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3-5 Day Backpacking Trips for Summer

These multi-day backpacking trips offer the best summer hiking has to offer in Washington. Plus, tips for planning more adventures.

Backpacking in Washington is something special. Whether seeing the stars far from city lights or watching the sun rise from camp, backpacking lets you unplug, see new sights, and relax in nature.

With hundreds and hundreds of backpacking options across the state, your trips can be any length of time, from one night to weeks on the trail. The sweet spot for most people usually falls a long weekend or a week. To that end, we've put together a few options around the state for 3-5 night trips that offer beautiful terrain, incredible wildlife and challenges to conquer.

Days and distances: The distances of the trips below are only suggestions. Some hikers prefer stretching a 12 mile trip into four days, and others might knock out 44 miles in an overnight. Below are just a few ideas to get you started, as well as some tips for finding your own adventure.

Note on water: In drier months, some areas can lack abundant water sources, so check conditions before you go, plan your sources carefully and file a trip report when you return to let other hikers know what to look for.

Tips for planning a backpacking trip

  • People. To lessen your impact, keep your group size small. In official Wilderness ares, the general rule is 12 heartbeats (people, dogs, etc.) or fewer in a group.
  • Permits. If you are staying overnight, you will need to fill out a self-issued wilderness permit at the trailhead. Some areas, like national parks, may require an additional permit for backcountry camping. It's always a good idea to check with the land manager while planning your trip.
  • Pack It In, Pack It Out. When you are in wilderness areas, practice Leave No Trace ethics.

Eastern Washington

Grizzly Loop

Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Mileage: 20 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet

A hiking trail winds along a dry slope with a few small trees. Photo by Dan S.
The trail winds through a ponderosa forest on the Grizzly Loop. Photo by Dan S. 

This loop travels through a remote part of Washington’s hiking terrain, the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, situated in the SE corner of the state. The trail starts out on top of Grizzly Bear Ridge, then drops down to the Wenaha River, where a trail parallels the waterway. Follow the river, then ascend back up on the Slick Ear Trail to your car.  The Wenaha River Trail offers miles of hiking and many connections to other trails for those with some extra days to explore the area.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Jungle Hill

Location: Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range 
Mileage:  15.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,348 feet

A hiking trail winds along an open grass slope with two small trees in the distance. Photo by Holly Weiler.
Open views along the Jungle Hill trail. Photo by Holly Weiler. 

This route takes advantage of the Kettle Crest Trail to make a loop around Jungle Hill. Depending on the season, hikers will be treated to displays of wildflowers in the grassy meadows and huckleberries to snack on along the way. And because this loop involves a section of the Kettle Crest Trail, hikers can add more miles by exploring down this long trail and finding many other connections.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Thirteenmile

Location: Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range 
Mileage:  16.5 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet

A wooden trail sign reads, "thirteenmile trail" at the start of a hiking trail. Photo by Jonathan Day.
The sign at the start of the Thirteenmile Trail. Photo by Jonathan Day. 

The Thirteenmile Trail is a rambler’s dream. This route meanders along the soft ridges of the Kettle Range through open country and gentle slopes that fill with wildflowers. Campsites are available at several places along the route, and with three different access points, hikers can choose from many different lengths and shuttle options. This can be a great one night overnight, or a multi-day thru hike with a car shuttle at either end. For one good option, check out the route from the Bear Pot Trailhead.

> Plan your trip using WTA’s Hiking Guide


Kettle Crest Trail

Location: Eastern Washington
Mileage: 44 miles
Elevation Gain: 8,000 ft.

The silhouettes of several trees are outlined in the multicolored sunset of the sky. Photo by Renegade Beef.
Enjoy the sunsets and sunrises on an overnight trip along the Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by Renegade Beef. 

This trek across Washington's less famous crest will test both your mental and physical fortitude as you gain 8,000 ft. over the up and down of the traverse. Plan to spend a few nights doing this trip. Besides taking the time to enjoy the sub-alpine sage and meadow terrain, the gain and mileage is heftier than your average backpacking excursion. However, you'll feel a big sense of accomplishment for having completed it, and the views are fantastic as you go up and down the various peaks.

> Plan your trip using WTA’s Hiking Guide


Olympic Peninsula

Grand Valley Loop

Location: Northern Coast
Mileage: 7.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,080 feet

A clump of wildflowers foreground a long view down a valley ringed by exposed rock. Photo by Eric Nagle.
The view down Badger Valley. Photo by Eric Nagle.

The Grand Valley Loop is appropriately named. Start out on an exposed ridge with expansive views of the Olympics, then descend into the valley flowing with a lush creek that fills three lakes. Depending on the time of year wildflowers will blanket these slopes and valleys. There are a number of other trails that can be added to this 8-mile loop. To extend your journey consider including Lillian Ridge, Grand Pass or the Elk Mountain Trail.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


High Divide - Seven Lakes Basin Loop

Location: Northern Coast
Mileage: 19 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet

A hiking trail winds down an open grass slope to a small lake in the distance. Photo  by FilipTD.
Can you guess why they named this one Heart Lake? Photo by FilipTD.

At 19 miles, this loop is the perfect 3 day backpack destination for most hikers. Perhaps that's one of the reasons it is a popular route in Olympic National Park. There are actually more than seven lakes on the trail despite the name, and they offer great rest stops along the way to rest. Black bears are known to wander the meadows here looking for berries, and the views into the basin and Hoh Valley are incredible.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Flapjack Lakes via north fork skokomish 

Location: Hood Canal
Mileage:  15.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,050 feet

A aquamarine lake ringed by trees and rocks. Photo by Motherof2Masterof0.
The Flapjack Lakes sit up in a basin that is reached after hiking in on the North Fork Skokomish Trail. Photo by Motherof2Masterof0.

This is a great backpacking option because it starts out on old road grade, letting you ease into things and get used to carrying a heavy pack. And you’ll want to be warmed up because after a few miles the trail turns away from the Skokomish River and heads up to the lakes. This is a great destination for camping and makes a good basecamp to launch some other explorations like the Gladys Divide and Black and White Lakes, which are both worthwhile excursions made more enticing by the fact that you can leave your heavy pack behind at camp.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


South Cascades

Mount Adams Highline

Location: Mount Adams Area 
Mileage: 22.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,550 feet

An open meadow leads to a line of evergreen trees that sit in front of massive ice-covered Mount Adams. Photo by bugbusters.
This trail offers some intimate views of Washington's second highest mountain, Mount Adams. Photo by bugbusters.

The Mount Adams Highline trail brings you up close and personal with one of Washington's volcanoes. The second highest mountain in Washington, Adams is the main feature of his trail, but there is plenty to look at besides the majestic beauty of the mountain.

Depending on how fast you hike, this could be a two day trip, but if you want to relax and drink in the mountain views, three days would work great. Be sure to plan your stops around active water sources in the summer. Depending on the season and weather, water can be hard to come by in some areas.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eastside Loop

Location: Mount Rainier/Sunrise
Mileage: 36.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 7,430 feet

A long view down a gray rock valley that is still holding on to a few patches of snow. Photo by Renegade Beef.
Mount Rainier National Park has some of the most dramatic landscapes in the state and this loop takes you past some of those vistas. Photo by Renegade Beef. 

The Eastside Loop offers a fantastic tour of a piece of Mount Rainier National Park. With each new trail, you’ll enter a new segment of beauty, including a string of waterfalls, a tunnel of huckleberries and the open meadows of Summerland at the end. You’ll also get a taste of the Wonderland Trail without having to circumnavigate the whole mountain. When it comes to backpacking at Mount Rainer, this option is on the shortlist.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


PCT Section I - White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass  

Location: White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley 
Mileage: 99.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 17,771 feet

Two hikers approach a creek crossing in an open meadow on the edge of a valley with views across to rocky peaks. Photo by Kwalker17.
This one may take you longer than 3-5 days, but it is quite the accomplishment. Photo by Kwalker17. 

The Pacific Crest Trail can be a daunting prospect, but you don’t have to hike the whole 2,653 miles. This segment will give you a great tour of Washington’s southern reaches. Over these 99 miles hikers pass through varied landscapes that tell the story of land use in our state, passing within 12 miles of Mount Rainier in one section and through a heavily logged corridor in another. It’s hard to think of another trail that offers as thorough of a tour of this section of the state.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


North Cascades

Rainbow McAlester Loop

Location: North Cascades Highway 
Mileage:  31.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6,650 feet

Rainbow McAlester Loop. Photo by Stuke Sowle..jpeg
This loop offers a stunning tour of North Cascades scenery. Photo by Stuke Sowle. 

This loop offers a tour through the heart of the North Cascades. Start out on the PCT, and link up with the loop trail that circumnavigates a cluster of high peaks. The route never strays too far from a creek, which means water is plentiful, and Rainbow Lake and McAlester Lake add two attractions along the way. You will also go up and over a few passes that afford views to the northern tip of Lake Chelan with the town of Stehekin, a reasonable detour for those out on a leisurely trip.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Park Creek Pass Via Thunder Creek 

Location: North Cascades Highway 
Mileage:  55.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 9,800 feet

The view from Park Pass opens up to reveal a long lush valley. Photo by Shawnhar.
After a couple days following Thunder Creek in the trees this is the view that opens up at Park Creek Pass. Photo by Shawnhar. 

Take the Thunder Creek Trail as it cuts through a remote part of the North Cascades National Park. This trail is a long route that mostly stays in the trees, offering many days’ worth of solitude and contemplation of the majesty of this watershed. The views that come at Park Creek Pass will feel earned after such a long approach. From here, enjoy the reward of this playground. And for a grand finale, consider heading out on the Cascade Pass Trail to link up with a shuttle vehicle you’ve left there.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Lake Creek 

Location: Pasayten 
Mileage: 37.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet

A cluster of pink wildflowers sit on the shore of a lake that is ringed by steep hills populated with burned tree trunks. Photo by Bob and Barb.
This area of the Pasayten has been damaged by a forest fire but it is slowly rebounding. Photo by Bob and Barb.

The Pasayten Wilderness offers many backpacking opportunities, but this option is especially great as an early season trip since it has a relatively low elevation. Follow Lake Creek north into more and more remote parts of this wilderness, passing Black Lake, then Fawn Lake. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the junction with the Boundary Trail, which nestles up near the Canadian border. This main thoroughfare links to many other trails nearby including several worthy side trips.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Map Your Own Route

Backpacking trips can be as long (or short) as you'd like to make them. When you go to put together your own backpacking route, remember the following tips:

    • Decide where you'll camp each night. Plan your daily mileage around reasonable expectations so you can make it to designated camping areas without hiking late into the night.
    • Hike near reliable water sources. Many streams and creeks dry up in the hot summer months. Be sure that water sources will be running when you plan your trip so you can stay hydrated.
    • Consider elevation gain. Hiking a 30 mile trail with 500 feet of gain is a lot different than hiking a 30 mile trail with 7,000 feet of gain. Climbs will take longer and require more energy. Plan ahead for variable terrain and set reasonable expectations for your distance with elevation gain factored in.
    • Use our Hiking Guide to put together your own trip and get the latest info on trail conditions using trip reports. The more information you have before heading out, the better. Research your trip and plan accordingly.
    • Check out these step-by-step tips for plotting your own hiking or backpacking loop.