There are not one, not two, but three stunning national parks in Washington State. Each has its own character and beauty, and all three are definitely worth the visit.
And if you’re wondering how you could possibly choose which hikes to do to explore their beauty, we have you covered on the best ones to do so you don’t have to spend hours researching.
Hiking the National Parks in Washington State
With so many mind-blowing hikes in Washington, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start! This list of the best hikes in National Parks in Washington State combines all the elements needed for a hike you’ll never forget – stunning views, points of interest, grand finales, and that classic Washington scenery you’ll start to fall in love with.
Here are two epic hikes in each of the national parks in Washington State so you can get a taste of each park and start to build your itinerary for a fantastic vacation.
Olympic National Park
A couple of hours from Seattle and Tacoma and across the Salish Sea from Victoria, British Columbia Canada, Olympic National Park illustrates the diversity of land of the Pacific Northwest.
Over a million acres, the park includes the iconic Mt. Olympus, hiking trails along 70 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline and rainforests, and a vast wilderness with varied ecosystems.
If your time in the area is short, it’s one of the national parks in Washington State that you can do as a day trip from Seattle. And bonus, you can definitely do Olympic National Park with kids in tow!
1. Hole in the Wall Trail
3.3 miles, rated moderate
Rialto Beach’s Hole in the Wall Trail seems to bring you the best parts of the Washington coast in just over 3 miles. There are tide pools, cliffs, sea stacks, crazy rock formations, and crashing waves. It’s beautiful when the weather is nice, but even when it is not so nice, it just adds to the moody, atmospheric area. (This is the Washington Coast, after all!)
Rialto Beach is a stunning beach in the Olympic National Park, filled with colossal driftwood logs, yet comes with the added benefit of easy access. Most of the trail takes place on this beach, which means you can only walk it during low tide (make a note of this, you don’t want to be disappointed).
Start this hike by walking 1.5 miles along the shore of the beach until you reach the feature that the hike is all about, the hole in the wall! Snap some pictures, yes, including that iconic ‘through the hole’ shot, before coming back the way you came.
TIP: This might seem like a beach walk but definitely wear good shoes. Your shoes will get wet, and it will be quite cold. The rocks around the tidepools are also slippery. So wearing your hiking shoes is a good call.
Also, don’t forget to complete this hike within one or two hours before or after low tide. If you come during high tide, you won’t be able to reach the hole in the wall or be able to go tide pooling.
2. Mount Storm King
5.3 miles, rated difficult
After your stroll on the beach, you’ll have to see what Olympic National Park offers when you’re off the coast. A favorite is Mount Storm King. During this leg burner, you’ll be able to take in the park in all its glory and understand why thousands of people flock to the trails year after year. For a day hike, you get to see so much, including incredible views over Lake Crescent and beyond, once you reach your lofty peak.
After starting flat, you quickly begin to climb. We are talking around a 2000 foot elevation gain in 2.5 miles. There are little glimpses of the view as you make your way up, but these are just a tease of what is to come. Before you get to the vista, you’ll have to tackle the trickier climbing elements. This hike gets interesting after you pass the “not maintained” sign of the trail, and you have to climb up a rock face using a sketchy rope.
There’s even a “graveyard” of gloves at the rope section for you to borrow to assist you up to the narrow summit. It’s a bit hairy, but that adds to the sense of adventure! Once you make it, you’ll be rewarded with epic vistas over Lake Cresent. The summit is narrow so coming early means you won’t have to wait in a line to even make it to the summit. However, be extra careful as there are sketchy cliffs on either side of you up here.
TIP: Definitely take the quick and easy detour to Marymere Falls. You’ve already started it since this 2-mile detour shares the same trailhead as Mount Storm King. However, save this add-on after you conquer Mount Storm King.
Mount Rainier National Park
Another one of the National Parks in Washington State near Seattle, Mountain Rainier’s Peak, is one of the region’s icons, featured in so many images of the Pacific Northwest. This national park is 263,000 acres around Mount Rainier and offers stunning views, a summer wildflower field, and fantastic hiking. Here are two of the best trail for your visit!
3. Skyline Trail Loop
6.2 miles, rated difficult
The Skyline Trail is one of the most hiked trails in Mount Rainier National Park, and for a good reason. Once you have seen the views this trail offers once, you will be greedy to see even more. On just this one hike, you’ll take in incredible Mount Rainier views waterfalls, and you’ll also pass fields of flowers while looking at the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountains.
The highlight of this trail has to be Panorama Point. When the wildflowers are in their full force, you’ll be blown away by the vibrant meadows. Mount Rainier, of course, dominates the background, but the Nisqually glacier, Mount Adams, Tatoosh Peaks, Mount Hood, and Mount Saint Helens all make their mark.
You can take the trail in either direction as it’s a loop, and both are great. Clockwise will take you to the viewpoint first, meaning a short, sharp climb, while the other approach is more gradual.
TIP: Keep a sharp out for wildlife! Bears, marmots, goats, and foxes are seen wandering this area.
4. Mount Freemont Lookout Trail
5.7 miles, rated moderate
The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail well and truly has you covered on epic views of Mount Rainier. Although fairly steep, it is not too difficult, it is not too long, and the reward is epic! This is one of the best trails if you want to get a lot of bang for your buck.
The first part of the trail will take you along the Sourdough Ridge Trail, slowly climbing along the ridge before the view reveals itself. Of course, the higher you climb, the better the view.
Pass Frozen Lake and keep climbing, and soon you’ll see the lookout far off in the distance. Keep going; it is worth it! But do watch your step. This part of the trail is narrow, with traffic going in both directions. The terrain is shards of rock that create an unstable path, and there is a cliff to one side of you!
Soon enough, you’ll reach the fire lookout tower; you will have made it! The views are incredible, so drink it all in before turning back and making your way back down.
TIP: Be prepared for adorable chipmunks at the top, which will try to steal your lunch. Also, note that entrance to the tower is not allowed; you can only walk around it.
North Cascades National Park
At three hours one way, North Cascades, one of the National Parks in Washington State that’s harder to do as a day trip. That being said, if you’d love to visit Alaska’s national parks but can’t make it there yet, North Cascades National Park is a more accessible option that will give you a lot of the same type of scenery. That’s because its landscape features jagged peaks and tree-dense forests with waters and glaciers – – more than any U.S. National Park outside of Alaska.
5. Maple Pass Trail
7.4 miles, rated difficult
The Maple Pass Trail has to be one of the most stunning hikes in the whole of the Cascades. It offers impressive lakeside views, scenic overlooks, forested paths, and some climbs while surrounded by spectacular peaks.
For the first part of the trail, you’ll be hiking through beautiful meadows and forests. Then, as you begin climbing, the views start to emerge. Although you are not actually within the park boundaries, you’ll have views of what seems like the whole of the Cascades as you tower high above Ann Lake.
You’ll be doing a circuit around the lake with the option to make a quick detour down to the shores. Keep an eye out for local wildlife like cute little Marmots catching some rays along the rocks. Mountain views are in abundance; you really won’t know where to look; whether it’s the rugged peak of Cutthroat Mountain or Glacier Peak in the distance, it is a stunning hike!
TIP: Hike this trail counterclockwise for a gradual climb, but do know that means a steep descent. Alternatively, the clockwise way will have your thighs burning on the way up but will be easier on the knees on your way down.
6. Chain Lakes Loop Trail
7.1 miles, rated moderate
See the beauty of not one but many incredible alpine lakes on the Chain Lake Loops Trail, with a couple of flower-filled meadows and mountain views thrown in for good measure. Compared to many other Cascades trails, the hike is very ‘doable,’ so expect to see all types of hikers making the most of this incredible hike.
Iceberg Lake is the perfect place for a picnic, and Mazama Lake, although small, has some of the best views of Table Mountain. Haye Lake has views no matter what shore you are on and has a few places to camp. The last lakes are the Bagley Lakes on your way back down the loop, which you will see as you descend from Herman Saddle.
Not only will you be able to take in these stunning lakes, but the views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan are incredible. The loop can start at Heather Meadows or Artist Point, making it easy to fit into your itinerary.
TIP: There’s a totally open toilet overlooking Iceberg Lake if you want the best view while peeing. You can also add on a bit more mileage if you wander around the trails at Bagley Lakes.
Stay A While and Explore the National Parks in Washington State
So if you’re thinking about a trip to explore all that Seattle and Tacoma have to offer, think about staying for a while so you can explore all that the National Parks in Washington State has to offer.