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3-5 Day Backpacking Trips for Summer

These multi-day backpacking trips offer the best summer hiking has to offer in Washington. Plus, tips for planning more adventures.

Backpacking in Washington is something special. Whether seeing the stars far from city lights or watching the sun rise from camp, backpacking lets you unplug, see new sights, and relax in nature.

With hundreds and hundreds of backpacking options across the state, your trips can be any length of time, from one night to weeks on the trail. The sweet spot for most people usually falls a long weekend or a week. To that end, we've put together a few options around the state for 3-5 night trips that offer beautiful terrain, incredible wildlife and challenges to conquer.

Days and distances: The distances of the trips below are only suggestions. Some hikers prefer stretching a 12 mile trip into four days, and others might knock out 44 miles in an overnight. Below are just a few ideas to get you started, as well as some tips for finding your own adventure.

Note on water: In drier months, some areas can lack abundant water sources, so check conditions and recent trip reports before you go. Plan your sources carefully and file a trip report when you return to let other hikers know what to look for.

Map Your Own Route

Backpacking trips can be as long (or short) as you'd like to make them. When you go to put together your own backpacking route, remember the following tips:

    • Decide where you'll camp each night. Plan your daily mileage around reasonable expectations so you can make it to designated camping areas without hiking late into the night.
    • Hike near reliable water sources. Many streams and creeks dry up in the hot summer months. Be sure that water sources will be running when you plan your trip so you can stay hydrated.
    • Consider elevation gain. Hiking a 30 mile trail with 500 feet of gain is a lot different than hiking a 30 mile trail with 7,000 feet of gain. Climbs will take longer and require more energy. Plan ahead for variable terrain and set reasonable expectations for your distance with elevation gain factored in.
    • Use our Hiking Guide to put together your own trip and get the latest info on trail conditions using trip reports. The more information you have before heading out, the better. Research your trip and plan accordingly.
    • Check out these step-by-step tips for plotting your own hiking or backpacking loop.

Eastern Washington

Grizzly Loop

Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Mileage: 20 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

A wet section of trail to cross along the Slick Ear section of the Grizzly Loop.
A wet section of trail along the Slick Ear section of the Grizzly Loop. Photo by Froof_D_Poof.

This loop travels through a remote part of Washington’s hiking terrain, the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, situated in the SE corner of the state. The trail starts out on top of Grizzly Bear Ridge, then drops down to the Wenaha River, where a trail parallels the waterway. Follow the river, then ascend back up on the Slick Ear Trail to your car. The Wenaha River Trail offers miles of hiking and many connections to other trails for those with some extra days to explore the area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


WHITE MOUNTAIN VIA KETTLE CREST TRAIL SOUTH

Location: Kettle River Range
Length: 28.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

White Mountain. Photo by Karen Daubert.jpeg
Photo by trip reporter Karen Daubert.

This 28-mile round trip offers the best of the Columbia Highlands as it passes through old-growth ponderosa pine stands, skirts five significant peaks in the Kettle Range, and showcases the effects of the White Mountain Fire of 1988. The Kettle Crest Trail passes just beneath the summits of Sherman and Snow Peaks, Bald Mountain, Barnaby Buttes and White Mountain. 360-degree views include Lake Roosevelt and the Selkirks to the east, Canada to the north and the Cascades to the west.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


PACKERS TRAIL - MOUNT MISERY LOOP

Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 45 miles
Elevation Gain: 9234 feet

A backpacker walks away along a trail, surrounded by flower-filled meadows and big open skies.
Time your visit right and you'll be rewarded with fields of wildflowers. Photo by trip reporter BYOC.

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.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Kettle Crest Trail

Location: Eastern Washington
Mileage: 44 miles
Elevation Gain: 8000 feet

Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by RangerP.jpeg
Enjoy the wide open views on an overnight trip along the Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by RangerP.

This trek across Washington's less famous crest will test both your mental and physical fortitude as you gain 8,000 ft. over the up and down of the traverse. Plan to spend a few nights doing this trip. Besides taking the time to enjoy the sub-alpine sage and meadow terrain, the gain and mileage is heftier than your average backpacking excursion. However, you'll feel a big sense of accomplishment for having completed it, and the views are fantastic as you go up and down the various peaks.

> Plan your trip using WTA’s Hiking Guide


Olympic Peninsula

Grand Valley Loop

Location: Northern Coast
Mileage: 7.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2080 feet

The calm lake reflecting the trees and peaks beyond.
The view down Badger Valley. Photo by cryptobrian.

The Grand Valley Loop is appropriately named. Start out on an exposed ridge with expansive views of the Olympics, then descend into the valley flowing with a lush creek that fills three lakes. Depending on the time of year wildflowers will blanket these slopes and valleys. There are a number of other trails that can be added to this 8-mile loop. To extend your journey consider including Lillian Ridge, Grand Pass or the Elk Mountain Trail.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


SOUTH COAST WILDERNESS TRAIL

Location: Olympic Coast
Length: 17 miles
Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
Season: All year

A sun sets beyond a sandy beach, casting warm colors into the sky.
A serene sunset at Toleak Point. Photo by Times New Marlon.

Experience one of the wildest - and most beautiful - stretches of coastline in the contiguous United States on this 17 mile traverse. But beware: this isn't just any leisurely beach walk. The going is tough. You'll be climbing ladders with your backpack on, scrambling along muddy headland trails, waiting out high tides and fording creeks. Up and down you'll go on this demanding trail. But it is entirely worth it for the ocean sunsets, the unexpected encounters with wildlife, the incredible sea stacks and the constantly crashing surf.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Flapjack Lakes via north fork skokomish 

Location: Hood Canal
Mileage:  15.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3050 feet

A aquamarine lake ringed by trees and rocks.
The Flapjack Lakes sit up in a basin that is reached after hiking in on the North Fork Skokomish Trail. Photo by Eric Nagle.

This is a great backpacking option because it starts out on old road grade, letting you ease into things and get used to carrying a heavy pack. And you’ll want to be warmed up because after a few miles the trail turns away from the Skokomish River and heads up to the lakes. This is a great destination for camping and makes a good basecamp to launch some other explorations like the Gladys Divide and Black and White Lakes, which are both worthwhile excursions made more enticing by the fact that you can leave your heavy pack behind at camp.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


South Cascades

Mount Adams Highline

Location: Mount Adams Area 
Mileage: 22.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1550 feet

An open meadow leads to a line of evergreen trees that sit in front of massive ice-covered Mount Adams.
This trail offers some intimate views of Washington's second highest mountain, Mount Adams. Photo by jweiss.

The Mount Adams Highline trail brings you up close and personal with one of Washington's volcanoes. The second highest mountain in Washington, Adams is the main feature of his trail, but there is plenty to look at besides the majestic beauty of the mountain.

Depending on how fast you hike, this could be a two day trip, but if you want to relax and drink in the mountain views, three days would work great. Be sure to plan your stops around active water sources in the summer. Depending on the season and weather, water can be hard to come by in some areas.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastside Loop

Location: Mount Rainier/Sunrise
Mileage: 36.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 7430 feet

A long view down a gray rock valley that is still holding on to a few patches of snow.
Mount Rainier National Park has some of the most dramatic landscapes in the state and this loop takes you past some of those vistas. Photo by Renegade Beef. 

The Eastside Loop offers a fantastic tour of a piece of Mount Rainier National Park. With each new trail, you’ll enter a new segment of beauty, including a string of waterfalls, a tunnel of huckleberries and the open meadows of Summerland at the end. You’ll also get a taste of the Wonderland Trail without having to circumnavigate the whole mountain. When it comes to backpacking at Mount Rainer, this option is on the shortlist.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


PCT Section I - White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass  

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley 
Mileage: 99.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 17,771 feet

Bear Grass blooming along the trail overlooking the hills beyond.
This one may take you longer than 3-5 days, but it is quite the accomplishment. Photo by nnrelay.

The Pacific Crest Trail can be a daunting prospect, but you don’t have to hike the whole 2,653 miles. This segment will give you a great tour of Washington’s southern reaches. Over these 99 miles hikers pass through varied landscapes that tell the story of land use in our state, passing within 12 miles of Mount Rainier in one section and through a heavily logged corridor in another. It’s hard to think of another trail that offers as thorough of a tour of this section of the state.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


North Cascades

Rainbow McAlester Loop

Location: North Cascades Highway 
Mileage:  31.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6650 feet

Rainbow-McAlester Loop. Photo by KenWP.jpeg
This loop offers a stunning tour of North Cascades scenery. Photo by KenWP.

This loop offers a tour through the heart of the North Cascades. Start out on the PCT, and link up with the loop trail that circumnavigates a cluster of high peaks. The route never strays too far from a creek, which means water is plentiful, and Rainbow Lake and McAlester Lake add two attractions along the way. You will also go up and over a few passes that afford views to the northern tip of Lake Chelan with the town of Stehekin, a reasonable detour for those out on a leisurely trip.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Park Creek Pass Via Thunder Creek 

Location: North Cascades Highway 
Mileage: 55.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 9800 feet

The view from Park Creek Pass opens up to reveal a long lush valley.
After a couple days following Thunder Creek in the trees this is the view that opens up at Park Creek Pass. Photo by Todd Schneider.

Take the Thunder Creek Trail as it cuts through a remote part of the North Cascades National Park. This trail is a long route that mostly stays in the trees, offering many days’ worth of solitude and contemplation of the majesty of this watershed. The views that come at Park Creek Pass will feel earned after such a long approach. From here, enjoy the reward of this playground. And for a grand finale, consider heading out on the Cascade Pass Trail to link up with a shuttle vehicle you’ve left there.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Lake Creek 

Location: Pasayten 
Mileage: 37.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Burnt out trees loom above lush new growth and wildflowers.
This area of the Pasayten has been damaged by a forest fire but it is slowly rebounding. Photo by cascadedj.

The Pasayten Wilderness offers many backpacking opportunities, but this option is especially great as an early season trip since it has a relatively low elevation. Follow Lake Creek north into more and more remote parts of this wilderness, passing Black Lake, then Fawn Lake. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the junction with the Boundary Trail, which nestles up near the Canadian border. This main thoroughfare links to many other trails nearby including several worthy side trips.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide