18 Incredible Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington

Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Colchuck Lake

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is about my recommendations for Washington hikes. In particular, which trails I suggest for beginners and people just getting started hiking. So I have put together this blog post featuring the 18 BEST beginner friendly hikes in Washington State! Some of them I would consider easy Washington hikes and others I would say are more moderate-challenging, but all are doable for beginners who are prepared.

In this article, you will also find tips on how to plan hiking adventures, what to wear and pack on Washington hikes, and some handy trail etiquette tips. I even share recommendations for every season, so you can plan a hike no matter what time of year and enjoy Washington’s beautiful scenery! 

Disclaimer: This blog post is in collaboration with Backcountry.com and features some affiliate links. This means I get a small commission if you make a purchase (at no extra cost to you). Use code RENEE15 to get 15% off your first Backcountry order (some exclusions apply). You can also learn more about my affiliate policy here. Thank you for the support!

Beginner Hikes in Washington

Below I am sharing tips on how to plan hiking adventures in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington State. I am also featuring 18 of the best hiking trails for beginners. But keep in mind that these hiking trails are suitable for more experienced adventurers too! Then towards the end of this blog post, you will find some handy packing tips for your next hike. Leave me a comment if you have any questions!

Beginner Hikes in Washington

Planning tips for beginner hikers

One of the most common misconceptions is that all beginner hikers only want to hike super easy trails. This isn’t true! A lot of beginner hikers have told me that they often want to be challenged but would prefer to stick to well-maintained trails and hikes where they won’t be the only ones out there (in case they get into any difficulties).

Keeping that in mind, the following 18 beginner-friendly Washington hikes range from easy to moderate, short to long, and are spread out across the state of Washington. All of these trails are relatively popular, well-maintained, mostly accessible via paved roads, and the majority have facilities such as vault toilets at the trailheads.

Before you head out hiking for the first time you will need to:

  • Research your trail (use this guide plus other resources such as the Washington Trails Association).
  • Factor in overall distance, elevation gain, current conditions and your fitness when selecting a trail.
  • Start easy and gradually work your way up to longer and more challenging trails.
  • Be sure to wear and pack the appropriate items (more on this further down the blog post).
  • Print a physical map of the trail and/or download offline maps (I use the Gaia GPS app, click here to get 20% off a Gaia GPS membership)
  • Tell someone your plans before heading off (where you are going and when you will be back).
  • Read up on Leave No Trace Principles.

I also have a guide to beginner hiking preparation if you want to check it out: Beginners Guide to Hiking.

Disclaimer: These hikes are suggestions for the summer months and early fall, with the exception of Artist Point and Skyline Lake as winter alternatives.

Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Barclay Lake

Washington Hikes #1: Barclay Lake

Barclay Lake is one of my favorite easy hikes in Washington State! The trail is short in length, not very steep, and has an easy to follow route – making it the perfect beginner friendly Washington hike! It’s also a great one to access in late spring/early summer because the trail becomes snow-free before a lot of other hikes higher in the mountains. Those living on the northern side of Seattle can also make this an after-work hike in the middle of summer when the days are longer!

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Coast Salish, Tulalip
  • Distance: 4.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Dirt forest road but 4×4 is not usually required

Insider’s Tip: For those newer to the outdoors who are looking to test their backpacking skills and gear, Barclay Lake is the perfect place. There are a few designated areas close to the lake where you can set up for the night, and if for some reason things don’t go to plan, it’s only a short walk back to the car.

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Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Marymere Falls Trail

Washington Hikes #2: Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls is a great hike for those wanting to stretch their legs after driving around the Olympic Peninsula. At less than two miles roundtrip, it winds through old-growth forests and crosses a beautiful stream on the way to the falls. Be sure to check out Lake Crescent and the picturesque Storm King Ranger Station while you are in the area. Check out this blog post for more recommendations on your trip to Olympic National Park!

  • Location: Olympic National Park
  • Native lands: Klallam
  • Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: National Parks Pass
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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Washington Hikes #3: Hoh Rain Forest Loop

The Hoh Rain Forest Loop is actually a combination of two shorter trails, Spruce Nature Trail and Hall of Mosses. They leave from the same parking lot and make a great pairing if you’re in the Hoh Rain Forest area of Olympic National Park. Being so flat and short in length, these trails can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone!

My favorite time to do this hike is in the spring when the greenery is in its prime, but it is still beautiful at any time of the year. Be sure to check out my Olympic National Park guide!

  • Location: Olympic National Park
  • Native lands: Hoh, Quinault
  • Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: National Park Pass
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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Washington Hikes #4: Heybrook Lookout

Heybrook Lookout might be the closest lookout tower to Seattle, and as a result is a great little after-work hike in the summer months. Don’t let the short length of this hike fool you though! There are a couple of sections that are quite steep, so make sure to pack some water and wear comfortable hiking clothes/shoes.

The lookout provides gorgeous views of Mt Index and the surrounding peaks, and there is also a picnic table at the bottom if you want to have a snack break. Sunset is a great time to be up at Heybrook Lookout as the light can be really stunning!

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Coast Salish, Snohomish, Tulalip
  • Distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Pass/permit: N/A
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road 2×2 friendly

Insider’s Tip: You can add on nearby Heybrook Ridge for a longer day of hiking.

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Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Rattlesnake Ledge Sunrise

Washington Hikes #5: Rattlesnake Ledge

Rattlesnake Ledge is a classic Washington hike for good reason! Being so close to Seattle (35 minutes from downtown) and having such great views of the cascades/Rattlesnake Lake below, it draws crowds from all over Puget Sound.

Keep in mind that this is not the hike to escape from crowds, but it is an excellent one to work on your cardio and hiking legs. Due to the relatively low elevation, this hike is also snow-free the majority of the year, allowing you to keep your fitness up during winter when many other hikes will be inaccessible without snowshoes.

  • Location: Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area
  • Native lands: Coast Salish, Duwamish
  • Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1160 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Pass/permit: N/A
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

Winter Tip: Take along something to give your shoes extra traction, like microspikes.

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Washington Hikes #6: Lake Twenty-Two

Lake Twenty-Two is one of Washington’s classic beginner-friendly alpine lake hikes. Located along Mountain Loop Hwy, it’s easy to access and has a well maintained trail. This one is a good one to “graduate” to once you feel comfortable on shorter hikes such as Rattlesnake Ledge, Barclay Lake etc… or for those who are coming into hiking already relatively fit.

The trail can be rocky and root covered in parts, so be sure to watch your step. The views at the top are beautiful and you will come out of the trees to a clear alpine lake surrounded by towering peaks. This is a great spot for a snack or some lunch before heading back down to the car. Do note that parking lot can fill quite early, so plan to get there bright and early OR later once the day-trippers are coming down from lunch.

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Coast Salish, Snohomish, Tulalip
  • Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1350 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

Insider’s Tip: The parking lot can fill quite early, so plan to get there bright and early.

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Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Mount Rainier Skyline Loop

Washington Hikes #7: Skyline Loop Trail

Skyline Loop Trail is the perfect hike for getting up-close and personal with Mount Rainier! You will leave from the bustling Paradise parking lot, but the crowds will disperse once you get further out on the trail. This is one of my favorite summer hikes when the wildflowers are peaking (July/August) as the flowers are abundant and SO vibrant!

If you do the whole loop there is quite a climb to reach the highest point, so make sure to bring some snacks and water. The beginning of this loop is actually paved, and a good one to take older relatives who might have a hard time on regular trails. Be sure to check out my Mount Rainier National Park comprehensive guide!

  • Location: Mount Rainier National Park
  • Native lands: Puyallup
  • Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1450 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: National Park Pass
  • Dogs: No
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Heather Maple Pass Loop

Washington Hikes #8: Heather-Maple Pass Loop

Heather-Maple Pass Loop is one of my favorite hikes in Washington. It’s more challenging than some others on this list, but it’s easily accessible, relatively well-trafficked, and relatively easy to navigate. Be prepared for an uphill climb to the top, but the views are absolutely worth it! I recommend this hike for those who have a little more experience under their belt as the elevation gain can be challenging for some.

Keep in mind that there are a couple of points where the trail breaks off in other directions, so having a map is recommended for those unfamiliar with the area. Being a few hours away from Seattle, I recommend camping at one of the nearby campgrounds and making a fun getaway out of it! Nearby North Cascades National Park has a lot to offer.

  • Location: Okanogan – Wenatchee National Forest
  • Native lands: Nlaka’pamux, Okanagan, Chelan
  • Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2000 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Mount Pilchuck

Washington Hikes #9: Mount Pilchuck

Mount Pilchuck might be the most popular fire lookout hike in Washington, and having done this a few times I can see why. The 360 degree views up the top of the cascades, Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak are incredible! This hike covers a decent amount of elevation gain, so I would definitely put it in the moderate – strenuous category. It’s a good one to undertake once you feel confident on some of the previously suggested easier hikes.

This hike is best done from July-October when it’s more likely to be snow-free, but it can also be a nice late spring hike with the right equipment for light snow travel. Like many of the other hikes on this list, the parking lot can be quite busy so I suggest getting there first thing so you are not disappointed (or go later in the afternoon).

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Coast Salish, Snohomish, Tulalip
  • Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road most of the way, 2×2 friendly

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Washington Hikes #10: Colchuck Lake

Colchuck Lake is the most strenuous hike on this list, but it’s a popular and maintained trail that is easy to access. If you are new to hiking, I wouldn’t do this as your first trail, but I’d definitely recommend it once you clock up some miles! The views of Colchuck Lake at the top are some of the best in Washington, and on a warm summer day you can even jump in the lake to cool off.

To camp here you must have a permit (obtained through a lottery system), but day hikers are permitted. Be aware that the parking lot often fills up very early, so plan to arrive as early as possible (especially if you are visiting on a weekend). This hike is also best done as a summer hike once the snow clears out, so plan to hike from June – October depending on snow conditions. I also recommend visiting the nearby town of Leavenworth after your hike for a delicious meal before heading back to Seattle!

  • Location: Okanogon – Wenatchee National Forest
  • Native lands: Yakima, Wenatchi
  • Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2280 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: No
  • Road access: Paved road most of the way, 2×2 friendly

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Washington Hikes #11: Artist Point

*This is a beginner-friendly WINTER hike!

This is probably my favorite accessible winter hike in Washington because it provides stunning views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. During summer you can drive right up to Artist Point, but in winter the road is closed about 2 miles from the top and you need to park at Bagley Lake trailhead. This is definitely a winter hike for those who are a little more experienced as there’s a small amount of route finding, and you will need to wear snowshoes. Check out my in depth blog post on this winter adventure! You will also want to read up on how to snowshoe and what to wear winter hiking.

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Nlaka’pamux, Coast Salish, Nooksack
  • Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1000 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road but beware of snowy conditions

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Beginner Hikes in Washington near Mount Rainier - Summit Lake

Washington Hikes #12: Summit Lake

Summit Lake has it all: gorgeous wildflowers, grassy mountain meadows, a crystal clear alpine lake. Hikers often spot wildlife in the meadows along these trails, everything from deer to marmot to elk and maybe even a bear! On clear, calm days you can even catch the reflection of Mount Rainier in the lake.

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Puyallup, Coast Salish
  • Distance: 6.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1300 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Dirt forest road, high clearance recommended for final section before trailhead

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Short Beginner Hikes in Washington Near Seattle - Franklin Falls

Washington Hikes #13: Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a great, easy hike just a quick drive from Seattle, which makes it quite a popular day trip. The 70 foot waterfall is the most incredible from April – July when it’s fueled by snowmelt, but it’s still spectacular all summer and fall. This trail is shaded pretty much the entire way, so it’s a nice option to escape the city on those hot summer days.

I do not recommend this as a winter hike as there can be avalanche danger on parts of the trail. Best to save this one for the summer and fall if there is any risk of an avalanche. You could also consider hiking to Gold Creek Pond while you’re in the Snoqualmie Pass area.

  • Location: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Tulalip, Coast Salish, Snoqualmie
  • Distance: 2.0 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road most of the way, 2×2 friendly

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Beginner Hikes in Washington - Sage Hills Wildflower Hike

Washington Hikes #14: Sage Hills

Sage Hills is an incredible springtime hike with great views of the Columbia River and the Wenatchee Valley. On a nice day you can even see the North Cascades! Visit this area in the spring and you’ll be treated to colorful flowers like Indian paintbrush, purple lupine, and yellow balsamroot. It gets quite hot in the summer here, so consider going early in the morning or later in the day to have milder temperatures.

  • Location: Central Washington, Wenatchee
  • Native lands: Wenatchi, Yakama
  • Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip (you can also opt to hike shorter sections of this trail)
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: None
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road most of the way, 2×2 friendly

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Beginner Hikes in Washington - Falls Creek Falls

Washington Hikes #15: Falls Creek Falls

With four total falls, Falls Creek is a great place if you love chasing waterfalls. The first waterfall is less than 1/4 mile from the trailhead via a paved trail, so if you’re short on time or have little ones with you, this is a great option. Continue on and the trail gets steeper and narrower, but you’ll see three more falls along the way.

  • Location: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
  • Native lands: Methow
  • Distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pass/permit: None
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road most of the way, 2×2 friendly

Important: As of August 2021, the Falls Creek trail was closed due to a nearby wildfire. Be sure to check current trail conditions for the status of the trail.

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Beginner Friendly Winter Hikes in Washington - Skyline Lake Stevens Pass

Washington Hikes #16: Skyline Lake

*This is a beginner-friendly WINTER hike!

The hiking trail to Skyline Lake isn’t very long, but it is steep! After climbing steeply through pine trees and huckleberry you’ll be treated to great views of Stevens Pass. This is one of my favorite alpine lakes in relative closeness to the highway, so pack some snacks and relax once you make it up the short but steep section of trail.

Skyline Lake makes for a great winter hike as well since it has limited winter avalanche risk, but it’s still important to familiarize yourself with the area and stick to the designated trails. Here is the trail information for the winter hike, best done by snowshoe!

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Wenatchi, Tulalip, Snoqualmie
  • Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1050
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: None
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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Popular Beginner Hikes in Washington - Snow Lake Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Washington Hikes #17: Snow Lake

The Snow Lake trailhead leaves from the Alpental ski area parking and since this is a pretty easy drive from Seattle, it’s a popular day hike. With incredible views of the towering peaks surrounding the lake, it’s easy to understand why people flock to this trail! The climb is relatively mellow, never becoming unbearably steep. This is one of the most frequently hiked lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and should definitely be on your list!

  • Location: Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Native lands: Tulalip, Coast Salish, Snoqualmie
  • Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

Latest trail conditions and more information

Important note: According to the USFS, the Snow Lake trail will be closed starting ~July 16th for trail reconstruction, and will remain closed for the majority of the 2022 season.

Beginner Waterfall Hikes in Washington - Wallace Falls State Park

Washington Hikes #18: Wallace Falls

With nine falls in total, Wallace Falls is a popular destination for hikers of all experience levels in Washington. The surrounding area has great biking, fishing, swimming, and climbing, so there is definitely something for everyone here! You can easily shorten the 5.6 miles round trip by turning around at the Middle Falls. The best views are at this overlook anyway, with great views of the Skykomish River valley and all the way to the Olympic Peninsula on a clear day.

  • Location: Central Cascades – Wallace Falls State Park
  • Native lands: Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Tulalip, Coast Salish
  • Distance: 5.6 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1300 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Pass/permit: Discover Pass
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed
  • Road access: Paved road, 2×2 friendly

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What to wear hiking in Washington

It can be confusing to know what to wear when first getting into hiking! The key considerations are comfort and safety but keep in mind that this can look a little different for everyone. Here are my top recommendations for what to wear hiking in Washington. Keep in mind that these are 3 season recommendations, not winter. Check out this winter specific post if you plan to take some winter hiking adventures.

Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are very person-specific. Some people love wearing trail runners and others prefer boots. Some people prefer heavier waterproof boots and others prefer lighter options. When hiking in Washington I usually opt for a waterproof boot with ankle support, but something that isn’t too heavy, like the Danner Adrika Hiker Boot or the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Hiking Boots. Once the trails become dryer I sometimes opt for a pair of trail runners like the La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Runner.

Hiking Socks

Don’t overlook the importance of having socks that fit correctly and are comfortable to wear for a long time. Over the years I have found that merino wool socks from Darn Tough and Smartwool are the most durable, least smelly, and most comfortable for hiking. Injinji Liner Socks are a great way to help keep your feet dry and prevent pesky blisters!

Hiking Bottoms

What you wear for bottoms is a personal preference. If you’re a pant kind of person then I would suggest the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant or something similar. Another option is wearing convertible pants that you can easily switch to shorts, such as the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pant. If you prefer leggings then I would suggest the Mountain Hardwear Mountain Stretch Tight (with side pockets!) If you’re more of a shorts person then I recommend the Backcountry Olympus Lightweight Short for an athletic style short, or the Patagonia Quandary 5in Short for a more traditional fit. I personally prefer to keep my legs covered with pants to protect from sunburn, ticks, mosquitoes, and scratches.

Hiking Shirt

For hiking shirts you can either go with short sleeve, long sleeve, or a tank option. For cooler hikes or those where I am worried about sunburn I will usually opt for longer sleeves and wear something like the Smartwool Merino Long Sleeve Shirt. Lightweight sun shirts, like the Backcountry Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie, are really popular in Washington for hikes that you will be above treeline with no shade for extended periods of time. Otherwise you will usually find me in one of the Icebreaker Sphere Lite SS Low Crewe Shirts. Natural fibers like merino wool are my go-to for hiking tops due to the odor-reducing properties and overall comfort.

Hat

I recommend you wear some kind of hat on the trail to protect you from the sun, especially during the warmer months of July and August. Some popular options are caps such as the Patagonia P-6 Label Trad Cap or wider hats such as the Outdoor Research Wadi Rum Brim Hat. A lightweight neck gaiter is another great option to keep the sun off your neck. You can use the Outdoor Research Echo Ubertube Neck Gaiter as a headband to keep your hair out of your face, and even dunk it in water to cool you down on the extra hot days.

sunglasses

Having sunglasses makes hiking a LOT more enjoyable on a sunny day (or when it’s overcast with a lot of glare). In addition, polarized sunglasses will cut the reflections and glare on those beautiful lakes you are looking at (bonus!) My go-to sunglasses brands are Sunski, SMITH, and American Optical.

trekking poles

Not everyone enjoys using trekking poles but I personally find them helpful for Washington hikes with considerable elevation gain, or if the terrain is unsteady. My go-to poles are the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles as they are lightweight and comfortable to use. Some more affordable option are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles and the Black Diamond Trail Sport 2 Trekking Poles.

What to pack for day hikes

Now that you’re sorted on what to wear hiking in Washington, you probably want to know what to pack! Below I have listed some recommended items. In terms of what gear is absolutely essential for survival versus “nice to have”. I would first make sure you have the 10 essentials: navigation, sun protection, insulation, headlamp, first aid supplies, fire starter, shelter, repair kit, food, and water.

backpack

You could technically hike without a daypack, but it might be challenging to carry your drink bottle, layers snacks, etc. without a small space to store them. I would recommend you use a backpack that you already have at home or invest in one that is made for hiking. Key features include adjustable straps, waist belt/strap, chest strap, and somewhere to easily access your water bottle or water bladder. I swear by my Osprey Tempest 20L Daypack (comes in 9L, 24L, 34L, 40L, and a 6L lumbar pack for trail runners). Another good option is the Topo Designs Rover 20L Pack, or sometimes I opt to use my camera bag if it’s a short hike (the Peak Design Everyday 20L Camera Backpack).

warm layers

You will want to pack some sort of insulation layer in case it gets cold, even if it seems like a sunny day! The weather can change very fast in the mountains of Washington. A nice breathable mid layer I love is the Patagonia R1 Fleece and I will even hike in this on cooler days. Another one of my favorites is the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece, but keep in mind that it is heavier and also warmer than the R1.

For an additional warm layer, I would suggest something like the Backcountry Synthetic Insulated Jacket or the Patagonia Down Sweater for extra warmth in a really lightweight jacket. I also really love wearing a Patagonia Nano Puff Vest hiking because it regulates your core temperature without overheating or adding bulky layers to your extremities.

rain & wind protection

I rarely go on a Washington hike without bringing a rain jacket. You just never know when the weather will turn! My go-to is the Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket. It’s really lightweight and will keep you dry in a downpour. I also usually pack a lightweight wind jacket. This is completely optional but I find these are often the perfect thing to throw over a t-shirt when there is wind chill but it’s too hot for a fleece. Plus they stop mosquitoes biting you! Over the years I have owned the Patagonia Houdini Jacket, and the Backcountry Mad Creek Jacket and they both do a brilliant job.

water bottle

A water bottle or hydration bladder is an absolute must when hiking! Dehydration can be a killer so it’s not something to skimp on. I personally haven’t had a great experience using hydration bladders so I stick with my trusted Hydroflask bottles which keep your water nice and cold.

snacks

Hiking snacks are a personal preference and the amount you pack will depend on the length and difficulty of trail. I will typically pack some granola bars, protein bars, energy chews, homemade trail mix, gummy worms, nut butter sachets, waffles, or dark chocolate. If I want something more substantial I will pack a bagel or fresh bread and cheese.

navigation

Another one of the “10 Essentials” is a means of navigation. A great starting place is purchasing or printing a topographic map for the area you will be hiking (keep it inside a waterproof sleeve). It’s also a great idea to bring along a compass and have some basic skills to use it. In addition, it’s a good idea to save some offline maps to your phone. For instance, I use Gaia GPS to save offline maps for hiking and backcountry trips.

emergency device

This isn’t a “must have” but more a piece-of-mind item that is good to have if you can afford it. Emergency devices essentially provide a means to call for help if you find yourself in a precarious situation. You may be taking local trips where you have phone service, but if not it might be worth investing in a device that has an SOS feature and tracker, like the Garmin InReach Mini or SPOT Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger. My husband and I didn’t make this purchase for quite some time after we got into hiking and backcountry camping, but it now gives us peace of mind on longer treks and more risky hikes.

first aid kit

I typically take a small, lightweight first aid kit on hiking trips. You just never know when it will come in handy for yourself or your hiking partner. I really like the kits made by Adventure Medical Kits as they are ultralight and waterproof. I always throw in a couple of extra blister-pads too, just in case!

bug & Sun protection

Depending on where you are hiking, it’s probably a good idea to take some bug spray with you. Clothing is often the best protection against both bugs and sun, but even long sleeves and pants don’t always deter the peskiest mosquitos. I sometimes spray my clothes with mosquito deterring solution for longer trips. I also nearly always take a bug headnet with me. Sunscreen is a must, especially on hot summer days that you might be hiking above treeline!

Gloves & Beanie

Even during Washington’s summer months I will often pack a pair of lightweight gloves and a beanie. Especially if I am going on an early morning or late afternoon hike. The weather can change very fast in the mountains and I personally get cold easily, so it’s worth the extra weight for me to be comfy. Do what suits you! The North Face and Icebreaker both make a range of good glove choices. But for beanies I usually opt for my Pendleton Cable Hat.

Extra items

If you plan to stay out for sunset or will be hiking up pre-sunrise, then I would highly suggest packing a headlamp. My go-to is the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp. Some extra “just in case” items you may consider bringing along are an emergency blanket, means to start a fire, a knife or multi-tool, and a whistle.

Day Hiking Packing List Free Download - Renee Roaming

Washington hiking etiquette

When accessing these beginner friendly Washington hikes it’s important to demonstrate appropriate hiking etiquette. I have listed some key points below, but I encourage you to read my in-depth Guide to Hiking Trail Etiquette.

  • Unless signed otherwise, give way to hikers coming uphill and always yield to horses and other pack stock.
  • Say a friendly “hello” to other hikers so that they know you are approaching (and to create a welcoming atmosphere on the trail).
  • Don’t speak loudly on the phone, repeatedly shout to your friends, or play music out loud on the trail (no speakers please!) Be respectful of other hikers and wildlife by keeping noise to a minimum. Many wildlife species rely on natural sounds for communication purposes, and disrupting those sounds can hurt their chances of survival.
  • Stay on the trail unless it’s absolutely necessary when yielding. Going off trail can damage plant or animal species and hurt the trails’ ecosystems.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles (more on that below): leave rocks, vegetation, and artifacts where you find them for others to enjoy.
  • Give wildlife space by keeping an appropriate distance and not abruptly startling them. NEVER feed wild animals.
Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington State - Lake 22 Trail

Leave No Trace

If you’re going to be out in nature, it’s important that you strive to protect it and follow Leave No Trace principles. In addition, please be sure to educate yourself before heading out. Find out more information via the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics or read my in-depth blog post on the subject.

Final Thoughts

I hope this list inspires you to plan a few hikes and get outside! Washington has some truly incredible hiking trails for all levels of experiences. From crystal blue alpine lakes to meadows bursting wildflowers to incredible views of craggy peaks, it is pretty hard to go wrong with any of these trails. Let me know in the comments which of these hikes you’ve done, and what you’re adding to your list for this year!


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18 Incredible Beginner Friendly Hikes in Washington

19 comments

  1. Great post! I imagine you have figured this out by now, but the ‘Falls Creek Falls’ which you have pictured is the Falls Creek Falls in Skamania…in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, not in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near the Methow.

  2. Great post! Thank you this is so convenient for people looking to hike in Washington!

    Are people allowed to take a swim in these lakes?

  3. This is a great list. I think it’s really cool how you have the land acknowledgement for each hike. Keep up the good work!

  4. Great post–really comprehensive information on so many levels. I see no clear information about the trail surfaces. Easy can mean so many things to different people. As someone with mobility challenges, I always look for at least some guidance on trail surfaces. Few roots? Few rocks? relatively level? Clearly there is something of interest along the way for each of the hikes you share. Beautiful country!

  5. I love your posts! I live in Washington and love to hike. I love how you give great outdoor tips AND amazing style/comfort tips. Thank you!

  6. This is so helpful! I live in Texas and plan on moving to Washington soon. Can you make a list for beginner hiking trails near Portland?

    1. It’s on my list! I do have a Oregon 7 day road trip guide if that is helpful, it does suggest some hikes 🙂

  7. This is such great information, and I love that you include info about Native lands!

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