles roundtrip) with a moderate elevation gain of 1190 feet. The last half mile can be a bit sketchy depending on weather conditions, instead of compacted dirt there are a lot of boardwalks, which makes for a really slippery walk in the Fall or Spring. The lake itself is so cool. It is framed by Mount Pilchuck, another popular Washington Hike. The reflection of the surrounding mountains in the deep, dark lake water is a cool sight.

Mountains covering the length of the photograph, with snow piled up near the bottom. The mountain has clouds covering the top and is reflecting into a dark lake below
Heather Lake

As mentioned above, it can be a slippery hike when the ice is starting to form or when it is melting into slush in the Spring. With that being said, a lot of people like to hike to this location in the Winter.

Heather Lake is right in between easy and moderate hikes, and is perfect for this looking to push themselves a bit more as they ease into hiking!

Boulder River

Passes Required: None

Dogs allowed? Yes

The Boulder River Trail located just West of the Mountain Loop Highway should be a hidden gem. First off, there is a huge waterfall along the long hike. Second, it is one of the worst roads I’ve taken to get to a trailhead. Unfortunately we’ve learned that Washingtonians do not care about potholes and that if there is a gem, it’s already been found. Regardless, this is a really cool trail to check out.

Boulder River is a long, easy trail. At over 8 miles roundtrip, this hike only climbs 700 feet throughout. You may get to the waterfall and decide to turn back, which would put you at around 3 miles and 250 feet elevation gain. The trail travels through the forest with the sound of the river always close by. The waterfall is much taller than expected, and when it is the rainy season there are actually two or more paths of water flowing from the rock face

Two waterfalls flowing from a tall height into grayish blue water below. Mossy trees and a mossy rock face surround the water.
Tip? This photo is from the top of the detour to the falls

The rainy season is definitely the best time to see the river throughout this hike but also makes it the most dangerous. This river moves extremely fast. When it is rushing the water is a silty almost grayish-blue, which can be inviting but remember to be cautious around fast-moving, Springtime water!

Boulder River is a really great way to escape the rainy weather in Seattle’s Spring by venturing to a place where you see the effects of all that rain!

North Cascades Area

North Cascades is Washington’s Rocky Mountains. The peaks are huge, the landscapes are dramatic and it is really out of the way of everything. Although this area is known for the National Park, a lot of the coolest places are actually outside of the bounds of the park itself. Traveling along the highway will take you to some unreal hikes!

Truthful Travel Tip:

Nearby Baker Lake and the Mount Shuksan area are both two amazing places also worth checking out. The hikes there are mostly moderate to extremely hard, but the views are incomparable.

Rainy Lake

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

I am still trying to figure out the naming of this one because it is not even on the rainy side of the mountain pass. Nonetheless, Rainy Lake is a short, easy and sweet hike.

This hike is one of the only on this list that is wheelchair accessible. This path intersects with one of Washington’s most well-known Fall hikes, Heather-Maple Pass Loop, so there is usually a lot of traffic in the joint parking lots. A quick 1-mile (2-mile roundtrip) hike through the woods leads to a lake with a mountain shooting up from the back of it. Although not a huge lake, it is worth the short walk!

Snow covered sign and trees, with snow covered mountains in the background
The parking lot from Rainy Lake!

It looks beautiful in many different seasons, but we caught it at the perfect time. It was less than a week before the SR20 closed for Winter (they get a lot of snow over on that side of the pass, so the road closes as soon as it gets too high) and there was already a ton of snow on the ground. The trail was pretty much untouched and it was an actual Winter Wonderland, with snow glistening on the tips of evergreen trees. In Summer you get to see waterfalls flowing down the mountainsides, and is probably a much easier walk than through a few feet of snow!

Rainy Lake is a great add-on hike when you’re in the area, and gives you a sneak peek of just how beautiful the North Cascades area is!

Blue Lake

Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass (see Franklin Falls)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

Wow, wow, wow. The views on the Blue Lake hike are so amazing, and a perfect memorable end of Summer hike.

This hike is on the East side of the mountain pass, which makes for a dusty and dry hike. The trail offers a little bit of both forest and boulder fields as you climb. Be sure to look around you when you’re climbing, as all around are some pretty cool mountains. It is a short 2.3 miles to the lake (4.6 roundtrip), over about 900 feet. This moderate hike ends at a lake, which is surrounded by mountains and shimmers in the sun.

Beautiful, clear blue lake surrounded by mountains. One side is filled with evergreen trees and the other is rocky with some snow at the bottom
Blue Lake in the late Summer

This is one of those alpine lakes, which means it is perfect for Summer swimming. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, because even at the end of August it feels like a polar plunge. There are trout swimming in the lake which is unusual for these high-elevation lakes but super cool to see. The water is as clear as can be, and there are many different easy access areas into the water.

Blanca is one of my all-time favorite hikes in Washington State, but this comes in as a close second. The hike itself, the views, the lake and the swimming make for such an amazing experience!

Looking out at mountain peaks in the distance, with little vegetation. In the foreground are layers of trees on one of the best hikes in Washington
View from the trail

Puget Sound

If you’ve been to Seattle, chances are you’ve seen the Sound. Not quite ocean, but salt water, the Sound is a place to catch fish, go boating, spot some orcas or watch sunsets.

Truthful Travel Tip: Visit Deception Pass in the same visit! The state park has beach access, hiking and a really cool bridge to explore.

Fidalgo Island- Bowman Bay & Fidalgo Head

Passes Required: Discover Pass (see Mt. Si)

Dogs Allowed? Yes

This hike doesn’t really go with the others, but it is one I have done so many times, and everytime is a different experience!

This hike is located on an island right near Deception Pass State Park, and you can see the famous bridge from Bowman Bay. This short hike only travels about 5 miles roundtrip, and gains around 350 feet. You start next to a pier and travel through a short amount of forest before reaching the area surrounding the bridge. This is where you can see otters and seals, and is my favorite place for wildlife viewing. If you continue to climb you will be able to see right out to the Sound, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll catch some porpoises or whales. The view from this point is amazing, and one of my favorites to take visitors to.

Looking out from thin trees at completely still blue water, with islands in the background
The view from the trail looking out at Bowman Bay

Since this is a low elevation hike on the water, it is perfect any time of year. Just be aware that when it is windy it can make for a miserable hike, as you are on an exposed cliff at the end.

This is one of the best hikes in Washington simply because of all the nature you can see each time you visit!

Looking across at exposed rock cliffs that land in greenish water. In the foreground are white flowers and green trees.
The view from one of the cliffs

There is no doubt there is so much beauty you can see if you put on a pair of hiking boots in Washington. Some of the best hikes in Washington are on this list, but I promise you there are so many more to explore. My favorite resource for checking out hikes is WTA, for their detailed trip reports and current conditions.

So get researching, and share some of your favorite hikes with me. I’d love to have a list for whenever I go back to visit!

Happy Hiking!