Author: Benjamin Harty

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The Best Hikes in Washington You Can Do in a Day

Washington is a beautiful state, and there is no better way to experience all the natural beauty on offer than with a hike. A hike does not have to be terribly long to be worth it, though. Sometimes just a few hours is all you need to see something truly remarkable.

The best day hikes in Washington include:

  1. Lake 22 by Mt. Pilchuck
  2. Marymere Falls near the Olympic Peninsula
  3. Trail of the Cedars by the Cascades
  4. Mount Pilchuck in the Northern Cascades
  5. Comet Falls Trail near Mount Ranier
  6. Little Si Trail
  7. Quartzite Mountain
  8. Silver Start Mountain

While most of these hikes are under 5 mi (8.05 km), one or two that are a teensy bit longer have made their way onto this list because they are just too amazing to miss! When setting out on a hike, remember to always wear appropriate clothing and footwear, bring water, and let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back if you are hiking alone. 

Simple Day Hikes Almost Anyone Can Do

Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash

If you’re anxious to get out and start exploring, take a look at our picks for some of the best simple hikes in Washington that you can do in a single day. Almost anyone of all fitness levels can complete these. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Lake 22 On the Northern Side of Mount Pilchuck

The Lake 22 Trail is located on the Northern Side of Mt. Pilchuck. While it is a little over 5 mi (8.05 km) or 5.4 mi (8.69 km) as a roundtrip, to be exact, it is worth the extra distance. 

This trail has spectacular scenery and rewards anyone who travels it with green rainforests, wetlands teeming with life, and stunning mountain views. 

It is best to visit this trail in warmer seasons, as in winter it’s covered in snow and can be dangerous. Warmer seasons will also give you the best of the natural scenery, anyway. When you arrive at the titular lake, make sure that you stay on the trail, as people have lost their lives climbing on the boulders that surround it.

Marymere Falls In the Olympic Peninsula

The Marymere Falls Trail, located in the Olympic Peninsula, is a nice, easy day out for you and your family to see some spectacular waterfalls. 

The track is a relatively flat one and is easy to follow, so those in wheelchairs or strollers can access it. Begin at the Storm King Ranger Station and follow the trail to the Mount Storm King Junction; then head right towards the end of the trail.

This trail will take you through towering forests full of majestic old trees and vibrant green ferns. 

You can see the waterfall at the end from two vantage points connected with a looping trail. There is also a nice little detour available at the end, through the Moments in Time Trail. 

Trail of the Cedars In the North Cascades

A perfect hike to do with family, or if you just want to get out and stretch your legs for a bit, the Trail of the Cedars is a 1-mi (1.61-km) roundtrip hike found in the stunning forests of the North Cascades. 

There you will walk through the ancient trees and learn about the environment you are enjoying, thanks to the informative signs along the way. The trail begins at the end of Newhalem’s Main Street and ends at the historical Newhalem Powerhouse (one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the area). 

Moderate Day Hikes

Photo by Bolun Yan on Unsplash

If you are more fit than the average person, or if you want to challenge yourself to get even better, these trails might be worth exploring. The hikes listed below are over 3 miles (4.8 km), but not much more than 5 miles (8 km) long. 

If you’re ready to challenge yourself, let’s explore the following hikes.

Mount Pilchuck

The Mount Pilchuck trail is a Washington classic because it is a little over 5 mi (8.05 km). Located in the Northern Cascades, this medium-difficulty hike will take you up the side of the mountain and reward you with views of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympic Mountain Range. 

You can also enjoy your lunch in the fire lookout shelter at the top of the mountain, constructed in 1921.

Despite the trail taking you up the side of a mountain, it isn’t as tricky as you’d assume, as the trail starts about halfway up the mountain. That said, don’t attempt this trail in the winter if you’re not experienced, because hikers have become lost and had to be rescued. 

Comet Falls Trail Near Mount Rainier

A brisk, 3.8-mi (6.12-km) roundtrip located in the Mount Rainier area, the Comet Falls hike is worth doing to see all of the beautiful waterfalls along its path. 

The trail travels through the lush green forest and follows along the beautiful Van Trump Creek. At one point, it even scales a rockface (don’t worry, there’s a crib ladder). 

The trail should be undertaken with caution, however. Not only can it be steep in places, but it’s also prone to be wet and slippery, and there’s a risk of rocks falling. It’s recommended that you have at least a moderate fitness level before undertaking it.

Little Si Trail Nar the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Area

If you aren’t ready to tackle the Mount Si Trail, the Little Si Trail offers a more moderate alternative. The trail is 3.7 mi (5.95 km) roundtrip, located in the North Bend Area of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Region. 

It’s a bit of a steep slog at the end, but the beginning of the trail is a more gradual, welcoming slope.

The trail takes you through forests and past fields of boulders and culminates in a lovely view of Mount Si, Mount Washington, and the valley below. This is a perfect trail to visit year-round, as the changing seasons will also change the scenery and provide new things to discover. 

Difficult Day Hikes

Photo by Tristan Pineda on Unsplash

The following two trails should only be undertaken if you are in top shape and are an experienced mountain climber, due to the steep inclines of the trails. That being said, if you decide to take these trails, you might want to take some camping gear in case you decide to rest for a while before descending the mountain.

Quartzite Mountain in Eastern Washington

The Quartzite Mountain Trail is short but steep. 

A well-maintained 3-mi (4.83-km) track in Eastern Washington’s Selkirk Range, the hike will take you first through meadows and then through the thin forest at the top. 

At the top of the peak, stop and enjoy a picnic lunch or even a campfire in one of the two firepits (weather permitting, of course). It’s certainly a place you’ll want to stay for a while, as the views are so lovely.

This track is not recommended for young children or those with little hiking experience due to the steep nature of the climb. It’s a hike best done by those with a good amount of physical fitness.

Silver Star Mountain in Southwest Washington

The Silver Star Mountain Trail is located in the Lewis River Region of Southwest Washington. It is a 4-mi (6.44-km) roundtrip hike and a challenging climb that can be very steep in certain places, especially right at the end as you reach the summit. 

The views are amazing, though, and not just when you reach the top. 

There are a few alternate paths along the way. For example, Ed’s Trail is a more difficult route that requires trekking poles and a substantial amount of hiking experience. There’s also the Starway, which is just as difficult.

Driving to the Silver Star Mountain Trail is a challenge as well, and one that requires the use of a high clearance vehicle to navigate the rough road to get there. 

If you do have one, though, and are up for a challenge (particularly if you take one of the alternate routes), the Silver Star Mountain Trail is a great way to spend your day. 

Final Words

As this list proves, a great hike does not need to be a long journey. There are plenty of spectacular hikes around Washington state that take less than a day and are perfect for all fitness levels. So what more are you waiting for? Put on your hiking boots and hit the trail!

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