Washington State is a treasure trove for hikers and nature lovers, offering a diverse range of trails that wind through enchanting forests, ascend rugged peaks, and lead to breathtaking vistas. While the national parks garner much attention, the trails outside these protected areas reveal the state's untamed beauty. Let's explore Washington's 20 most popular hiking trails outside the national park system, inviting you to embark on a journey of discovery through the Evergreen State.
1. Mount Si Trail
Nestled near North Bend, the Mount Si Trail is a favorite among hikers seeking both a challenge and a reward. The ascent is steep, but the panoramic views of the Snoqualmie Valley from the summit make every step worthwhile. It's a trail that beckons both seasoned hikers and those looking to conquer their first peak.
The Enchantments, located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, is a mythical landscape of alpine lakes and rugged peaks. Though permits are required due to its popularity, those fortunate enough to secure one are treated to an otherworldly experience, exploring crystal-clear lakes and traversing a terrain that feels like nature's own masterpiece.
3. Rattlesnake Ledge Trail
A stone's throw from North Bend, the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is a popular choice for those seeking a relatively short yet rewarding hike. The trail leads to a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking Rattlesnake Lake, a perfect spot to catch your breath and savor the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
4. Lake Serene Trail
Situated near Index, the Lake Serene Trail is a serene escape into nature. The trail winds through dense forests, crossing bridges and streams, before culminating at the tranquil Lake Serene. Surrounded by towering cliffs, the lake provides a picture-perfect backdrop for a well-deserved rest.
5. Snow Lake Trail
The Snow Lake Trail, nestled in the Snoqualmie Pass area, is a gateway to alpine beauty. Hikers traverse through evergreen forests and rocky terrain to reach the pristine Snow Lake. The breathtaking alpine scenery and the crisp mountain air make this a popular destination year-round.
6. Palouse Falls State Park Trail
For a change of scenery, the Palouse Falls State Park Trail showcases the unique beauty of eastern Washington. The trail leads to the mesmerizing Palouse Falls, where the Palouse River plunges dramatically into a canyon, creating a sight that feels almost otherworldly.
7. Spider Meadow and Lyman Lakes Trail
Located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, the Spider Meadow and Lyman Lakes Trail promises an immersion into the wild. Alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers and pristine lakes surrounded by rugged peaks characterize this challenging yet rewarding trek.
8. Gothic Basin Trail
A trail for the adventurous soul, the Gothic Basin Trail near Monte Cristo offers a strenuous hike with an incredible payoff. Hikers ascend to Gothic Basin, a hidden gem surrounded by jagged peaks and glaciers, providing an experience that feels like stepping into a remote, untouched wilderness.
9. Tiger Mountain Trail
Just a stone's throw from the bustling city of Issaquah, the Tiger Mountain Trail offers a network of trails catering to hikers of all skill levels. The lush evergreen forests and scenic viewpoints make this an ideal escape into nature, providing a quick retreat for those looking to recharge amidst the tranquility of the Pacific Northwest.
10. Poo Poo Point Trail
For those seeking both a workout and stunning views, the Poo Poo Point Trail near Issaquah is a local favorite. The trail leads to a summit popular among paragliders, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. It's a hike that combines the thrill of adventure with the serenity of nature.
11. Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve Trails
Embracing the charm of Whidbey Island, the trails within Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve are a testament to the region's rich history and natural beauty. Coastal paths provide views of Puget Sound, and the reserve's pastoral landscapes transport hikers to a bygone era, creating a unique blend of cultural and natural exploration.
12. Bridal Veil Falls Trail
A short yet enchanting hike near Index, the Bridal Veil Falls Trail offers a family-friendly adventure leading to a captivating waterfall. The trail meanders through towering trees and moss-covered rocks, creating a picturesque setting that feels like a scene from a fairy tale.
13. Wallace Falls State Park Trails
Near Gold Bar, Wallace Falls State Park boasts a series of trails that wind through lush forests and reveal cascading waterfalls. The multi-tiered Wallace Falls is the highlight, offering a visual feast for hikers who appreciate the symphony of rushing water and the serenity of the surrounding greenery.
14. Cape Flattery Trail
For a coastal adventure like no other, the Cape Flattery Trail takes hikers to the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States. Dramatic sea stacks, rugged cliffs, and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean create an awe-inspiring backdrop, making this trail a must-visit for those craving the magic of the coast.
15. Deception Pass State Park Trails
Whidbey Island's Deception Pass State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a network of trails that provide stunning views of the iconic Deception Pass Bridge and the turbulent waters below. Coastal trails and old-growth forests make this park a year-round destination for hikers seeking both challenge and beauty.
16. Franklin Falls Trail
Situated near Snoqualmie Pass, the Franklin Falls Trail is a short and family-friendly hike leading to a hidden gem. The waterfall's delicate cascade and the surrounding scenery create a tranquil setting, making it an accessible yet rewarding outing for hikers of all ages.
17. Orcas Island Trails
Completing our exploration on Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago, the trails here offer a unique blend of coastal beauty and island charm. Hikers can explore a variety of trails, from coastal walks with expansive views to hikes through old-growth forests, all while enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of island life.
18. Mount Walker Trail
Overlooking the Hood Canal, the Mount Walker Trail provides a panoramic spectacle of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Just a short drive from Seattle, this trail offers a rewarding experience for hikers of varying skill levels, making it an accessible escape into nature.
19. Annette Lake Trail
Annette Lake, framed by towering peaks in the Snoqualmie Pass region, is the crown jewel of this trail. The hike leads through fragrant pine forests and opens up to a pristine alpine lake, making it a popular choice for day hikers and backpackers alike.
20. Heather Lake Trail
Located near the Mountain Loop Highway, the Heather Lake Trail is a tranquil journey through dense forests leading to the alpine charm of Heather Lake. Surrounded by wildflowers and a backdrop of rugged peaks, the lake offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Whether you seek alpine vistas, coastal wonders, or the serenity of a waterfall, Washington's trails have something for every nature lover. Remember to check trail conditions, practice Leave No Trace principles, and embrace the spirit of exploration as you traverse the stunning landscapes of the Evergreen State.