Before we moved away from the Seattle area, Ryan and I had to complete one more hike in the Cascades. We hiked extensively over the past three years. We have hiked some gorgeous trails, summited beautiful mountains, climbed through crowds on the popular hikes, and experienced some not-so-great hikes as well. Reflecting on all of those, we can some clear favorites. These are our 5 must-do hikes in the Seattle area.
Most of the hikes I have completed were along Mountain Loop Highway, Stevens Pass, and Snoqualmie Pass – all within approximately a 90 minute drive of Bothell/northeast metro area. I’ve hiked some in the Mount Rainier area, although never Rainier itself, and a sampling of hikes in the Deception Pass region. Beyond these areas, you can hike at the Issaquah Alps, Mount Baker and the surrounding area, Mount Adams, the Olympic National Park and National Forest, in the Leavenworth/Wenatchee area of the East Cascades, and more.
A majority of the hikes on this list feature alpine lakes. Out of all of the natural scenery – waterfalls, wildflower fields, towering summits, rocky valley – alpine lakes were our favorite. They are ideal of camping and day trips alike.
Ryan and I hiked Snow Lake more than any other trail in the Seattle area. Snow Lake is convenient – just about an hour down I-90 – and breathtakingly beautiful. A round trip is about 6-7 miles, depending on how far around the lake you hike, with 1800 feet of elevation gain.
Snow Lake is in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The hike takes you through wooded forest, talus fields, and finally up to a pristine alpine lake. After climbing for 2.5 miles, you descend down 400 feet to the lake.
Snow Lake is a popular hike, so be prepared to either arrive early or hike with crowds. If you enjoy camping, Snow Lake offers multiple campsites along the lake. If you crave more mileage, you can hike a couple more miles onto Gem Lake. Autumn is the perfect season for hiking Snow Lake, when fall foliage adorns the trail. Do be aware that avalanche risk is high in winter.
Goat Lake is a 10-mile hike located along Mountain Loop Highway. A majority of the trail takes you through a forest or along a river (depending if you choose the Upper or Lower trail). Goat Lake is beginner, dog, and family friendly, thanks to the gentle elevation gain and smooth trail with no significant water crossings or talus fields. The lake itself is absolutely stunning, with dozens of surrounding campsites.
Naches Peak/Dewey Lake
The hike to Naches Peak/Dewey Lake begins in Mount Rainier National Park, although you shortly hike out of the park and can even begin at an alternate trailhead if hiking with dogs. The wildflowers are stunning along this hike in summer. The snow does fall early, so if you hike in October or later, be prepared with warm clothes and microspikes!
In summer, the sunlight can be direct and the bugs are obnoxiously profuse, so be prepared with sunscreen and bug spray. It’s all worth it though when you arrive down at the lake. Dewey Lake has fantastic access so that you can prop up a camp chair and dip your feet in the water.
If you are camping, remember to bring bear spray and stash your food properly. Just based on experience of hearing a bear right outside our tent at night while camping here.
Lake Valhalla is nested along the Pacific Crest Trail in Stevens Pass. You can approach Valhalla one of two ways; we hiked along the PCT, which is longer but allows you to enjoy a stretch of the famous trail. The round trip is approximately 7 miles, although you can extend your hike by summiting Mt. McCausland.
Lake Valhalla itself is beautiful and inviting to swimming, floating, and other activities; we even saw people riding inflatable SUP boards along the lake. The area around the lake features multiple campsites.
Situated in Stevens Pass, Dorothy Lake is the first of three consecutive lakes connected by trail. The hike to the lake is only two short miles, although you climb a decent amount in those two miles. Once you arrive at Dorothy Lake, you can camp directly on the water – or at least savor lunch on the shore. The lake is perfect for dogs and kids – this is where Ollie transformed into a full-fledged adventure dog.
Bear Lake and Deer Lake lie a few more miles beyond Dorothy Lake, allowing you to hike up to 11 miles. These hikes include some bigger water crossings, which can be tricky during wetter months of the year. It’s fun to set up base camp at Dorothy Lake and then explore around more without the weight of a heavy pack.
Find more hikes in Washington state here.
Do you enjoy hiking?
Do you prefer waterfalls, lakes, or summits?