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19 Short Summer Hikes with Giant Views

Find big summer views without putting in long miles.

Dramatic views are kind of Washington's thing.

So many of our summer alpine trails turn a corner or pop over a ridge and BAM! Mountain views stretching on for miles. Alpine cirques. Hanging lakes. Seas of wildflowers. The hulking face of a glacier. And you might not always want to put in 7, 12 or 25 miles to reach those kind of views. These are a sampling of bigger views without the long miles.

But that doesn't mean they're all easy.

Easy or hard? It depends. Don't underestimate the challenge of shorter hikes. There are two ways to reach these kind of views in less than 2.5 miles: by letting a car or bike do most of the work, or by hauling yourself up. To achieve great views, many trails climb and descend more steeply than longer, gentler hikes or more accessible trails. Trail tread and exposure can also make these trails more or less difficult. Depending on the condition of the road leading to the trailhead, you may also need to tack on extra road-walking miles.

Read the full hike descriptions, recent trail or road conditions and pay attention to the gain to figure out which hikes are right for you.   

Tips for summer view hikes


GOLDEN GATE LOOP

Location: Mount Rainier National Park SW Paradise
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1160 ft.

Golden Gate Loop by JenPhong.jpeg
Photo by JenPhong.

With high elevation hubs at Paradise and Sunrise, Mount Rainier is a treasure trove of big view hikes. In some cases, they even start from the moment you climb out of a car. But heading away from parking lots even a mile or two will reward you with wildflowers, the chance to spot some wildlife and a slightly different perspective. This little loop climbs up through meadows is best done at the height of wildflower season after snow has melted off the trail. (Snow can stick around through mid-late July this high on the mountain.)

>> Plan your visit to Golden Gate

Dege Peak

Location: Mount Rainier National Park NE Sunrise
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 ft.

Dege Peak by LostWisconsinite.jpeg
Photo by LostWisconsinite.

This relatively gentle climb rewards with in-your-face views of Mount Rainier so typical of Sunrise. But on a clear day, this perch above Sourdough Ridge rewards you with peeks ranging from the Cowlitz Chimneys to the far-off peaks of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker. A bit of summit courtesy (getting a look, and then moving off the small summit) may be in order if you visit when things are hopping.

>> Plan your visit to Dege Peak

PINNACLE SADDLE

Location: Mount Rainier National Park  SE  Cayuse Pass/Steven's Canyon
Round Trip:  2.5miles
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft.

Pinnacle Saddle by David Hagen.jpeg
Photo by David Hagen.

If you want a telescope quality view of Mount Rainier than Pinnacle Saddle is where you want to be! Seemingly so close you can touch it, this view of iconic peak of our state is coupled with the beautiful lushness of the Nisqually River valley below. 

>> Plan your visit to Pinnacle Saddle

SILVER STAR MOUNTAIN

Location: Southwest Washington - Lewis River Region
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft.

Silver Star Mountain by justpeachy.jpeg
Photo by justpeachy.

The view from Silver Star Mountain is one of the best around. Sitting in the center of the Chinook Trail System near Battle Ground, Silver Star offers expansive vistas from the get-go, and is one of the absolute best spots in Southwest Washington for wildflowers in the springtime. (It's pretty spectacular in the fall as well.) The catch: you’d better have a high clearance vehicle, because you have to drive a notoriously bad road to access it.

>> Plan your visit to Silver Star Mountain

WINDY RIDGE

Location: South Cascades -- Mount St Helens
Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 ft.

Windy Ridge by Hiking Nerds.jpeg
Photo by Hiking Nerds.

Like many of the trails around Mount St. Helens, you don't need to get high to get spectacular views. The recovering blast zone has so few standing trees that vistas abound across this unique landscape. Windy Ridge is a great view hike without a lot of effort, and the visitor center offers a nice launching point. A tip: hike this earlier or later in the day to stay cool and for the beauty created by the longer light. 

>> Plan your visit to Windy Ridge

sunrise peak

Location: South Cascades -- Dark Divide
Round Trip: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft.

Sunrise Peak by austineats.jpeg
Photo by austineats.

Visit Sunrise Peak at the right time, and you'll see why it got its name. The site of a former fire lookout, the trail is steep but short. Along the way, you'll have views of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, and from the summit, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the incredible geology in the Dark Divide.

(A note: Check road conditions before you start out. If the 2018 road washout makes this shorter approach inaccessible, try for nearby 6-mile Juniper Ridge instead.)

>> Plan your visit to Sunrise Peak

Klahhane ridge

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1700 ft.

Klahhane Ridge by Bob and Barb.jpeg
Photo by Bob and Barb.

You can approach the very popular Klahhane Ridge from multiple trails within Olympic National Park, but they all lead to stunning views of the Olympics. The way via the Switchback Trail is steep, so if you don't have the climb in you, approach the ridge via the Hurricane Ridge parking lot on the Mount Angeles trail.

>> Plan your visit to Klahhane Ridge

Lillian Ridge

Location:  Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
Round Trip: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 ft.

237780BE-CA52-4D67-B4A4-1F61BB6BB583.jpeg
Photo by main_jane.

Another popular Olympic National Park trail that lets the road to the trailhead do most of your climbing. With big views of the Olympics and the Cascades from the get-go, you can make this hike a short stroll, or a much longer experience. Just be sure to plan for a day without thunderstorms, and be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

>> Plan your visit to Lillian Ridge

Striped Peak

Location:  Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 850 ft.

Striped Peak by parisrobin.jpeg
Photo by parisrobin.

The best views of this trail within Clallam County’s 196-acre Salt Creek Recreation Area are not alpine views, but those of the big, blue Strait of Juan de Fuca. Plus, with nearby camping, playgrounds and Port Angeles not far away, a short hike can just be the start of your visit.

>> Plan your visit to Striped Peak

Iller Creek

Location: Eastern Washington -- Spokane Area
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1200 ft.

Iller Creek by Todd Dunfield.jpeg
Photo by Todd Dunfield.

Like many other short hikes with big views, Iller Creek is no secret. But this Spokane favorite is a reliable get away when you just need to get out of town for a couple of hours and take in the valley views from a perch. This little loop can even be a great way to reconnect with the wonder of the Palouse while you wait out traffic (it's only 15 minutes from the I-90) on your commute.

>> Plan your visit to Iller Creek

Grouse Mountain

Location: Eastern Oregon -- Umatilla
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 ft.

Grouse Mountain by Greg Brown.jpeg
Photo by Greg Brown.

This trail an hour from Walla Walla is one of the few ridge hikes that you will hike down to. That means the road does a lot of your work here. You'll get classic Blue Mountain views on this ridgeline worth walking.

>> Plan your visit to Grouse Mountain

Table Rock

Location: Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
Round Trip: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 ft.

Table Rock.jpeg

While the views are spectacular, geology buffs will find this unique spot most worth a visit. When the road is dry and good shape, you might be able to drive to this fire lookout view of the Palouse. But go planning on walking the short road up. (Looking for a longer hike to a lookout? Try Oregon Butte instead.)

>> Plan your visit to Table Rock

Tiffany Mountain Via Freezeout Ridge

Location: North Cascades -- Pasayten
Round Trip: 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1685 ft.

Tiffany Peak by RichP.jpeg
Photo by RichP.

As one of the higher trailheads in the state, Tiffany Mountain via Freezeout Ridge will boast views that will take your breath away just as much as the elevation. 

>> Plan your visit to Tiffany Mountain via Freezeout Ridge

Lookout mountain Lookout - Methow

Location: North Cascades -- Methow
Round Trip: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft.

Lookout Mountain Lookout by Hiking Mom.jpeg
Photo by Hiking Mom.

The historic lookout is not the only perk of this hike. In under two hours you will enjoy panoramic views, lush forests and wildflowers in addition to your destination.

>> Plan your visit to Lookout Mountain Lookout

Goat peak lookout

Location: North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft.

Goat Peak Lookout by Hiking Mom.jpeg
Photo by Hiking Mom.

Goat Peak and it's iconic fire lookout comprise the most prominent landmark in the Methow Valley. Visible from nearly every angle between Mazama and Winthrop, the lookout provides sweeping views of the North Cascade's summits.

>> Plan your visit to Goat Peak Lookout

Turtleback mountain

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- San Juan Islands
Round Trip: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 830 ft.

Turtleback Mountian by kj15.jpeg
Photo by kj15.

Turtleback Mountain Preserve is one of the largest conservation success stories in the San Juans. From the top of the mountain you are provided a vantage point at which you can view everything from the rolling pastures of the Crow Valley to the emerald hulk of Mount Constitution. 

>> Plan your visit to Turtleback Mountain

thorp mountain via knox creek

Location: Snoqualmie Region -- Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
Round Trip: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1734 ft.


Photo by Josh_from_Seattle.

Short but steep with a big payoff at the end. The vista from the look out is the highest point for many miles in all directions. Enjoy wildflowers, berries and gorgeous views along your path to the summit. 

>> Plan your visit to Thorp Mountain via Knox Creek

heybrook ridge

Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Round Trip: 3.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 760 ft.

Heybrook Ridge by thenomadicartist.jpeg
Photo by thenomadicartist.

Heybrook Ridge is a relatively new trail that will take you through a rocky, moss covered forest en route to incredible views of the surrounding peaks.

>> Plan your visit to Heybrook Ridge

poe mountain via irving pass

Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1800 ft.

Poe Mountain by bertman4.jpeg
Photo by bertman4.

Guaranteed to get your blood pumping (the elevation gain is significant) the hike along the ridge provides awesome views both to the north and south. 

>> Plan your visit to Poe Mountain via Irving Pass