Best Short Hikes in Washingtons North Cascades and San Juan Islands

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  1. Day Hiking North Cascades: Mount Baker/Mountain Loop Highway/San Juan Islands
  2. Other Trips You May Enjoy
  3. Mount Baker / Mountain Loop Highway / San Juan Islands
  4. Day Hiking North Cascades: Mount Baker/Mountain Loop Highway/San Juan Islands by Craig Romano

Head out in early summer to see the wildflowers or in early fall to see the wild blueberries. The hike starts at the popular Artist Point Trailhead. Learn more about hiking Chain Lakes Loop. North Cascades National Park is home to some of the best hiking in Washington. Located in the Cascade Mountains in the northern part of the state, North Cascades boasts brilliantly blue-green alpine lakes, soaring glacier-capped granite mountains, and thick old-growth forests.

Hiking trails range from the short and sweet to difficult multi-night expeditions.

Day Hiking North Cascades: Mount Baker/Mountain Loop Highway/San Juan Islands

This easy 1-mile roundtrip hike meanders through an ancient section of forest just outside the town of Newhalem. A suspension bridge crosses the Skagit River and brings you to the still operating Newhalem Powerhouse. Learn more about hiking Trail of the Cedars.


Another one of the best hikes in Washington located in the North Cascades, Diablo Lake Trail is very popular with those camping in the national park. This trail is most notable for its stunning views of the brilliantly blue Ross Lake and Diablo Lake , although it passes several equally beautiful waterfalls along the way. The endpoint is a particularly good spot for a picnic lunch as you enjoy the surrounding mountain peaks. Learn more about hiking Diablo Lake Trail. This 7-mile roundtrip hike starts in the shadow of a towering mountain in a verdant old growth forest.

After a long series of switchbacks and crossing a boulder field, the trail opens up into the final pass, a deep valley with miles of colorful meadows and one of the greatest concentrations of glaciers in the contiguous United States. Learn more about hiking Cascade Pass. Most hikes in this region are accessed via Highway 2.

There is an extensive selection of hiking trails on both sides of the mountains, including excellent day hikes and overnight trips near Stevens Pass as well as Leavenworth. The hike starts on a wide abandoned road through a thick forest before narrowing down into your typical hiking trail. Cross several small streams before crossing a bridge that ends at the lower falls.

We strongly recommend continuing along the trail, braving several sets of stairways, to reach the upper falls. Learn more about hiking Bridal Veil Falls. Located near the popular 5. It weaves past old growth trees, through temperate rain forest, and ends near an alpine lake with mountain views. The trail circles the lake before heading back down the same way you came up.

Learn more about hiking Lake Colchuck Lake is one of the best hikes in Washington for those that want the full alpine experience. Located near the town of Leavenworth , this 8-mile alpine hike is something of a rite of passage for serious Washington hikers. Over 4 miles you gain roughly 2, feet, most of which is fairly mellow until a steep final ascent. But this last burst of effort is worth it as you round the final corner to see crystal clear Colchuck Lake surrounded by soaring granite mountain walls. Learn more about hiking Colchuck Lake. In addition to several popular walking trails within the city itself, including the quintessential 2.

Discovery Park is undeniably the best place for hiking in Seattle. It contains several hiking trails, the most popular of which is the 2. This peaceful hike loops through forest and meadows passing by several Puget Sound viewpoints. Learn more about hiking Discovery Park Loop Trail. The incredibly popular hike is located east of Seattle just off I More than , people hike the trail each year.

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Although it gains over 3, feet in 4 miles, the strenuous trail is perfect for novices looking to take their hiking prowess to the next level. Less than an hour east of Seattle via I, Rattlesnake Ledge is the perfect Washington hike for beginners, intermediates, and experts alike.

Other Trips You May Enjoy

It boasts excellent views of Rattlesnake Lake below for almost the entirety of the trail. Those that prefer a longer hike can continue on to East Peak about 8. Learn more about hiking Rattlesnake Ledge. Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park is second to none. The park contains many of the best hikes in Washington, including the mile roundtrip Wonderland Trail , perfect for those that want a serious Washington backpacking adventure. The short, mostly flat loop meanders across the Ohanapecosh River via a suspension bridge to a small island. The island is filled with old-growth trees, including massive cedars over feet tall.

Learn more about hiking Grove of the Patriarchs Loop. The hike starts in the Paradise area of the park, near the historic Paradise Inn , before passing through colorful wildflower meadows and cascading waterfalls. Grand views of Mount Rainier are available from nearly everywhere along the trail.

You might even find yourself hiking alongside mountaineers on their way to Camp Muir to make the grueling climb up the mountain. Learn more about hiking Skyline Loop Trail.


The 7. Although many hikers stop at Eunice Lake, pushing on a mile further to Tolmie Peak is more than worth it. Not only can you explore the historic fire lookout tower , but the views of Mount Rainier with Eunice Lake below are phenomenal. Learn more about hiking Tolmie Peak Lookout. Most notable as the capital of Washington State, Olympia is also an excellent destination for Washington hiking.

Thanks to its location in the Puget Lowlands , near the southernmost reaches of Puget Sound , most Olympia hikes are far less mountainous than many of the other best hikes in Washington — but they explore equally as beautiful scenery.

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  • Located roughly halfway between Tacoma and Olympia, the flat and easy trail meanders through the Nisqually River Delta. It starts off in a wetland area, passing by a historic barn, before opening up onto an expansive boardwalk. Hikers often see eagles, owls, and shorebirds — so bring binoculars. Learn more about hiking Billy Frank Jr.

    National Wildlife Refuge. The 5-mile roundtrip trail is an excellent way to see the entire park and get some exercise in the process. But there are plenty of offshoots from the main loop as well as beaches to explore. Just as many people come to play on the beach or have a picnic as complete the entire hike. Learn more about hiking Priest Point Park. Two main parking areas serve as trailheads for the zigzagging network of trails. Many people visit this natural area to wander — rather than set off on one specific hike.

    Some trails cross open meadows while others follow the creek through the forest. The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is perhaps the most popular signed trail in the preserve. Home to three distinct ecosystems temperate forest, glaciated mountains, and rugged coastline , this national park is home to an equally diverse assortment of hikes.

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    • From here serious explorers can hike up to 6 miles roundtrip along the beach, depending on the tides. Take care while walking the beach to time the tides correctly. Several small stream crossings are required which will get your feet wet. The mellow 3. It starts in a thin forest before heading up a serious of switchbacks. The hard work pays off when you reach the summit which boasts stellar views of the Elwha River Valley , dozens of surrounding peaks, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the distance.

      The Hurricane Ridge area is also a popular destination for snowshoeing in the winter. Learn more about hiking Hurricane Hill Trail. Located on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains , this Olympic National Park hike climbs a steep trail complete with switchbacks and stairs. A choice of two starting points merge before the last strenuous climb which ends with panoramic views of seemingly endless glacier-capped mountains.

      Learn more about hiking Mount Ellinor. An archipelago in the northwest corner of Washington, the San Juan Islands have their fair share of the best hikes in Washington. Although excellent hikes are available on almost every island, the best of the best are located on the four islands served by the Washington State Ferries.

      That said, many of the smaller islands also have great hiking for those willing to take a private boat for the trip out. This Orcas Island hike is roughly 6. Learn more about hiking Mount Constitution. Located on the northwest side of San Juan Island, Young Hill is known for its sweeping water views as well as its abundance of wildflowers in spring.

      The historical cemetery near the trailhead is also worth exploring. Learn more about hiking Young Hill. Also located on Orcas Island, this relaxing 3. The hike has minimal elevation gain, making it a great choice for a family hike in Washington. Learn more about hiking Mountain Lake. Spokane , the second largest city in Washington State, is an excellent jumping off point for hiking in Eastern Washington. In addition to several hiking trails and walking paths in Spokane, the area immediately outside of the city is ripe with opportunities for outdoor recreation. Drive less than an hour for a wide array of the best hikes in Washington for all skill levels.

      On Lopez Hill, hikers are delighted by colorful mushrooms and ground cover that come to life in autumn. An intricate network of trails, visitors are introduced to diverse and relatively pristine plant and animal communities, all bursting with color during the autumn months. The quaint cobblestone streets of the resort are lined with vibrant reds and yellows and the maze of hikes winding above the harbor offer picturesque shots of the marina, historic chapel and nearby islands.

      Hike from the cool shade of old-growth forest to sunshine and wildflowers in alpine meadows. Baker and Mt. Enjoy an added touch of historical interest in the watchtower, built from hand-cut stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps in If you have small children or just fancy something less strenuous, there are a multitude of easier hikes farther down the mountain. Or arrange to be dropped off at the top and have someone pick you up at the bottom for a leisurely downhill hike.

      There is a paved road all the way up Mount Constitution, so consider parking partway up for a leisurely and beautiful three-mile stroll around Mountain Lake—you can even jump in for a cooling swim. With over 38 miles of trails, 5,acre Moran State Park offers something for every fitness level.

      The distinctively shaped Turtleback Mountain is a much-loved area for hikers—at 1, feet, the second-highest summit in the islands. For hikers and nature lovers, that translates into fantastic views and fascinating flora and fauna. For those less inclined to pant up an exposed climb, choose the north ascent. Here, conifer forest and wetlands replace the grasslands and Garry oaks of the south face. Obstruction Pass is a small gem for those seeking the atmosphere of a wilderness escape.

      Mount Baker / Mountain Loop Highway / San Juan Islands

      Situated at the far southeastern tip of Orcas , Obstruction Pass offers 80 acres of parkland to explore plus 10 primitive campsites. The main trails run well under a mile through lush vegetation and forest. The easterly trail leads to a yard beach unique in the islands, covered with marble-sized multicolored pebbles—as well as views of Lopez Island, Blakely Island, and Obstruction Island. The westerly trail ends in a panoramic water view and great picnic site. Find maps of more Orcas Island hikes. The area spans acres, with the hill standing at feet.

      An intricate network of trails at least seven are mapped offers challenging hikes through rocky knolls, canyons and prairie land. Plant lovers can feast their eyes on a range of island flora, from fungi to lichens to wildflowers. From the summit, enjoy views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and beyond to the south.

      At low tide, a sandy beach is accessible. Find more maps of Lopez Island hikes. If you want to wear hiking boots, experience some history, and see views that take your breath away, tackle Young Hill. The trail rises at a steady gradient, with plenty of places for you to stop, catch your breath, and drink in the views, which get more and more rewarding as you climb. The forest of evergreens, madrones, and oaks thins to a clearing at the summit. You have the world at your feet.

      You may see orca whales swimming through the kelp beds in the waters off Lime Kiln, looking for salmon, since this park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. The shoreline viewpoint is about a yard walk from the parking lot, restrooms, and seasonal interpretive center.

      The park, which features a richly diverse environment, includes the remnants and landscapes of a history filled with change, along the rocky shoreline and through the wooded uplands. Minke whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and bald eagles also cruise the shoreline.

      Day Hiking North Cascades: Mount Baker/Mountain Loop Highway/San Juan Islands by Craig Romano

      The lighthouse was built in and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in the Haro Strait. Interpretive programs, an interpretive center with gift shop and lighthouse tours are available during the summer months. All along this pristine two-mile pebble-and-sand beach, a wide swath of massive driftwood has washed up and been bleached in the sun for decades.