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Overnight Backpacking Destinations

Enjoy an overnight stay in the backcountry this summer. Extending a day hike into a longer overnight trip adds an entirely new experience, with opportunities to watch the sun rise and set, stargaze and escape the crowds.

Fourteen Destinations Under 14 Miles

Interested in a longer backpacking trip? The new book, Backpacking Washington, has 70 multi-day routes. Read WTA's review here.

Backpacking Washington Craig RomanoIf you're tired of crowded campgrounds, and long for quiet camping out under the starry sky, you should try backpacking. No reservations are needed (unless you are in a national park), which allows you to go where the sun will be. And backpacking allows you to stay at your destination instead of having to tear yourself away after eating your lunch.

We've selected 14 trails that are perfect for novice backpackers, or for those interested in backpacking trips with lower mileage and more time for relaxing and enjoying the scenery. On them you can explore various regions of the state and experience the diverse beauty Washington has to offer.

You may notice that many of these destinations are also day hikes. Extending a day hike into a longer overnight trip adds an entirely new experience, with opportunities to watch the sun rise and set, stargaze and escape the crowds.

New to backpacking or want a refresher on what to pack and how to keep camp? Check out our Backpacking 101 series:

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North Cascades

Twisp Pass - Dagger Lake

Park Butte view
The glories of the Methow await hikers to Twisp Pass. Come for the wildflowers in mid-summer or the larches in the fall. Photo by Janice Van Cleve.

Location: Near Twisp
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation:
2460 ft. gain
Best Season: July - October

Larches anyone? These golden beauties and the brilliant red of huckleberries are a key reason to hike here in the fall. But what about summer? How about wildflowers, spectacular views along the route and an incredible North Cascades vista. Many hikers do it as a day hike, but why not stay overnight? Just drop down to Dagger Lake where you'll find more roaming possibilities. And while you're hiking, admire the fine rock work along the trail - courtesy of WTA volunteers.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Thunder Creek

Thunder Creek
Thunder Creek is your constant companion on this trail. Photo by Galiwalker.

Location: Hwy 20
Round Trip: 12 miles
Elevation:
600 ft. gain
Best Season: April- November

This low elevation trail allows for early and late season adventures along the emerald green waters of Thunder Arm of Diablo Lake and through giant old growth forests. As you continue to travel along Thunder Creek be sure to stop and admire the periodic forest canopy openings to take in the views of towering peaks surrounding the valley. McAllister Creek camp is reached in six miles and is a perfect location to set up camp, relax and soak in some of the backcountry magic of the North Cascades.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

 

 

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Park Butte

Park Butte view
The views are fabulous at Park Butte. Photo by Jason Racey.

Location: Off Hwy 20
Round Trip: 7.5 miles
Elevation:
2200 ft. gain
Best Season: late-July - October
Note: As of 7/19/11, this trail has not melted out. Plan a trip here in August.

This area offers just about everything one would want for an overnight outing. After hiking through beautiful meadows with views of white-capped Mt. Baker and the Easton Glacier, you'll soon understand why this is such a popular location. During berry season, the meadows offer a tasty treat of blueberries that shouldn't be passed up and in the fall the area turns into waves of red, orange and yellow foliage. Due to the popularity of this area, a mid-week visit is recommended if you want to avoid the crowds.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Central Cascades

Pratt Lake - and more!

Navaho Pass campsite
Lake-bagging in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness! Pratt Lake is the hopping-off point for several less visited pools in the area. Photo by Scotty22.
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Round Trip: 11.2 miles
Elevation:
3000 ft. gain
Best Season: Mid-June - September

This area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers many possibilities for lake-hopping backpacking. Bring a good map and you can bag four or more crystal clear alpine lakes in a weekend. The further you hike, the fewer people you will see. The hike to Pratt Lake takes you high above Olallie Lake, produces ample huckleberries in September and fine campsites near the lake. More ambitious backpackers can push on to Lower Tushcohatchie Lake, then choose to go to Melakwa Lake or lonely and lovely Kaleetan Lake.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Navaho Pass

Navaho Pass campsite
A great place to camp in the meadow before Navaho Pass. Photo by climbhigh7.
Location: Near Cle Elum
Round Trip: 11 miles
Elevation:
3000 ft. gain
Best Season: Mid-June - September

If you are looking for a hike that offers a rainbow of color from early-season wildflowers or late-season fall foliage, then this is the hike for you. The climb up the trail and along several switchbacks will get the heart pumping, but it will leave you breathless not because of the elevation gain but because of the spectacular views from the pass. Take in the majestic views of Mount Stuart and the striking granite beauty of the Stuart Range. On clear days the views of Mt. Rainier and Adams in the distance are like no other.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Gothic Basin

Gothic Basin backpacker
Backing up to Gothic Basin. Photo by jeremybe.

Location: Mountain Loop Hwy
Round Trip: 9 miles
Elevation:
2840 ft. gain
Best Season: late-July - October
Note: As of 7/19/11, this trail has not melted out. Plan a trip here in August.

This challenging 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.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Olympic Peninsula

Upper Big Quilcene - Marmot Pass

Marmot Pass paintbrush
Indian paintbrush at Marmot Pass. Photo by Riri.

Location: Olympics - East
Round Trip: 10.6
Elevation: 3500 ft gain
Best Season: July- November

This is a must-do trip in the Olympics. You will experience all the wonders that the Buckhorn Wilderness has to offer. The steady climb is well worth it as you travel through the giant old growth trees and eventually reach Camp Mystery at 4.5 miles. Drop your stuff and set up camp, then continue just a bit further and celebrate an open meadow filled with colorful wildflowers and---if you're lucky---you might even see a marmot. You'll also enjoy panoramic views across the Olympics and back towards the songs. Permits are required since this trail is in Olympic National Park.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Hoh River

Hoh at 5 Mile
The beauty of the Hoh River at Five Mile Island. Photo by Bob & Barb.

Location: Near Forks
Round Trip: 10.6 miles
Elevation:
300 ft gain
Best Season: All Year

As you hike through the lush forest, with curtains of moss draping from tree limbs along the trail, take some time to think about just how many shades of green you see. It's quite impressive! The trail offers open views of the Hoh river and snowy peaks. Campsites dot the trail at 2.3 miles, 4 miles and 5.3 miles. Enjoy the sounds of rushing water and a symphony of bird songs. Permits are required since this trail is in Olympic National Park.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Ozette Triangle: Cape Alava - Sand Point Loop

Cape Alava hiker
The Ozette Loop is an excellent first backpacking trip with kids. But be warned: you may be carrying their load. Photo by Susan Gates.

Location: Olympic Coast
Round Trip: 9.4 miles
Elevation: 300 ft gain
Best Season: year round

Add a tide chart, binoculars and a camera to your backpack as this is surely a trip full of memorable opportunities. You'll be surrounded by beautiful lush green vegetation as you walk along the boardwalk to the beach. Be careful if the boardwalk is wet - it can become very slippery! Once at the beach, set up camp at one of the established sites, secure your food from the camp critters and spend plenty of time exploring. With your binoculars, spot birds, seals, otters or maybe a whale. Be sure to search for the petroglyphs at Wedding Rock.   

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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South Cascades

Greenwater and Echo Lakes

Summerland Mt Rainier
Whomever named Greenwater Lake got it right. Bring a fishing pole! Photo by Hikingqueen.

Location: near Mount Rainier
Round Trip: 14 miles
Elevation: 1600 ft gain
Best Season: June- October

Towering old growth forest, a fast-moving river, two backcountry lakes and a good chance to catch a trout make this an appealing trail for hikers and backpackers alike. Greenwater Lake lives up to its name and Echo Lake - the larger of the two - is a nice place to camp, fish and even cool off on a hot day.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Summerland

Summerland Mt Rainier
Enjoy many views like this on your way to Summerland. Photo by David Hagen.

Location: Mt. Rainier National Park
Round Trip: 8.6 miles
Elevation: 1950 ft gain
Best Season: late July- October
Note: As of 7/19/11, this trail has not melted out. Plan a trip here in August.

Snow capped peaks, old growth forest and colorful wildflower- filled meadows will keep any hiker moving up this trail as it steadily gains elevation. In 4.3 miles you will reach Summerland Camp. Stop to set up camp and enjoy the amazing views of Goat Island Mountain. For an additional visual and adventurous delight, explore the spectacular views just a little further along the trail at Panhandle Gap - a panorama of Little Tahoma, Rainier and the Cowlitz Chimneys.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Killen Meadows - Adams Creek Meadows

Adams Creek Meadows
Experience Mount Adams up close on this hike! Photo by David and Karen.

Location: Mount Adams Wilderness
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation: 2300 ft. gain
Best Season: late-July - October
Note: As of 7/19/11, this trail has not melted out. Plan a trip here in August.

Hikers will find wildflowers and berries galore as they hike through alpine meadows with panoramic views of Mount Adams. You will reach the East Fork Adams Creek in about 2.5 to find the first of several campsites, or continue on to join the Pacific Crest Trail toward Killen Meadows. This is a popular trail for climbers heading toward High Camp where they set up base camp to summit Mt. Adams. Please remember to camp on durable surfaces or near trees as these amazingly colorful and sensitive meadows need time to recover from frequent use.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Eastern Washington

Horseshoe Basin

Horseshoe Basin
Expansive Horseshoe Basin is certainly a place for roaming. Photo by '2 old hikers.'

Location: Pasayten Wilderness
Round Trip: 12 miles
Elevation: 1550 ft. gain
Best Season: Late June- Mid October

Expansive, rolling alpine wilderness that offers endless opportunities for wandering is the highlight of this hike. To really experience this remarkable area you must bring a backpack and stay one or two nights. This sunny and open paradise is a great place to explore. A gentle ascent to Sunny Pass gives way to rolling alpine meadows, lakes and tarns. And from your campsite any number of accessible peaks will beckon you to climb and soak in the views.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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Thirteenmile

Horseshoe Basin
A hiker looks out on the rolling mountains of the Kettle Range. Photo by Kim Brown.

Location: Colville National Forest
Round Trip: 8-16 miles (with car shuttle)
Elevation: 2000+ ft. gain
Best Season: Late June- Mid October

Have you hiked in the Colville National Forest before? If not, we highly recommend this little-known area for its broad vistas, rolling hills and incredible solitude. Thirteenmile offers all of these and a whole lot more - glorious ridges, forested valleys, the charred remains of lightening-struck trees and the chance to ramble for miles. Bring your own water, as sources dry up as the season progresses.

Read more in our online Hiking Guide.

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More hikes » Hike of the Week
Diablo Lake Trail (Apr 17)

Diablo Lake

North Cascades

Follow the Diablo Lake Trail up and across talus slopes on the flanks of Sourdough Mountain to impressive cascading waterfalls and stunning views. This hike in the North Cascades Institute's backyard makes a great option for an early season hike in stunning North Cascades National Park, much of which is inaccessible during the winter and spring.