The Pacific Northwest boasts some of the most stunning backpack trails in the US, attracting visitors from all over the world. Mountains, forests, and coastlines provide diverse ecosystems for backpackers. Ten great backpack trails include the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier, hiking the Enchantments’ 18.5-mile out-and-back high alpine lakes in the Cascade Mountains, or taking on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail’s 2,650 miles. Wilderness areas such as the Goat Rocks, Olympic National Park, Eagle Cap, and North Cascades National Park offer amazing hiking opportunities, along with the Hoh River Trail, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood. Explorers should be aware of wildlife dangers like bears and cougars, acquire necessary permits, and adopt Leave No Trace principles when camping.
10 Stunning Trails for Backpacking in the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest region boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in the United States. From glacier-capped mountains to lush forests and spectacular coastline, it’s no wonder backpackers from around the world flock to this area every year. Here are 10 stunning trails for backpacking in the Pacific Northwest:
1. The Wonderland Trail
The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that loops around Mount Rainier. This popular trail offers stunning views of the mountain, glaciers, and subalpine meadows. Backpackers can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to complete the entire loop depending on their pace and experience level.
2. The Enchantments
The Enchantments are a collection of high alpine lakes nestled in the Cascade Mountains near Leavenworth. Backpackers can choose to hike the entire 18.5-mile out-and-back trail or do a one-way hike and take advantage of the shuttle system. This trail offers stunning views of snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, and lush forests.
3. The Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail spans over 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, with over 500 miles in Washington alone. Backpackers can choose to hike a section of the trail or attempt to complete the entire thing. This trail offers spectacular views of the Cascade Range, including Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.
4. Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park offers a vast network of trails for backpackers, ranging from coastal hikes to hikes in the rainforest. With diverse ecosystems in one park, backpackers can experience a variety of landscapes on their journey.
5. Goat Rocks Wilderness
The Goat Rocks Wilderness is located in the southern Cascades and offers stunning views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. Backpackers can choose from several trails that vary in length and difficulty, ranging from easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips.
6. North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park offers over 400 miles of trails with stunning views of jagged peaks and glaciers. Backpackers can choose from several trails that vary in length and difficulty, including the popular 3-day Sahale Glacier Trail.
7. Hoh River Trail
The Hoh River Trail is located in Olympic National Park and offers a unique experience for backpackers. This trail takes backpackers through a lush rainforest with towering trees and stunning waterfalls.
8. Mount St. Helens
The Mount St. Helens area offers several trails for backpackers with stunning views of the mountain and surrounding wilderness. The 28-mile Loowit Trail takes backpackers around the mountain, offering views of the crater and lava dome.
9. Eagle Cap Wilderness
Eagle Cap Wilderness is located in northeastern Oregon and offers several trails for backpackers. This area features stunning alpine lakes and peaks, including the popular 28-mile Wallowa Loop Trail.
10. Mount Hood
Mount Hood offers several trails for backpackers, including the popular Timberline Trail, which circles around the mountain. Backpackers can also summit the mountain for even more stunning views of the surrounding area.
What is the best time of the year to backpack in the Pacific Northwest?
The best time of the year to backpack in the Pacific Northwest is between June and September. During this time, the weather is generally warmer and drier, making for ideal backpacking conditions. However, it’s important to check weather conditions and trail closures before heading out on any trail.
What gear do I need for backpacking in the Pacific Northwest?
Backpackers should bring a reliable tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, stove, and water filter for any backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, it’s important to bring warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy hiking boots. It’s also important to bring a map and compass to ensure you stay on the right trail.
Do I need a permit to backpack in the Pacific Northwest?
Many trails in the Pacific Northwest require a permit, and these can often be obtained online or at a nearby ranger station. Backpackers should check with the specific trail they plan to hike for permit requirements and obtain them before heading out on any trail.
What are the camping regulations for backpacking in the Pacific Northwest?
Backpackers should always follow Leave No Trace principles and camp only in designated campsites. Additionally, backpackers should always pack out all of their trash and avoid building fires in areas where it is not allowed.
Are there any dangerous animals to be aware of when backpacking in the Pacific Northwest?
Backpackers should be aware that there are bears and cougars in the Pacific Northwest and should take necessary precautions to reduce the risk of encounter. This includes properly storing food, packing out all trash, and hiking in groups.