Long Hikes, Overnights for Labor Day Weekend
If you haven’t finalized your plans for the three-day weekend yet, then WTA’s got a few destination suggestions to get out into the backcountry. Go for the day, or turn these challenging day hikes into overnights or multi-night backpacks. Be sure to check in with the local ranger station about conditions, restrictions, and the backcountry permits you’ll need to sleep under the stars.
Skills refresh: Before you head out, refresh your backpacking and Leave No Trace basics, so you know where to pitch your tent.
- Don’t find the trail you’re looking for below? Browse recent Trip Reports from other backpackers for ideas.
- Hiking with kids? Check out recent Trip Reports from other backpackers with kids in tow.
Location: Okanogan National Forest
Round Trip: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1550’
A long weekend is the perfect chance to make the drive from either the west or east sides of the state up to Horseshoe Basin. It’s a backpacking favorite where the wildflowers are still blooming, and you can spend a day—or a week—exploring the wonders of this alpine landscape. Climb the local peaks, check out the Canadian border monuments, or kick back and watch the marmots. At night, listen for the coyotes and count stars.
Location: Mountain Loop Hwy
Round Trip: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2840'
This challenging, rugged trail leads hikers up steep and rocky terrain, across some creeks and past old mining relics. Take time to enjoy the waterfalls along the route, but be aware that snow covering certain sections along the ledges can be dangerous. Take caution. Once you make the final ascent to the basin you can enjoy relaxing at the small tarn with its spectacular reflections of the surrounding peaks.
Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes
Location: Hwy 20 - Rainy Pass
Round Trip: 23 miles
Elevation Gain: 2700'
Walk for miles along the Pacific Crest Trail ridge tops and across mountain passes to reach lovely Snowy Lakes. The grade is gentle enough you’ll be able to enjoy the expansive, mountainous views of Golden Horn, Tower Mountain, Mount Hardy and more. Because this is the PCT, camps are numerous along the way. Please preserve the fragile environment at the lakes by camping along the main trail and making only day visits to Snowy Lakes.
Location: Olympics -- North
Round Trip: 13 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 3200’
Once you climb up to the ridge, you can go for miles taking in the sweeping views. From Mount Baker to Lake Crescent, from the sea to the Sol Duc Valley, you’ll have no shortage of vistas (provided the weather cooperates). It’s a pretty dry route, so plan to haul along almost all of your water if you do this as an overnight loop in Olympic National Forest.
Meander Meadow - Dishpan Gap - Cady Ridge Loop
Location: Near Lake Wenatchee
Round Trip: 16 miles
You may find a few lingering patches of snow, but this fabulous loop trip—a bit out of reach of day hikers—is wonderfully attainable for backpackers. Because the hike in and the hike out are both five-star hikes in and of themselves, this loop will keep your senses keen throughout. Huge meadows of color are a feast for the eyes and nose. Enjoy 360 views as you cruise along Cady Ridge.
Bear Creek Mountain
Location: White Pass / Cowlitz River Valley
Round Trip: 15 miles (17 if you hike the last two miles to the trailhead on the notoriously bad FR 1204)
Elevation Gain: 4000’
The first few miles climb gradually through open forest and meadows, when wildflowers begin to appear, especially along the creeks. Once you start climbing in earnest, you notice of evidence of Mount St. Helen's eruption here with sandy ash. At the top, enjoy the 360 degree views of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, with mountain views of the William O. Douglas Wilderness and Goat Rocks.