If you are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, or the “PNW”, you know that it is one of the great places on earth to go on a multi-day hiking trip. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking some of these trails, and look forward to completing all of the rest in the next couple of years.
If you are looking for a great, multi-day hike in the PNW, you should start with the following:
- The Wonderland Trail
- Spider Gap To Buck Creek Trail
- Devil’s Dome Loop
- Shi Shi Trail
- Rogue River Trail
- The Enchantments Trail
- White Pass Pilot Ridge Trail
- Enchanted Valley Trail
- Goat Rocks Three Loop Trail
- Northern Three Sisters Loop Trail
- Mount Rainier Northern Loop Trail
One of the most amazing aspects of hiking in the PNW is the fact that there is such a wide variety of terrain. You can hike mountains, rain forests, ocean beaches, and beautiful prairies, all within a 300-mile radius. And if you have a few days to kill, these are some of the best hikes to explore this part of the country.
Great Places To Hike In The Pacific Northwest
The Wonderland Trail
Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Longmire Washington
Elevation Gain: 25,341 feet
Difficulty: Very Difficult – Recommended for very experienced hikers
The Wonderland Trail is the granddaddy of all hiking trails in the PNW. Coming in at almost 100 miles, this trail loops completely around Mount Rainier, providing spectacular views of Washington State’s tallest and most iconic mountain.
While The Wonderland Trail is one of the most beautiful trails you will find in the PNW, it is possibly the most challenging, as the sheer length and intimidating elevation gain will challenge even the most experienced of hikers. And even getting onto the trail itself is not easy, as only a handful of overnight camping permits are available, while demand to challenge this hike is extremely high. You can learn about the permit process at Mount Rainier’s wilderness permits page.
Even if you don’t want to tackle the entire trail, there are many day hike and shorter options available so you can still fully enjoy the Wonderland Trail. There are many trailheads and entry points into the National Park, meaning you can gradually explore each part of the trail at your own pace.
Spider Gap To Buck Creek Pass Loop
Location: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Stehekin, Washington
Elevation Gain: 7,995 feet
One of the more picturesque trails in all of the PNW, the Spider Gap to Buck Creek Pass covers beautiful meadows, Spider Glacier, mountain passes, and lovely alpine lakes. You also get incredible views of Glacier Peak.
As you start the hike, you will have a simple, easy five-mile hike before getting to the incredible Spider Meadow, which in September, especially, is bursting with color. You’ll then climb a steep trail to get to the base of Spider Glacier – be sure to bring trekking poles or microspikes. You then can reach Upper Lyman Lakes as a good place to base camp.
From Upper Lyman Lakes there are plenty of places to explore for short day hikes, or you can continue over Suiattle Pass, one of my favorite parts of the trail. As you cross over the pass, you leave an open, lake-covered expanse and descend into a beautiful forested mountain trail. This trail also joins with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), where you will have the chance to meet hikers from around the world.
Devil’s Dome Loop
Location: Mount Baker National Forest
Distance: 38.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 10,498 feet
Devil’s Dome is rated as difficult, and with good reason. You will climb over 3300 feet in the first 4 miles of the hike, but the incredible views that await you will be worth the work. You will also come across beautiful meadows of mountain flowers – be sure to keep some for your collection or that special someone in your life.
The literal pinnacle of the trip is Devil’s Dome, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of Jack Mountain, Spratt Mountain, and Ross Lake. The lake, a few miles down from Devil’s Dome, provides an excellent place to camp for the night, take a refreshing swim, and recuperate after two days of severe elevation gain.
The final stretch runs along Ross lake for several miles – a beautiful and peaceful stretch. You will trek along a rock traverse that overhangs the lake, and includes some picturesque bridges.
Shi Shi To Rialto Beach Trail
Location: Olympic National Park; La Push, Washington
Distance: Approximately 33 miles
Elevation Gain: N/A
My favorite trail in all of the PNW, this trail follows the Washington Coast from Rialto Beach, just north of La Push, Washington, up to Shi Shi Beach. You will enjoy incredible views of the ocean as you hike, with regular ascents into the bordering rain forest for short overland periods.
The beauty of the ocean should not, however, lull you into a false sense of security. As you are dealing with the ocean tides, you will need to plan around high tides. But even when you miss the tides, you still have to navigate gnarly, slippery rock beds that demand your constant attention. You will also have to scramble over boulders throughout this hike.
But none of that lessens the experience, which is one of the best in the PNW. The sunsets over the ocean are surreal in their beauty and scope. There are several campsites just off the beach along the way, allowing you an excellent view of the ocean before you turn in for the night.
Rogue River Trail
Location: Wild Rogue Wilderness, near Grants Pass, Oregon
Distance: 37.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,419 feet
This trail runs almost entirely along the Rogue River, from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. There is incredible scenery along the river, with few hikers on the trail and plenty of great campsites available. Just a word of caution, however – because the Rogue River is a popular spot for rafters, you may find yourself sharing campsites with them.
Due to its lower elevation, this trail can be hiked almost year-round. However, you should aim for spring or fall to hike to avoid very warm summer temperatures. There isn’t much in the way of elevation gain, so you can really enjoy the walk along the river. Also, be aware that black bears are relatively common on this trail – be sure to take precautions with your food.
The Enchantments Trail
Location: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, near Leavenworth, Washington
Distance: 23.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,003 feet
Despite its difficulty, the Enchantments Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the PNW. There are tundra meadows, glacial lakes, incredible granite peaks, and views in every direction. You can camp in the Enchantments, but this requires a permit (awarded through a Forest Service lottery) from May 15th through October 31st. Brave souls who wish to attempt a day hike can do so without a pass.
An in-and-out trail, you can really take your time if you wish to stay overnight to enjoy some of the most incredible views in the PNW. You will have to endure a 4,400-foot rise in elevation over the first seven miles (starting from the Stuart Lake trailhead), but you will soon soon reach the Upper Enchantments and the incredible Aasgard Pass.
Steep climbs and descents are a hallmark of this hike – but the views and experience will be worth it. Whether you want to make this a day-trip or a multi-day hike, there is one hike that should be on your shortlist for the PNW.
White Pass Pilot Ridge Trail
Location: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, near Darrington, Washington
Distance: 30.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 8,379 feet
A great hike for a long weekend getaway, the White Pass Pilot Ridge loop gives you get a taste of all the PNW has to offer: lush forests, a stunning alpine lake, challenging climbs, fields of wildflowers, and a long stretch of trail along a ridge with incredible views of Washington’s many stunning mountain ranges.
Stocked with plenty of campsites as well as excellent water sources from many springs, this hike, although difficult, provides ample reward to hikers to continue forward and work hard for the rewards. Blue Lake is a perfect place to stop at the end of the day to relax, enjoy the views, and dip your feet in the cool water to soak and refresh one’s feet.
After about 10 miles, you will reach White Pass, which is a great place to set up a base camp and try a side trip or two, including out to the Foam Creek Basin, which is full of flowered meadows. From the top of a knoll located in the basin, you will have views of Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, Sloan Peak, and other mountains in all directions.
Enchanted Valley Trail (via East Fork Quinault River)
Location: Olympic National Park, near Quinault, Washington
Distance: 30.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,642 feet
As perhaps the most popular trail on the Olympic Peninsula, the Enchanted Valley Trail via the East Fork Quinault River hosts hundreds of hikers each year who are looking to hike through and see a wide range of landscapes, including tall mountains, firs and cedars, and a spectacular valley.
A wonderful place to spot wildlife, the Enchanted Valley trail offers the chance to see bear, mountain lions, bobcats, coyote, deer, and elk. Bears are actually quite common in the valley during the summer, so you will need to take precautions with either a bear bag or cannister.
The hike is also home to an old chalet which used to serve as a shelter for weary hikers and horseback riders. During the Second World War, it served as an aircraft warning station. It is now closed to hikers, but still a great place to visit.
Goat Rocks Three Loop
Location: Goat Rocks Wilderness, near Packwood Washington
Distance: 68.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 17,257 feet
This section of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Chinook Pass to White Pass, is a great multi-day adventure that allows for incredible views and the chance to hike with thru-hikers from around the world. Because this is along the PCT, you will have plenty of good campsites from which to choose.
Some of the route follows an incredible ridgeline that includes views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens, Washington’s three most prominent volcanoes. You will find a beautiful stretch of land here, with huckleberry bushes and clear mountain lakes spread across the land.
The Goat Rocks Wilderness offers some of the most stunning scenery you will find in the PNW, including a traverse of the Packwood Glacier. Trekking poles and microspikes will be necessary gear for most of the year.
Southern Three Sisters Loop Trail
Location: Deschutes National Forest, near La Pine, Oregon
Distance: 40.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,023 feet
A shorter and less strenuous hike that its neighbor, the Northern Three Sisters Trail, the Southern trail is nonetheless a challenging foray through the Deschutes National Forest that offers everything that a PNW hike would provide – beautiful meadows, lush forests, and mountain lakes.
You will spend some time on the Pacific Coast Trail during this hike, as well as passing through some wonderful stopping points, including the Chambers Lakes Basin, Separation and Mesa Creeks, and Wychus Creek.
This loop circles around the North, Middle, and South Sister volcanoes, where you will experience some rugged volcanic landscapes complete with incredible views. This hike is best taken in late July to October.
Mount Rainier Northern Loop Trail
Location: Mount Rainier National Park, near Ashford, Washington
Distance: 31.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,314 feet
If you are unable to win a permit for the Wonderland Trail, or perhaps apprehensive about tackling some or all of that trek, you can try the shorter Northern Loop Trail. This hike will still offer great views of Mount Rainier without all the crowds. In fact, according to some hiker, this trail offers better views of the mountain than the Wonderland Trail.
You will see an abundance of wildlife, including marmots, mountain goats, and the occasional bear. You will also hike through old growth forests, meadows full of mountain flowers, and stunning glaciers. One thing to remember is that weather changes rather quickly around Mount Rainier, so you will need to plan for possible rain and snow.
These 11 hikes are some of the most beautiful and challenging multi-day hikes in the Pacific Northwest. They will challenge you physically and mentally, but inspire you spiritually as you behold all the PNW has to offer.
Because of the length of each hike, you should expect to spend several nights on the trail, and you should plan accordingly. As with most hikes in the PNW, the optimal hiking times for these trips should be mid-July to early October. Some of the best hikes are later in the season, when fall colors start to emerge and offer an incredible palette to view and experience.
Packing as light as possible should be a serious consideration for these trips – because of the severe elevation gain and length you will encounter. You should also anticipate changes in weather – be it rainstorms in the summer or unexpected snow flurries as late in the year as May, or as early as September.
But so long as you prepare, you will be ready for incredible adventures that will make the Pacific Northwest your hiking destination of choice.