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8 essential backpacking trips near Seattle

When was the last time you found bliss in the backcountry?

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The Evergreen State has thousands of miles of trails leading to breathtaking vistas, incredible alpine lakes, stunning stretches of coast, and ancient forests. While many of these amazing places can be reached in a single day trip from Seattle, the best spots are seen while out on backpacking trips. It’s here, as we spend a few nights miles away from the nearest town, that we discover a secret: Few things are better than backcountry camping in the wilds of Washington State.

During the day, the outdoor destinations of the Pacific Northwest are home to some of the best and most scenic spots in the country, helping make the greater Seattle area the basecamp for a summer’s worth of backpacking trips. While there are hundreds of amazing backpacking trips to be found all around the greater Puget Sound region, we share a few local favorites and hidden gems, each sure to get you hooked on backpacking every summer.

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1. Goat Rocks Wilderness: Goat Ridge/Goat Lake Trail

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Round-trip distance: Variable

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 6 days

Distance from Seattle: 136 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

Exploring the Goat Rocks Wilderness means that you get the incredible views of the region’s mountains while avoiding the crowds that typically flock to the areas closer to Seattle. In the Goat Rocks, you get unrivaled views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The 120-mile trail system mostly stays above the treeline, giving seemingly endless views in every direction. This destination is perfect for those experienced backpackers looking for something unique and new.

Another added bonus: The entire area is dog-friendly! Just remember to keep them leashed, as the area is home to animals like mountain goats, marmots, and pikas.

2. Jade Lake and Marmot Lake

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Round-trip distance: 21 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 4 days

Distance from Seattle: 111 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

If you think it doesn’t get any better than shimmering, glacier-fed, high alpine lake surrounded by rugged peaks, Jade Lake is the backpacking trip for you. Located along the famous Pacific Crest Trail, the steep climb from Deception Pass up to Marmot and Jade Lakes is for the hearty backpacker hoping to bask in the beauty of the mountains.

While the trail is easy to follow heading to Marmot Lake, the path becomes more rugged and wild to reach the near turquoise waters of Jade Lake. It’s quite steep and rugged, so it’s best left to experienced backpackers.

3. Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake

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Monte Cristo Trail
Granite Falls, WA 98252

Round-trip distance: 11 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 days

Distance from Seattle: 75 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

The short-but-steep trek to Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake rewards you with a gorgeous alpine lake and breathtaking views. You’ll earn those views, too, with 3,000 feet of elevation gain over the 5.5 miles.

While many do this as a day hike, take advantage of the location and make this your basecamp for a night or two. Ruggedly awesome mountains rise above the water here, giving plenty of rocks to rest and relax on while taking in the views. This is one of the most scenic places you’ll see for the distance, and it’s a great bridge trip for backpackers who have the basics down but are looking to get more experience.  

4. Seven Lakes Basin in Olympic National Park

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Round-trip distance: 19.3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 5 days

Distance from Seattle: 125 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Parks Pass and backcountry campsite reservations

Olympic National Park has dozens of amazing backpacking trips, but one of the classics is High Divide and Seven Lakes Basin. Starting next to the stunning Sol Duc Falls, the trails rises to the ridges, giving incredible views of high alpine lakes and the glaciated interior mountains of the Olympic Peninsula. Few hikes deliver as much diverse terrain as this route, and this is a great one for those just starting backpacking.

Be aware that permits are required to camp here—you can get them from the Wilderness Information Center. For more information, check the Olympic National Park website.

5. Pacific Crest Trail: Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass

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Pacific Crest Trail
North Bend, WA 98045

One-way trip distance: 75 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Suggested amount of time: 7 to 14 days

Distance from Seattle: 51 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

Known as Section J on the Pacific Crest Trail, the route from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass is one of the greatest backpacking trips one can take in the Cascade Mountains. While the trail does stretch for 75 miles in one direction, even hiking in for a few days and turning around to hike out will reward moderate to advanced backpackers with sweeping views and a new appreciation for the mountains—and it’s just a short drive from Seattle. The route goes through the aptly-named Alpine Lakes Wilderness, passing over a dozen beautiful lakes, old-growth forests, wildflower fields, and stunning, rugged mountains.

6. Shi Shi Beach

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Shi Shi Beach Rd
Clallam Bay, WA 98326

Round-trip distance: 8 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Suggested amount of time: 2 to 4 days

Distance from Seattle: 160 miles

When to go: Year round

Permits needed: National Parks Pass, Makah Recreation Pass, and, in the summer, backcountry campsite reservations

Out along the Washington coast, the short but sweet trek to Shi Shi Beach will have you in awe at the beauty of Olympic National Park’s wilderness beaches. Perfect for those new to backpacking, the mostly-flat hike to Shi Shi rewards you with miles of sandy shores, tide pools, and wild rock formations in all directions. This beach is perfectly Pacific Northwest, making it a popular spot in the summer. Backcountry camping reservations are required for the summer months, and can be made from the Olympic National Park website.

7. The Enchantments

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NF-7601
Leavenworth, WA 98826

One-way trip distance: 18 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 5 days

Distance from Seattle: 129 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass and camping permits from the lottery system

Quite possibly the most famous backpacking destination in Washington State, the Enchantments live up to the name and the hype. Those lucky enough to get permits to backpack and camp here are rewarded with stunning alpine lakes, jaw-dropping mountains, and unrivaled beauty. While ridiculously popular, the route here is not easy, requiring you to be ready for serious elevation gain that only gets steeper the farther you climb. When the weather is good, though, this might just be the prettiest spot in the Pacific Northwest.

Permits are hard to come by, and each year there’s a lottery to get camping sites in the backcountry. Get all the details on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.

8. Mowich Lake, Spray Park, and the Wonderland Trail

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Round-trip distance: 8 to 93 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 14 days

Distance from Seattle: 100 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Parks Pass and backcountry campsite reservations

Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail is another world-class backpacking destination right in our own backyard. While the ultimate goal for many is to completely circle the iconic mountain along the 93-mile loop trail, section hiking the renowned path is just as fun and much easier to do.

There are no bad sections of the trail, but one of the most scenic and remote sections starts near Mowich Lake and heads east to Mystic Lake. This trip is for moderate to advanced backpackers hoping for a taste of the wilds of Rainier. It’s roughly 26 miles, with two options for routes to explore. On the way out, stay up high and walk through Spray Park, gaining jaw-dropping views of the north side of Mount Rainier. Once you reach Mystic Lake, spend a night, then come back, this time wandering down into a rainforest, before climbing back up Ipsut Pass to Mowich Lake. This section, like all sections of the Wonderland Trail, is quite popular, with backcountry reservations required. Everything you need to know about backpacking the Wonderland can be found on the Mount Rainier National Park website.

1. Goat Rocks Wilderness: Goat Ridge/Goat Lake Trail

Goat Ridge, Washington 98377

Round-trip distance: Variable

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 6 days

Distance from Seattle: 136 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

Exploring the Goat Rocks Wilderness means that you get the incredible views of the region’s mountains while avoiding the crowds that typically flock to the areas closer to Seattle. In the Goat Rocks, you get unrivaled views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The 120-mile trail system mostly stays above the treeline, giving seemingly endless views in every direction. This destination is perfect for those experienced backpackers looking for something unique and new.

Another added bonus: The entire area is dog-friendly! Just remember to keep them leashed, as the area is home to animals like mountain goats, marmots, and pikas.

2. Jade Lake and Marmot Lake

Jade Lake, Washington 98288

Round-trip distance: 21 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 4 days

Distance from Seattle: 111 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

If you think it doesn’t get any better than shimmering, glacier-fed, high alpine lake surrounded by rugged peaks, Jade Lake is the backpacking trip for you. Located along the famous Pacific Crest Trail, the steep climb from Deception Pass up to Marmot and Jade Lakes is for the hearty backpacker hoping to bask in the beauty of the mountains.

While the trail is easy to follow heading to Marmot Lake, the path becomes more rugged and wild to reach the near turquoise waters of Jade Lake. It’s quite steep and rugged, so it’s best left to experienced backpackers.

3. Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake

Monte Cristo Trail, Granite Falls, WA 98252

Round-trip distance: 11 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 days

Distance from Seattle: 75 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

The short-but-steep trek to Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake rewards you with a gorgeous alpine lake and breathtaking views. You’ll earn those views, too, with 3,000 feet of elevation gain over the 5.5 miles.

While many do this as a day hike, take advantage of the location and make this your basecamp for a night or two. Ruggedly awesome mountains rise above the water here, giving plenty of rocks to rest and relax on while taking in the views. This is one of the most scenic places you’ll see for the distance, and it’s a great bridge trip for backpackers who have the basics down but are looking to get more experience.  

Monte Cristo Trail
Granite Falls, WA 98252

4. Seven Lakes Basin in Olympic National Park

Seven Lakes Basin, Washington 98363

Round-trip distance: 19.3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 5 days

Distance from Seattle: 125 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Parks Pass and backcountry campsite reservations

Olympic National Park has dozens of amazing backpacking trips, but one of the classics is High Divide and Seven Lakes Basin. Starting next to the stunning Sol Duc Falls, the trails rises to the ridges, giving incredible views of high alpine lakes and the glaciated interior mountains of the Olympic Peninsula. Few hikes deliver as much diverse terrain as this route, and this is a great one for those just starting backpacking.

Be aware that permits are required to camp here—you can get them from the Wilderness Information Center. For more information, check the Olympic National Park website.

5. Pacific Crest Trail: Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass

Pacific Crest Trail, North Bend, WA 98045

One-way trip distance: 75 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Suggested amount of time: 7 to 14 days

Distance from Seattle: 51 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass

Known as Section J on the Pacific Crest Trail, the route from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass is one of the greatest backpacking trips one can take in the Cascade Mountains. While the trail does stretch for 75 miles in one direction, even hiking in for a few days and turning around to hike out will reward moderate to advanced backpackers with sweeping views and a new appreciation for the mountains—and it’s just a short drive from Seattle. The route goes through the aptly-named Alpine Lakes Wilderness, passing over a dozen beautiful lakes, old-growth forests, wildflower fields, and stunning, rugged mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail
North Bend, WA 98045

6. Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi Beach Rd, Clallam Bay, WA 98326

Round-trip distance: 8 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Suggested amount of time: 2 to 4 days

Distance from Seattle: 160 miles

When to go: Year round

Permits needed: National Parks Pass, Makah Recreation Pass, and, in the summer, backcountry campsite reservations

Out along the Washington coast, the short but sweet trek to Shi Shi Beach will have you in awe at the beauty of Olympic National Park’s wilderness beaches. Perfect for those new to backpacking, the mostly-flat hike to Shi Shi rewards you with miles of sandy shores, tide pools, and wild rock formations in all directions. This beach is perfectly Pacific Northwest, making it a popular spot in the summer. Backcountry camping reservations are required for the summer months, and can be made from the Olympic National Park website.

Shi Shi Beach Rd
Clallam Bay, WA 98326

7. The Enchantments

NF-7601, Leavenworth, WA 98826

One-way trip distance: 18 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 5 days

Distance from Seattle: 129 miles

When to go: July to October

Permits needed: National Forest Service Pass and camping permits from the lottery system

Quite possibly the most famous backpacking destination in Washington State, the Enchantments live up to the name and the hype. Those lucky enough to get permits to backpack and camp here are rewarded with stunning alpine lakes, jaw-dropping mountains, and unrivaled beauty. While ridiculously popular, the route here is not easy, requiring you to be ready for serious elevation gain that only gets steeper the farther you climb. When the weather is good, though, this might just be the prettiest spot in the Pacific Northwest.

Permits are hard to come by, and each year there’s a lottery to get camping sites in the backcountry. Get all the details on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.

NF-7601
Leavenworth, WA 98826

8. Mowich Lake, Spray Park, and the Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail, Washington

Round-trip distance: 8 to 93 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to advanced

Suggested amount of time: 3 to 14 days

Distance from Seattle: 100 miles

When to go: July to September

Permits needed: National Parks Pass and backcountry campsite reservations

Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail is another world-class backpacking destination right in our own backyard. While the ultimate goal for many is to completely circle the iconic mountain along the 93-mile loop trail, section hiking the renowned path is just as fun and much easier to do.

There are no bad sections of the trail, but one of the most scenic and remote sections starts near Mowich Lake and heads east to Mystic Lake. This trip is for moderate to advanced backpackers hoping for a taste of the wilds of Rainier. It’s roughly 26 miles, with two options for routes to explore. On the way out, stay up high and walk through Spray Park, gaining jaw-dropping views of the north side of Mount Rainier. Once you reach Mystic Lake, spend a night, then come back, this time wandering down into a rainforest, before climbing back up Ipsut Pass to Mowich Lake. This section, like all sections of the Wonderland Trail, is quite popular, with backcountry reservations required. Everything you need to know about backpacking the Wonderland can be found on the Mount Rainier National Park website.