Let’s Go For A Hike!
You could spend a lifetime exploring the trails around The Cascades, Mount Rainier, and The Olympics and still not scratch the surface. In fact, I’m hoping to do exactly that! I’ve written about some of my favorite hikes in Washington, including beautiful early season hikes, and the best historic fire lookout hikes. And while I’m proud of these posts, I realize that many of the hikes I’ve featured in the past are on the difficult side. So, in this blog post, I’m sharing some EASY DAY HIKES IN WASHINGTON that don’t skimp on views and are sure to take your breath away—without taking up too much time or energy. Because the outdoors should be accessible to everyone!
“Easy” is obviously a relative term. When deciding which hikes to include in this blog post, I looked at both distance and elevation gain. I tried to stick to Washington day hikes that are 4 miles or less round trip, and require less than 1000 ft of elevation gain. There are a couple hikes on this list that don’t strictly conform to these rules. I included them because I felt that the scenery justified a little extra effort. And, yes, I realize these hikes are all in NW Washington – there are great hikes all over this state that I will be exploring and writing about in the future. Washington’s mountains have so much to offer. I hope that this guide will help you get out there and experience some of its beauty for yourself!
Remember To Leave No Trace
There is little question that social media and the internet plays a role in exposing various outdoor locations. In some cases, this has led to significant negative resource and social impacts. That being said, I personally believe that without a connection to nature, people are much less likely to stand up and protect these beautiful natural wonders. Accessibility and inclusion are critical to outdoor conservation efforts around the globe. Accordingly, social media has just as much potential as a source for education and environmental advocacy as it does for destruction. For these reasons, I have chosen to share some of my favorite easy hikes in Washington.
I hope that you will visit these beautiful places and feel inspired to act as stewards for them well into the future. As part of this responsibility, it’s essential to keep in mind “Leave No Trace” principles. Leave No Trace is built on seven core principles that outline the best available minimum impact guidance for enjoying the outdoors responsibly.
These principles include (but are not limited to):
Plan ahead and prepare.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
Dispose of waste properly.
Leave what you find.
Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
Be considerate of other visitors.
(© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org)
Leave No Trace guidelines are not black or white, right or wrong. And they are certainly not about excluding people from the outdoors. Leave No Trace is a framework for enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so.
What To Wear For A Day Hike
Regardless of how difficult your hike is, it’s important to pack layers when you head into the mountains. The weather at high elevations is notoriously unpredictable, and as the saying goes: “It’s Better To Have It And Not Need It, Than To Need It And Not Have It!” Also keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for trails in Washington to still be covered in snow well into June. Besides packing layers, you should always bring the Ten Essentials – even for easy day hikes!
For specific outdoor gear and apparel, check out my Complete Hiking and Camping Gear Guide.
Easy Hikes In Washington That Don’t Skimp On Scenery
Whether you are just getting into hiking, have small children in tow, or are short on time, there are a million reasons why an easy hike might be just what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find an easy hike in Washington without sacrificing the type of iconic mountain scenery that the state is famous for. Hopefully, this list of easy hikes in Washington will help you get outside and experience some of the best scenery Washington has to offer!
Before you head out on any trail in Washington State, I recommend checking the Washington Trails Association or AllTrails websites for recent trail reports. The reports often include recent photos as well as current trail and road conditions. It’s also a great place to get driving directions, find out whether your dog can join you, and if you need a National Park, Northwest Forest Pass, or some other permit.
Gold Creek Pond
Gold Creek Pond is an ADA-accessible loop hike around a picturesque mountain pond at the top of Snoqualmie Pass. On a calm morning, reflections of the surrounding evergreen forest and the Central Cascades are hypnotizing. Get there early enough, and you might even have this popular trail to yourself. Because of it’s relatively close proximity to Seattle and exceptional accessibility for a Washington hike, Gold Creek Pond is my go-to when I want to escape into the mountains, but don’t have the time or energy to go too far.
Distance: 1 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 10 ft.
Pro Tip: Because of its exceptionally flat terrain, Gold Creek Pond is the perfect place to practice snowshoeing with kids or first-timers. The Gold Creek Pond parking lot is closed in the winter, so park on the street and walk east (or snowshoe, depending on the conditions). The earlier you get there, the better.
Barclay Lake offers a lot of bang for your buck. This fantastic family-friendly trail follows Barclay Creek through lush green forest for a little over 2 miles until it reaches Barclay Lake. Although the trail undulates with gradual inclines and descents, it is never steep. Once you reach the lake, Baring Mountain steals the show. Its dramatic peaks jet above the tree line into the sky, casting beautiful reflections onto the lake. The trail to Barkley Lake is well maintained, and its accessibility makes it a popular day hike option in the area. Nevertheless, it manages to exude deep wilderness vibes for the minimal effort required to complete the trail.
Distance: 4.2 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 250 ft.
Pro Tip: Barclay Lake is an ideal location for a beginner backpacking trip. The lake has everything you need for a great camping trip, including several lakeside campsites, pit toilets, and sandy beaches for picnicking.
The trail to Heybrook Lookout is short, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s on the steeper side. By definition, fire lookouts tend to occupy locations that provide expansive views of the surrounding landscape, and that means there’s usually a pretty good climb to reach them. Heybrook is no exception. Compared to most historic fire lookouts, the hike to Heybrook is on the more accessible side. Once you reach the lookout, there’s one more push up a few flights of stairs to reach the top of the lookout tower. The lookout itself 67 feet above the ridgeline and provides spectacular views of breathtaking glacial peaks surrounding the valley.
Distance: 2.4 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 900 ft.
Pro Tip: Entry to the lookout is by key, which must be obtained from the Skykomish Ranger Station. You can reserve the lookout for $75 a night between May and the end of October.
Second Beach Trail
Second Beach is located on the Washington Coast, just south of the small coastal town of La Push. The trail to Second Beach is short and sweet. After a little less than a mile, the well-defined forest path spits you out on the beach, where you will have to navigate some large driftwood logs before reaching the sand. But that’s about it!
You likely won’t find a lot of solitude at Second Beach, but you will find sea stacks, epic sunsets, and a quintessential Washington coast experience. It’s an excellent option if you’re new to backpacking or are looking for a quick, accessible beach camping experience. Sure, you might have to share the experience with other people, but that doesn’t need to be negative. Who knows, you might even make some new friends!
Distance: 4 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 310 ft.
Pro Tip: Second Beach is part of the Olympic National Park. Therefore, to camp at the beach, you‘ll need to pick up a permit in person at either the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center or the Lake Quinault Ranger Station. Because there are no reservations, Second Beach can quickly fill up during the summer.
If you’re interested in visiting Second Beach or the more secluded Shi Shi Beach, check out my complete guide to camping at these two stunning Olympic Peninsula gems.
Tipsoo Lake and Naches Loop Trail
I love a good loop trail, and this relatively easy trail on Mount Rainier’s eastern side has a little bit of everything! The trail begins on the Pacific Crest Trail at Chinook Pass and traverses the east side of Naches Peak before intersection the Naches Loop Trail. Although you can hike the loop in either direction, I’d recommend walking clockwise for the best views of Mount Rainier. But it’s not just the scenic views of Rainier that make this one of Washington’s best easy hikes. Visit in Late July or early August, and you’ll also be treated to vast wildflower fields full of lupine, bistort, and paintbrush blooms.
Distance: 3.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 650 ft.
Pro Tip: Little Tipsoo Lake (across the street from Tipsoo Lake) has stunning reflective views of Mt. Rainier, Yakima Peak, and the surrounding scenic beauty. For the best photographs, get to the parking lot at Tipsoo Lake before sunrise, cross the street, photograph Rainier in all it’s alpenglow glory, and then complete the Tipsoo Lake and Naches Loop Trail.
Winchester Lookout Trail
I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that Winchester Lookout has some of the most dramatic views for the least effort in the North Cascades. It’s a quick hike, and you will enjoy expansive views of some of Washington’s most famous peaks and mountain ranges along the way. And while it’s definitely one of my favorite easy day hikes in Washington, it’s also a great place to try backcountry camping. Trust me, once you see the views, you’re not going to want to leave!
For more information about spending the night at Winchester Lookout, check out my guide to Washington’s Best Fire Lookout Hikes!
Distance: 3 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft.
Pro Tip: You don’t need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to make the trip up to the trailhead, but The Twin Lakes Road is best suited for high clearance vehicles. If you can’t drive to the Winchester Mountain Trailhead, parking is at the Tomyhoi Lake Trailhead, adding 2 miles to the hike.
The North Cascades are home to some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the Pacific Northwest. If epic is what you’re looking for, then the Cascades have you covered. Finding an easy hike on the other hand, is a little more complicated. In general, a lot of effort is required to achieve the expansive views that the North Cascades are famous for. Blue Lake is a welcome exception to this rule. It’s one of the more challenging trails on this list of easy hikes in Washington. Still, it’s not every day that you can experience a shockingly blue alpine lake set against a dramatic mountain cirque in just under 5 miles round trip. The trailhead for Blue Lake is located directly off the North Cascades highway, making it a great way to break up the long drive over Cascade Pass.
Distance: 5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft.
Pro Tip: My favorite time to visit Blue Lake is during early fall when the Larches turn from green to bright yellow (generally during the first couple weeks of October). Larch trees are one of the few deciduous conifers, and their spectacular transformation is something everyone should experience at least once. It’s truly a sight to see – especially in the Evergreen State. Before you head home, drive a mile further east on Highway 20, walk a hundred yards or so from the parking area, and check out the Washington Pass Overlook for an absolutely stunning view!
Another great easy option in the area is RAINY LAKE. Just down the North Cascade Highway from The Blue Lake Trailhead—at mile post 158—you’ll find the Rainy Pass Trailhead. The wheelchair accessible trail to Rainy Lake is 2 miles roundtrip.
Happy hiking! Let me know if there’s any easy trails out there I should try out. I know there’s a ton I haven’t included in this blog post.
Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
Thank you so much for your support! Happy Adventuring. – jess