The 15 Best PNW Hikes to do this Summer

Drenched in the tranquility of serene lakes, adorned with the grandeur of towering mountains, and encompassed in the embrace of enchanting forests, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) paints a heavenly picture that leaves nature enthusiasts spellbound. This unique blend of vibrant landscapes offers some of the most remarkable hiking trails in the United States, making it an irresistible lure for adventurers and solace-seekers alike. In this detailed blog post, we'll embark on an extraordinary journey to explore the 15 best PNW hikes.

Hiking in the PNW: Things to Know

Embarking on the incredible PNW hikes is akin to stepping into an ethereal world. But to ensure this fascinating journey is both enjoyable and safe, certain precautions and preparations are necessary. Hiking in the PNW offers an amalgamation of terrains and weather conditions, making it imperative for you to equip yourself with the right gear. Sturdy hiking boots form the first line of defense for your feet against rough trails, while layered clothing enables you to adjust to the varying temperatures and conditions you might encounter.

Bring a trail map

It's also essential to arm yourself with a reliable map or trail guide, even if you're treading on familiar routes. The wilderness can be unpredictable, and it's always safer to have a guide at hand. Furthermore, technology has made it easier than ever to stay on track. Numerous hiking apps provide GPS and trail data, making it almost impossible to lose your way.

Consider the weather

The capricious nature of the weather in the PNW is another aspect to consider. Always check the weather forecast before you set out on your adventure. Rain can make trails slippery and dangerous, while unexpected snowfall can block paths entirely. Also, remember that weather conditions at higher altitudes can be significantly different from those at the base of the trail.

Know your hiking plans

Finally, but importantly, always let someone know about your hiking plans - the trail you're taking, your expected time of return, and any other relevant details. While we hope you won't encounter any mishaps during your hike, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you're delayed or lost, having someone aware of your itinerary can be a lifesaver.

By adequately preparing yourself, you're set to delve into the extraordinary world of PNW hikes, unlocking a treasure trove of breathtaking sights and unforgettable experiences. Stay tuned as we reveal the top trails that beckon every hiking enthusiast.

Best PNW Hikes 

The best part about hiking in the PNW is the region's spectacular scenery, ranging from lush forests to sparkling lakes. Here are 15 of the best pacific northwest hikes to explore this summer!

If you want to save these trails to your bucket list, or find even more places like this in the PNW (and globally), make sure to download the Viewbound app!

Emmons Moraine Trail

Venturing into the Mount Rainier National Park, the Emmons Moraine Trail offers a unique trek across a spectrum of landscapes. This 3-mile round trip trail is relatively easy, suitable for hikers of varying experience levels, and typically takes about 2 hours to complete.

As you meander along the trail, you'll traverse verdant meadows punctuated by wildflowers, journey through the hushed serenity of old-growth forest, and marvel at the glacial terrain that encapsulates the raw grandeur of nature. The trail culminates at a viewpoint overlooking Emmons Glacier—the largest glacier in the contiguous United States.

The views from the end of the trail are nothing short of spectacular. The glacier, a glistening expanse of ice, stands in stark contrast with the azure glacial lake below. It's a spot where you'll want to pause, take in the panorama, and reflect on the force of nature you've just witnessed.

The Emmons Moraine Trail. Photo by Theloverspassport

Ape Caves

A geological marvel located near Mount St. Helens, the Ape Caves offer a unique hiking experience in the PNW. The Ape Caves comprise one of the longest continuous lava tubes in North America. This moderate, 2.8-mile round-trip hike descends into the cool, moss-covered lava tube, requiring sturdy shoes and a reliable light source. As you navigate the rocky terrain, you'll discover intriguing formations and a fascinating ecosystem that thrives in the permanent twilight of the underground. Allow 2-3 hours to explore this subterranean wonder and its cavernous silence, a sharp contrast to the towering forests above.

Little Tipsoo Lake

Immerse yourself in a tranquil escapade with the Little Tipsoo Lake hike. Located near the Chinook Pass in Mount Rainier National Park, this easy 0.5-mile trail is perfect for beginners, families, or those looking for a quick nature retreat.

The highlight of this trail is, undoubtedly, the eponymous Little Tipsoo Lake. Surrounded by wildflower meadows that paint a vibrant canvas during summer, the serene waters of the lake reflect the majestic outline of Mount Rainier, creating a captivating scene that photographers and nature lovers will adore.

Despite the trail's brevity, the astounding beauty it offers makes it a worthwhile journey. Whether you're enjoying a peaceful picnic by the lake or capturing the sunset over Mount Rainier, Little Tipsoo Lake trail leaves an indelible imprint.

Little Tipsoo Lake, One of the best PNW hiking trails

Hurricane Ridge Trail

Nestled within Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge Trail is an accessible hiking trail that presents you with stunning mountain vistas and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. This family-friendly trail spans roughly 3.2 miles round-trip and is considered easy to moderate. Starting from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the trail winds up through meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, under the canopy of fir trees, and past trickling streams. Along the way, you're treated to panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, with the glaciated peak of Mount Olympus standing prominently in the west. In winter, Hurricane Ridge transforms into a snowy wonderland, perfect for snowshoeing. Depending on your pace, expect to spend 1-3 hours to complete this hike.

Snow Lake Trail

The Snow Lake Trail in Mount Rainier National Park promises a grand adventure for those willing to accept the challenge. This moderately difficult hike stretches over a 7.2-mile round trip and typically takes around 4-5 hours to complete.

The trail unveils its beauty gradually, guiding hikers through dense forests, past cascading waterfalls, and along steep ridges. The centerpiece, however, is the stunning alpine lake nestled amidst rugged mountain peaks.

Snow Lake, true to its name, is a glacial lake with crystal clear waters that mirror the surrounding snow-capped peaks. The captivating beauty of the landscape, coupled with the exhilaration of the trek, makes the Snow Lake trail a must-visit for every avid hiker.

Snow Lake hiking trail. Photo by Janelletheslomad.

Heather-Maple Pass Loop

Nestled in the North Cascades National Park, the Heather-Maple Pass Loop trail takes you on a moderately challenging 7.2-mile journey into the wilderness. Suitable for intermediate hikers, the trail can take between 4-5 hours to complete. It treats you to an eclectic mix of subalpine and alpine scenery, wildflower-filled meadows, and old-growth forests. As you ascend, you'll witness a dazzling vista of glaciated peaks that characterize the North Cascades. Time your hike right in the fall, and you'll see the larch trees burst into a vibrant gold, adding a breathtaking contrast against the sharp blue sky.

Mount Pilchuck

If you're an avid hiker seeking the best PNW hikes, you won't want to miss the stunning views from Mount Pilchuck. Situated in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, this strenuous, 5.4-mile round trip trail demands effort but rewards hikers with one of the most iconic views in the PNW.

As you ascend the path, the surroundings gradually transition from dense forest to rocky terrain, while the incline steepens. At the summit, an old fire lookout awaits, offering panoramic views that span from Mount Baker in the north to Mount Rainier in the south.

Although the Mount Pilchuck trail is challenging, the vista at the peak is unparalleled. Ensure you're equipped with sturdy boots and hiking poles, as some sections can be steep and rocky. Despite its demands, the reward at the summit makes every effort worthwhile.

Mount Pilchuck hiking trail. Photo by Nickwwoods.

High Rock Lookout

One of the hidden gems nestled in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, High Rock Lookout, serves as a perfect initiation to the beauty of the PNW. With a round trip distance of 3.2 miles, this moderately difficult trail provides a rewarding hiking experience that can be achieved in about 2-3 hours, making it an excellent option for a half-day excursion.

The trail meanders through dense, fragrant conifer forests, gradually building anticipation for the majestic views that await at the summit. As you make your ascent, fleeting glimpses of Mount Rainier through the trees build the anticipation of what lies at the trail's end.

Reaching the top, you're greeted with a dramatic panorama that stretches across the horizon. The High Rock Lookout cabin, perched precariously on a cliff, provides stunning, unobstructed views of Mount Rainier, the most iconic peak of the PNW. The stunning vista, combined with the exhilarating sense of accomplishment, makes this one of the most unforgettable hikes in the PNW.

High Rock Lookout. Photo by The Lovers Passport.

Skyline Divide Trail

Skyline Divide Trail is a journey into the very heart of the Pacific Northwest's rugged beauty. Located in the Mount Baker area, this moderate to difficult trail stretches across a 9-mile round trip. Most hikers will take around 5-6 hours to complete the round trip, but the journey's length is quickly forgotten amidst the scenic splendor of the trail.

Winding its way through wildflower-filled meadows during the summer months, Skyline Divide Trail offers expansive panoramic views that frame Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan in their full majesty. The highlight of the trail is a series of knolls that provide a breathtaking 360-degree view of the North Cascades. This spectacle makes every step of the hike worthwhile and is a sight that will linger in your memory long after the hike is over.

The Skyline Divide Trail. Photo by Voyages with Val

Angel's Rest Trail

Journey through recovery and rebirth on the Angel's Rest Trail. Situated in the Columbia River Gorge, this moderately difficult 4.8-mile round trip trail usually takes 2-3 hours to complete.

As you traverse this trail, you'll witness the resilience of nature firsthand. The surrounding forest, once scarred by a wildfire, is now a testament to nature's tenacity and revival. The trail also features a serene creek, but the hike's true highlight is at the end: a bluff that offers expansive views of the Columbia River Gorge, a rewarding finale to a captivating hike.

Cape Flattery Trail

Venture to the edge of the United States with the Cape Flattery Trail, a gentle 1.5-mile round trip that's perfect for hikers of all experience levels. Located at the northwesternmost tip of the continental U.S., this trail takes you on a journey along Washington's scenic coastline.

Walking this trail is a sensory feast: the smell of salt in the air, the sound of waves crashing against sea caves, the sight of a lighthouse standing sentinel in the distance. Birdwatchers will delight in the variety of bird species found along the trail, and lucky hikers might even spot seals and sea otters frolicking in the water. Despite its short length, Cape Flattery Trail offers a unique hiking experience that encapsulates the serene beauty of the PNW's coastline.

Cape Flattery Trail. Photo by Theyellowjacketgrl

Mount Constitution Trail

Located in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Mount Constitution stands as the highest point in the San Juan Islands, making the Mount Constitution Trail a can't-miss experience for dedicated hikers. 

The trail, covering a distance of approximately 6.7 miles round-trip, offers a strenuous but highly rewarding challenge. As you weave your way up through the towering old-growth forest, you'll be granted fleeting glances of the encompassing marine landscape through breaks in the trees. Reaching the summit reveals an awe-inspiring 360-degree view, with the rugged peaks of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains punctuating the horizon. Don't forget to explore the historic stone tower at the peak, a structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Plan around 3-4 hours to complete this hike and remember to pack a lunch for a scenic picnic at the summit.

Rialto Beach Trail

Unconventional and unforgettable, the Rialto Beach Trail invites you to experience the unique pleasure of beach hiking. Nestled in Olympic National Park, this relatively easy 4-mile round trip trail usually takes around 2-3 hours to complete.

As you navigate the trail, your path flanked by the pounding surf on one side and lush coastal forest on the other, you'll come across a myriad of tidal pools that teem with life. Towering sea stacks rise from the water, and the famous Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation awaits exploration. The combination of sandy shores, rugged coastal views, and the soothing rhythm of the waves makes the Rialto Beach Trail an enchanting hiking destination.

Looking for more beach hikes? Make sure to check our guide to beaches in Olympic National Park?

Rialto Beach. Photo by Seeking the now

Spray Park Trail

The Spray Park Trail at Mount Rainier National Park is a beautiful sojourn into the park's less-visited northwest side. This moderately strenuous trail spans approximately 6 miles one way and leads you through lush old-growth forests, blooming summer wildflower meadows, and eventually up to the subalpine landscapes of Spray Park. The trail's centerpiece, Spray Falls, is a mesmerizing sight as it cascades 354 feet down a cliffside. Plan for this to be a full-day adventure, and ensure to carry plenty of water and sunscreen.

Cascade Pass Trail

For hikers who dream of venturing into the heart of the North Cascades, Cascade Pass Trail offers the perfect opportunity. This moderately challenging 7-mile round trip hike generally takes around 4-5 hours to complete.

The trail begins with a series of switchbacks before it finally unveils the prize: breathtaking views of the North Cascades' glacier-draped peaks. Along the path, you're likely to spot a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears and marmots, adding a thrilling touch to your hiking experience. With every step, the Cascade Pass Trail immerses you deeper into the raw, untamed beauty of the PNW.

Best hikes in the PNW: An Overview

The PNW is a hiking paradise, boasting some of the best trails in the United States.

From the sweeping vistas of Mount Pilchuck to the placid waters of Little Tipsoo Lake and the unique subterranean adventure in Ape Caves, the Pacific Northwest serves up a banquet of unrivaled hiking experiences. Each trail offers its own distinct flavor of the region's breathtakingly diverse natural beauty, catering to all types of adventurers, from casual day-trippers to seasoned backpackers.

But the beauty of the PNW doesn't end here. There's so much more waiting to be discovered, and that's where the Viewbound app comes in. With Viewbound, you can dive into a world of detailed trail descriptions, user reviews, and practical tips, all designed to equip you for your next hiking adventure. Whether you're in the PNW or anywhere else on the globe, Viewbound serves as your gateway to unforgettable off-the-beaten-path experiences.

So what are you waiting for? The trails of the PNW are calling. Download the Viewbound app today and start planning your next adventure. Happy hiking!

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