If you haven’t finalized your plans for the three-day weekend yet, then WTA’s got a few destination suggestions to get out into the backcountry. Go for the day, or turn these challenging day hikes into overnights or multi-night backpacks. Be sure to check in with the local ranger station about conditions, restrictions, and the backcountry permits you’ll need to sleep under the stars.
Skills refresh: Before you head out, refresh your backpacking and Leave No Trace basics, so you know where to pitch your tent.
- Don’t find the trail you’re looking for below? Browse recent Trip Reports from other backpackers for ideas.
- Hiking with kids? Check out recent Trip Reports from other backpackers with kids in tow.
Cathedral Pass Loop
Location: Okanogan National Forest
Length: 44.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4000 feet
Cathedral Pass offers some of the best scenery that the Pasayten’s breathtaking Boundary Trail (a priority area in WTA's Lost Trails Found campaign) has to offer. 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.
Location: North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
Length: 31.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6650 feet
This trek samples some of the best views the North Cascades has to offer — subalpine lakes, forested valleys and rugged mountain passes—on this multi-day trek. By connecting a series of trails, the Rainbow–McAlester Pass Loop lets you experience the natural splendor found in the heart of the North Cascades National Park Complex. With numerous campsites along the way, you can plan an itinerary to suit your own hiking preferences for speed, difficulty, and views.
Shi shi Beach and point of the arches
Location: Pacific Coast
Length: 8.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
When it comes to picturesque views of the wild and rugged Olympic Coast, Shi Shi and Point of Arches tops the list. At only 8 miles round trip, this hike can easily be done in a day, but also makes for an easy backpack. Photographers might want to spend a night or two attempting to capture a prize-winning sunset over the sea stack-strewn Pacific.
North Fork Skokomish River
Location: Hood Canal
Length: 15.2 mile loop, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3568 feet
The North Fork Skokomish Trail leads through the thick Olympic forest to subalpine meadows with unbelievable views into the heart of the craggy, snow-capped Olympic Range. The most scenic section of this trail is the route to First Divide, where you find the gorgeous mountain views in a small pass, 4688 feet high.
Meander Meadow - Dishpan Gap - Cady Ridge Loop
Location: Near Lake Wenatchee
Length: 16 miles, roundtrip
You may find a few lingering patches of snow, but this fabulous loop trip—a bit out of reach of day hikers—is wonderfully attainable for backpackers. Because the hike in and the hike out are both five-star hikes in and of themselves, this loop will keep your senses keen throughout. Huge meadows of color are a feast for the eyes and nose. Enjoy 360 views as you cruise along Cady Ridge.
Location: Blewett Pass
Length: 14.4 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 1450 feet
The Ingalls Creek Trail features a variety of scenery that includes big pines, boulder fields, granite cliffs, old-growth and occasional views of the mighty Stuart Range. The primary attraction in late spring is the proliferation of wildflowers, some of which are uncommon. Be prepared for the cool breezes that flow down the valley, and carry an extra layer. The trail is both an excellent day hike and a good place to spend the night, especially if you plan to hike the entire trail, which leads to Stuart Pass (16 miles one way) and beyond.
Location: Stevens Pass - West
Length: 4.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
The 2.2-mile trail to Barclay Lake follows the path of Barclay Creek, which is tucked into a narrow valley between Gunn and Merchant Peaks to the north and Baring Mountain to the south. Depending on the time of day, you are likely to encounter campers or fishermen, or perhaps even be one of them! The trail continues 0.5 miles along the lake’s north shore for those who want their full 2.2 miles and additional perspectives of Baring.
Location: Mount St. Helens Area
Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
Survey Mount St.Helens’ recovering Blast Zone and get 360-degree, four-peak views from this high perch along the Boundary Trail. Allow plenty of time, carry an ample supply of water (except for occasional snowmelt, it’s a dry trail), and expect to return with a dusty coating of ash on your clothing and gear. Goofy sun hats and umbrellas are encouraged to ward off the sun
Location: Chinook Pass - Hwy 410
Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain:4650 feet
The Mount Aix trail leads to a lofty world above the tree line, with views in all directions, and access to other trails for wandering in the open. Mount Aix is the 40th most prominent peak in Washington, with a prominence of 3296 feet (1005 meters). On a clear day, you can see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, the Goat Rocks, Mount Rainier, and the Stuart Range, just to mention the more identifiable peaks.
Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Length: 13.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2070 feet
Easy trails and abundant scenic camps make wandering the wilds of the William O. Douglas an experience that backpackers old and new can enjoy at a relaxing pace without the knee-wrecking elevation that reaching many of the alpine lakes elsewhere in the state requires. The 14-mile lollipop loop to Dumbbell Lake will take you past seven lakes large enough to have been named along with many smaller ponds and marshes that provide some of the finest elk, trout, and mosquito habitat in the Cascades.
PACKERS TRAIL - MOUNT MISERY LOOP
Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 45 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 9234 feet
The Blue Mountains lure hikers in with their open vistas along the high ridges, intense colors at sunrise and sunset, prolific wildflowers, wildlife sightings, and some of the largest old-growth trees in Eastern Washington. The Mount Misery trail is a tough one (beginning with a rough ride up the forest road), but it almost guaranteed for solitude.
Jungle Hill Loop
Location: Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Length: 15.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3348 feet
This is the perfect short backpack or long day hike! From the Jungle Hill campground, the trail drops approximately 0.25 mile to Sherman Creek. Note the return trail on the left, then cross Sherman Creek to the Jungle Hill Trail and begin the approximately four-mile climb to the meadows near Jungle Hill.
South Fork Silver Creek to Gunsight Pass
Location: Selkirk Range
Length: 14.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2370 feet
The aspen groves and golden larch are a sight to behold on this remote hike through a seldom-seen corner of the Colville National Forest. Pro tip: Take advantage of the great trail head campground at road’s end and hike the North Fork Silver Creek Trail the next day.