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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.

With hundreds of backpacking options across the state, you sometimes need more than just one night in the backcountry to see it all. 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.

Notes on distances: The distances of the trips below are only suggestions. You may want to stretch a 12-mile trip into four days, while others might knock out 44 miles in an overnight.

A boyfriend/girlfriend couple stand on a trail in a green forest with overnight packs on. They're smiling and seem happy to be outside.
Backpacking rules! Photo by Christopher Ward.

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 backpacking route, remember the following tips:

    • Identify where you'll camp each night. Plan your daily mileage 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. Check conditions and recent trip reports before you go so you can plan your water refills. File a trip report when you return to let other hikers know what to look for.
    • 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. Steep climbs take longer and require more energy. Plan for variable terrain and set reasonable expectations for your distance with elevation gain factored in.
    • Check out these step-by-step tips for plotting your own hiking or backpacking loop.

Eastern Washington

Grizzly Loop

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

A wet section of trail to cross along the Slick Ear section of the Grizzly Loop.
A wet section of trail along the Slick Ear section of the Grizzly Loop. Photo by Froof_D_Poof.

This loop travels through a remote part of Washington’s hiking terrain, the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, situated in the southeast corner of the state. The trail starts 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 hike on the Grizzly Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide


Location: Kettle River Range
Length: 28.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet

White Mountain. Photo by Karen Daubert.jpeg
White Mountain in the distance from the Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by Karen Daubert.

This 28-mile round trip hike offers the best of the Columbia Highlands as it passes through old-growth Ponderosa pine stands, skirts five significant peaks in the Kettle Range, and showcases the effects of the White Mountain Fire of 1988. The Kettle Crest Trail passes just beneath the summits of Sherman and Snow Peaks, Bald Mountain, Barnaby Buttes and White Mountain. 360-degree views include Lake Roosevelt and the Selkirks to the east, Canada to the north and the Cascades to the west.

> Plan your hike on the Kettle Crest Trail to White Mountain using WTA's Hiking Guide


Location: Palouse and Blue Mountains
Length: 45 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 9,234 feet

A backpacker walks away along a trail, surrounded by flower-filled meadows and big open skies.
Time your visit right and you'll be rewarded with fields of wildflowers. Photo by trip reporter BYOC.

The Blue Mountains lure hikers in with their open vistas along the high ridges, intense colors at sunrise and sunset, prolific wildflowers, wildlife sightings, and some of the largest old-growth trees in Eastern Washington. The Mount Misery trail is a tough one (beginning with a rough ride up the forest road), but it is almost guaranteed solitude.

> Plan your hike on the Packers Trail - Mount Misery Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Kettle Crest Trail

Location: Eastern Washington
Length: 44 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 8,000 feet

Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by RangerP.jpeg
Enjoy the wide-open views on an overnight trip along the Kettle Crest Trail. Photo by RangerP.

This trek across Washington's less famous crest will test both your mental and physical fortitude as you gain 8,000 feet over the up and down of this 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 are 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 hike on the full length of the Kettle Crest Trail using WTA’s Hiking Guide

Olympic Peninsula

Grand Valley Loop

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

The calm lake reflecting the trees and peaks beyond.
The view down Badger Valley. Photo by cryptobrian.

The Grand Valley Loop is appropriately named. Start 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. Several other trails can be added to this 8-mile loop. You need permits for this one, so be sure to secure them ahead of time.

> Plan your hike on the Grand Valley Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide 


Location: Olympic Coast
Length: 17 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet

A sun sets beyond a sandy beach, casting warm colors into the sky.
A serene sunset at Toleak Point. Photo by Times New Marlon.

Experience one of the wildest - and most beautiful - stretches of coastline in the contiguous United States on this 17-mile traverse. But beware: this isn't just any leisurely beach walk. The going is tough. You'll be climbing ladders with your backpack on, scrambling along muddy headland trails, waiting out high tides and fording creeks. Up and down you'll go on this demanding trail. But it is entirely worth it for the ocean sunsets, the unexpected encounters with wildlife, the incredible sea stacks and the constantly crashing surf.

> Plan your hike on the South Coast Wilderness Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Flapjack Lakes via north fork skokomish 

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

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

This is a great backpacking option because it starts 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. The lakes make a good basecamp to launch other explorations like the Gladys Divide and Black and White Lakes (if you have time). Both are worthwhile excursions made more enticing by the fact that you can leave your heavy pack behind at camp.

> Plan your to Flapjack Lakes using WTA's Hiking Guide

South Cascades

Mount Adams Highline

Location: Mount Adams Area 
Length: 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.
This trail offers some intimate views of Washington's second highest mountain, Mount Adams. Photo by jweiss.

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 hike on the Mount Adams Highline using WTA's Hiking Guide

Eastside Loop

Location: Sunrise Area
Length: 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.
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 hike on the Eastside Loop 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

Bear Grass blooming along the trail overlooking the hills beyond.
This one may take you longer than 3-5 days, but it is quite an accomplishment. Photo by nnrelay.

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 hike of this section of the PCT using WTA's Hiking Guide

North Cascades

Rainbow-McAlester Loop

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

Rainbow-McAlester Loop. Photo by KenWP.jpeg
This loop offers a stunning tour of North Cascades' scenery. Photo by KenWP.

This loop offers a tour through the heart of the North Cascades. Start 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 hike on the Rainbow-McAlester Loop using WTA's Hiking Guide

Park Creek Pass Via Thunder Creek 

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

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

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 hike to Park Creek Pass via the Thunder Creek Trail using WTA's Hiking Guide

Lake Creek 

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

Burnt out trees loom above lush new growth and wildflowers.
This area of the Pasayten has been damaged by a forest fire but it is slowly rebounding. Photo by cascadedj.

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 hike to Lake Creek using WTA's Hiking Guide