10 breathtaking Washington hiking trails

Originally published by Kaiser Permanente on their NW Health Blog


It’s no wonder Washingtonians love the outdoors. With thousands of miles of trails and coastline, two glaciated mountain ranges, three national parks, and 143 state parks, Washington state is a hiker’s paradise. Besides being a favorite Pacific Northwest pastime, hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors while improving your health. So for Great Outdoors Month, we asked Kaiser Permanente doctors and physician assistants to tell us about some of their favorite local day hikes.

Best Washington Day Hikes

Sometimes hiking can be just what the doctor ordered. Here are 10 Washington hikes that allow you to challenge yourself physically while enjoying our region’s natural beauty.

1. Snow Lake (Snoqualmie Region)

Snow Lake is Washington’s most used trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It’s a short and easy hike with minimal elevation gain, clear waters, and scenic peaks.

Distance: 7.2 miles (all distances round trip)
Elevation gain: 1800 ft.
Highest point: 4400 ft.
Recommended by: Grazia Cinciripini, MD, Ophthalmology

heron2. Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Area (South Sound)

Try this year-round, wheelchair-accessible trail through the Nisqually Delta for a chance to see wildlife like heron, bald eagles, and harbor seals. Take in stunning views of the South Puget Sound and Mount Rainier that are especially beautiful at dawn and dusk.

Distance: 5.0 miles
Elevation gain: none
Highest point: 10 ft.
Recommended by: Timothy Scholes, MD, Family Medicine

 “The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to view nature and take a pleasant walk. There are miles of interpretive trails built for viewing both freshwater and saltwater wildlife. Tons of birds including heron and bald eagles, and the scenery changes depending on the tides. Some of the best walking areas are more interesting when it’s high tide. Great panoramic views including Mt. Rainier and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Bring your camera and binoculars.”

3. Mount Si (Snoqualmie Region)

Mount Si is hiked each year by over 100,000 people. It attracts both beginners and experienced hikers. As soon as you leave the trailhead, switchbacks and climbing begin, but the trail ascends gradually. A less challenging alternative is the trail to Mount Si’s sister peak, Little Si.

Distance: 8.0 miles
Elevation gain: 3150 ft.
Highest point: 3900 ft.
Recommended by: Ronald Yeh, MD, Gastroenterology

coal_creek4. Coal Creek Trail (Issaquah Alps)

This well-traveled trail with footbridges and waterfalls is great for families, trail runners, and devoted hikers.

Distance: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 550 ft.
Highest point: 600 ft.
Recommended by: Esther Park, MD, Family Medicine

“This trail is meandering and full of beautiful streams and foliage. It is very close to my house so that I can go without spending too much time getting there.”

5. Banner Forest (Olympic Peninsula)

This trail winds through a stand of preserved old growth forest and pristine wetland. All ages and abilities can enjoy.

Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation gain: 50 ft.
Highest point: 430 ft.
Recommended by: Tamara Jackson, PA-C, Orthopedic Surgery

6. Lake 22 (North Cascades)

Lake 22 lies on the northern shoulder of Mount Pilchuck. As you hike to the lake, you’ll see views of rain forest, wetlands, and mountains.

Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1350 ft.
Highest point: 2400 ft.
Recommended by: Christine Terry, PA-C, CareClinic

“Lake 22 is excellent for someone wanting a good challenge but not a full day of hiking. It is about three miles one way, with a gorgeous waterfall along the way. Then, when you make the summit, the trail opens up to a clear blue-green lake and a small glacier. It’s beautiful, and the water feels great for a dip on a hot summer day.”

7. Cascade Pass (North Cascades)

This hike requires lots of effort to get to the high peaks but you will be rewarded with epic views of nearby valleys, glaciers, mountains, and wildlife.

Distance: 7.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1800 ft.
Highest point: 5392 ft.
Recommended by: Terrence Town Clark, DO, Optometry

8. Lake Valhalla (Central Cascades)

Lake Valhalla is hidden under Lichtenberg Mountain and Mount McCausland, north of Stevens Pass. This lake is a great day hike in the summer and fall, with snowshoeing opportunities in winter.

Distance: 7.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1500 ft.
Highest point: 5050 ft.
Recommended by: Susan Warwick, MD, OB/GYN

9. Federation Forest State Park (Mount Rainier Area)

This forest is known for its green, mossy old growth trees and miles of level hiking.

Distance: 5.0 miles
Elevation gain: 150 ft.
Highest point: 1800 ft.
Recommended by: Terrence Clark, OD, Optometry

“The trail at Federation Forest State Park near Greenwater is a non-exertional beauty right next to the White River. It is a fantastic place to find old growth Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock. It is a great example of temperate rain forest, and a marvelous place to introduce people to the magnitude and beauty of a mature forest.”

rattle10. Rattlesnake Ledge (Snoqualmie Region)

This hike leads to amazing views of the Cedar River watershed, Mount Si, Mount Washington, Rattlesnake and Chester Morse lakes.

Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1160 ft.
Highest point: 2078 ft.
Recommended by: Nina Greenblatt, MD, Urgent Care

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