Washington state is a place of unparalleled beauty and, for the hikers and climbers amongst us, some of the greatest mountains in the entirety of the country. The Olympic National Forest, North Cascades, and other areas offer a rich variety of experiences that allow everyone from the novice to the experienced to enjoy something challenging but also something doable and something that will offer spectacular rewards in terms of lush and vibrant landscapes and sweeping mountaintop vistas.
If you’ve been waiting to hike in Washington, then wait no longer. Start planning your next summer climbing adventure by taking a look at the following seven best mountains to climb in Washington State.
Situated east of Snoqualmie and north of Tanner, Mt. Si is undoubtedly the most popular mountain hike and climb in all of Washington as it sees an annual of 100,000 visitors every year.
Height: 4,167 ft
Length of climb: Eight miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 3,100 feet. Most visitors average a day trip time of five to seven hours.
Level of difficulty: Easy up to Haystack Basin landing from which it’s about a 500-foot scramble to the summit. This last portion can be dangerous and should be attempted only by experienced and readied climbers.
Equipment Needed: Basic hiking gear and only technical gear if you aim to do the final Haystack scramble up
When the best time to go is? Early in the morning if you hope to score a good parking spot.
Snowpack info: Snowshoes and crampons are likely only to be needed in heavy snowpack years.
Pros: Being only a 45-minute drive from Seattle and short enough in mileage and elevation to be a day trip, this mountain is a great climb for novices or for those who want something that can be done with minimal planning and effort.
Cons: The same things that we’ve listed as pros also have their cons as this is a very busy trail and you will encounter a lot of other hikers, big groups, and dog owners on this mountain.
Trappers Peak rises above the Thorton Lakes Basin in the heart of the North Cascades.
Height: 5,970 ft.
Length of climb: 10.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,900 feet.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Equipment Needed: Equipment will depend upon whether you try and tackle this as a long, exciting day hike or enjoy a more relaxing overnight backpacking trip with a camp set up at the gorgeous Thorton Lakes
When the best time to go is? Mid-July to mid-September
Snowpack info: Most of Trappers Peak and the rest of the North Cascades will remain covered deep in the snow until mid-summer.
Pros: While the trail up this ridge is relatively moderate, those who partake of it will enjoy some of the most beautiful and rugged mountainscapes to be found in the entire country. And if the views along the route aren’t beautiful enough, those at the summit are simply spectacular with clouds rolling across peaks and pinnacles.
Cons: A trail this beautiful unsurprisingly is one that is often trekked. Overnight campers will have to seek out permitting when entering and there are only three campsite permits given each day — so arrive early.
Mount Rainier is the iconic Washington volcano that rises up at the heart of Mt. Rainer National Park, just southeast of Seattle proper. This is the tallest mountain in the Cascades and the state and it is its image on found on ever state license plate and many iconic postcards.
Height: 14,410 ft.
Length of climb: Depending upon the route you take, it is possible to make the climb to the summit and back again within two or three days, most will opt for four to five days. The popular Emmons Glacier Route consists of a 4.5-mile hike and then a vertical climb up. For want a longer, more wilderness-oriented adventure, opt for the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile (9-12 days) circumnavigation and climb up Mt. Rainier.
Level of difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Equipment Needed: Backpacking and mountaineering equipment are essential, as well as a glacier rig as you will encounter several glaciers.
When the best time to go is? July through September
Snowpack info: Checking the winter snowpack is essential before planning an early spring or late fall trip as some early snowstorms can make certain trails inaccessible as early as the first week of October.
Pros: Mt. Rainier and specifically Mt. Rainer by the Wonderland Trail is a route of unparalleled beauty and a trek that every backpacker should put on their bucket list.
Cons: Permits can be hard to obtain with some being offered on a lottery basis and others only available as walk-ins and only if conditions are right and few others have chosen the same time as you. Be sure to contact the ranger’s station before you go to learn more about how they issue permits and what the local conditions are.
This is the second-highest mountain in Washington state and can be found just east of St. Helens and a little over halfway into the Yakima Indian Reservation.
Height: 12,276 ft.
Length of climb: 12 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 6,700 feet, best done over the course of two days.
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate depending upon one’s experience
Equipment Needed: The glaciers that used to top Mt. Adams have significantly shrunk in the last half-century and has made the most popular route a nontechnical one (meaning no ropes or technical climbing gear necessary). While it is possible to hike within one full day, most are advised to bring camp gear and set base at the 9,500-ft designated campsite.
When the best time to go is? Late spring to early fall
Snowpack info: Rain and snow may occur throughout the year with perennial snowfields existing throughout the route.
Pros: Situated deep into the Pacific wilderness, this is a great hike for those who prefer solitude and want to enjoy sweeping mountain views in every direction.
Cons: As it is within the Yakima Indian Reserve, you will need multiple permits from both the reservation and state wilderness authorities. Quickly changing weather patterns can significantly change the difficulty and enjoyability of the climb.
Mt. Baker lies in the western portion of Washington’s North Cascades National Park.
Height: 10,778 ft.
Length of climb: 5.5 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 7,000 ft.
Level of difficulty: Moderately difficult, it’s advisable for climbers to have some technical mountaineering experience before tackling Mt. Baker.
Equipment Needed: Standard climbing and glacier equipment, including wands and ice axes.
When the best time to go is? May through August
Snowpack info: Snow and ice exist throughout the year and avalanches can occur at any time, including summer. As such, it’s advisable to make a base camp at a mid-point and aim to hit the summit around sunrise.
Pros: It is possible to do the entire climb in a single day so long as you get an early start. The summit provides exceptional views on clear, sunny days.
Cons: This is a strenuous trek and only those with serious mountaineering skills should consider going without a guide.
Mt. St. Helens
Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano and rises up in the northwestern part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Height: 8,365 ft
Length of climb: 10.5 miles roundtrip over a 4450 ft elevation gain
Level of difficulty: Generally considered difficult, active and athletic climbing novices may also enjoy this trip. There are no technical climbing aspects to train/be skilled for.
Equipment Needed: Bring your hiking essentials in addition to those necessary by the weather, i.e. ice ax and/or crampons may or may not be needed depending upon the time and conditions you go. Most complete the round trip within 7 to 12 hours, so bring headlamps.
When the best time to go is? Late spring to early fall
Snowpack info: Varying during the year, at the height of summer climbers may not experience any.
Pros: This is a good hike for athletic climbing novices as there are no technical climbing aspects, but visitors still get to enjoy ending at the mountain’s summit.
Cons: Negotiating around boulders can get rough on your ankles. Wear footwear with good ankle support and, despite the short distance, plan for a potential 12-hour journey (i.e. bring headlamps).
This mountain rises up at the center of the Olympic Peninsula that juts out on Washington state’s northeastern corner.
Height: 7,980 ft
Length of climb: The standard approach to this mountain is by the Hoh River Trail, which is 17.5 miles from trailhead to Glacier Meadows. From a Glacier Meadows base camp, it’s a short climb to the top.
Level of difficulty: Good for beginner climbers
Equipment Needed: General hiking and camping gear as well as technical climbing gear as well as an ice ax, crampons, and other snow-oriented essentials.
When the best time to go is? Late June through early September
Snowpack info: You will encounter snow near the summit no matter when you go. Winter hiking and climbing is discouraged due to high avalanche danger.
Pros: The hike to Glacier meadows is just as gorgeous as the climb to the summit. Nature lovers will love passing through the unique temperate rainforest, old-growth trees, and alpine lakes.
Cons: Bad weather conditions can change this relative beginner experience into a high-risk one. Do not attempt in poor weather or during the winter.