Have you ever gone out hiking, only to be utterly and helplessly unprepared?
Don’t worry, we’ve been there too.
We’ve gotten soaked in a torrential downpour with no raincoat and only packed one granola bar for an 8-mile hike. We’ve even carried too much in our backpacks and really paid the price the next morning.
But how do you avoid these blunders, and know how to prepare for them in the first place? Let’s just say we learned the hard lessons of hiking in the Pacific Northwest so you don’t have to! In this post, we’re covering Pacific Northwest hiking essentials you may need on your next trail!
Pacific Northwest hikes are some of the most beautiful in the entire world. Washington state hikes provide stunning views, Oregon has beautiful hidden PNW hot springs, and Canada boasts both epic and easy hikes that attract millions every year!
In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about hiking in the Pacific Northwest, which trails to choose from, and what to pack for your next adventure on the PNW trails.
Read on for juicy details on how you can stop scrolling and start strolling! (Bad joke! haha)
The Ultimate Guide To Hiking In The Pacific Northwest
Hiking in the Pacific Northwest is one of the best ways you can experience the true beauty of this unique area.
There’s something about the combination of our fresh air, the unpredictable weather, and an ever-present moodiness that makes for great experiences all over this region.
Helpful Resources For PNW Trails
First of all, let’s get you started on some essential knowledge.
Read some of our past posts and other helpful tools to familiarize yourself with the places you want to go and things you’d like to see when hiking in the Pacific Northwest.
There are so many things to see and do…trust me – it will help you if you narrow it down and really zone in on a specific area of the PNW!
Some Of Our Favorite PNW Adventures:
- 101 Things To Do In The Pacific Northwest
- The Essential PNW Bucket List for 2017
- 20 Jaw-Dropping Hikes In The Pacific Northwest
- Hiking Mount Storm King, Olympic National Park
- 10 Insanely Beautiful Washington State Trails
Best Pacific Northwest Gear Posts:
- Perfect Winter Coats For Those Cold PNW Hikes
- Beginners Backpacking Gear List (For Your First Trip!)
- 7 Adventurous Travel Bags Perfect For Your Next Adventure
- What To Pack For The Washington Coast
Crazy Beautiful Photo Locations In The PNW:
- Best Photo Spots In Washington State
- Soak In This Hidden Washington Hot Springs
- Hiking Colchuck Lake in The Cascade Mountains
Packing For Your Pacific Northwest Hike
Now, before we get started, this hiking list is a little different than the 10 general hiking essentials.
We wanted to make a list of necessities for specifically hiking in the Pacific Northwest because we think this place requires a different set of gear and supplies*!
*We’re also not talking about backpacking trips in this post. (That’s a whole other post for another time). We’re talking about day hikes with your friends – the kind that you can accomplish in a half day, a full day – not overnight.
If you’re looking for tips on how to be prepared for the trail without taking yourself too seriously, keep reading!
Yes, we know. It rains here.
However, you still need sun protection (See myth #5 on this CNN Report). If you’re like me, I don’t like to carry around a big bottle when I know I’m only going to use a little bit of it.
Therefore, my go-to’s are travel-sized bottles of your favorite brand.
This way, there’s no excuse not to pack it because it takes up practically no space. I also like to use this tiny sunscreen stick and keep it in my purse for an easy and convenient application.
2. Good Hiking Shoes
Shoes are probably the most important item you need to consider when hiking in the Pacific Northwest (and really anywhere else, too).
We’ve learned from experience that shoes can make or break a good day on the trail.
Make sure to hike with a pair that’s been broken in.
Before your hike, wear them around the house or out running errands for a few days. Also, consider what type of trail you are going to take – you may be better off in these sturdy sandals!
Also, it’s important to know that you don’t need $300 expert mountaineering shoes just to take your 2-mile lake hike.
It’s most likely the case that your favorite pair of tennis shoes will work just fine too. Just make sure they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
If you are looking to buy a pair of good hiking shoes, we recommend finding some with good ankle support and make sure to try them on with a thick pair of socks to get the right size fit.
3. Light Layers
As we’re hiking, Berty and I always seem to peel off layer after layer as we go further up the mountain.
It’s a pain in the butt to continually pack bulky, heavy items in my bag so I like to opt for clothing that is light but also keeps my core temperature stable.
Like we said in point #1, it’s important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays all times of the year, not just in the summertime.
Personally, I like to go a little more stylish with this one.
It really doesn’t matter the type you wear – they all protect you from the sun! Below, I’ve attached some of my top picks – ranging from stylish to functional and everything in between.
5. Rain Jacket
Hiking in the Pacific Northwest, it’s always a good idea to have a rain jacket (and we’ve listed our favorites here!). Seattle averages about 152 days of rain a year, totaling 37 inches annually.
While that may not seem like a lot compared to other places (New Orleans get 62 inches and Miami gets 61) it’s more of a consistent wet and humidity here.
As you can see in the chart below, every month of the year gets rain, but it’s more often in the colder, winter months.
In rain jackets, Berty and I look for actual waterproofing (rather than just water resistant) and a jacket that has inside pockets to keep gear dry. Here are some really good options for your next outing:
6. Water Bottle
“A hydrated camper is a happy camper” – Cheesy, I know. But I used to work at a summer camp and we always told the kids this phrase. It rings true for adult campers too!
Staying hydrated gives you energy and keeps you alert on the trails.
Something we like to look for in a water bottle is a skinny barrel (that can fit into practically any backpack side pocket) and some kind of hook-ability so I can latch it on a carabiner for easy storage.
We’re sharing our favorite brands here:
7. Lightweight Backpack
A lightweight backpack allows you to be hands-free when hiking in the Pacific Northwest.
You don’t need a huge backpacking backpack. We would actually suggest that you NOT bring a backpacking backpack on day hike – that is, unless you’re training for something specific.
Something with comfortable straps, side pockets, and *bonus* waterproofing should do the trick.
We like to bring a variety of bags (Like these ultra-stylish backpack options) but we are always looking for something with an easy-access front pocket so we can quickly pull out our phone to snap some pictures!
Here are some we’ve been loving lately:
This one varies for everybody. Your phone camera can be sufficient enough (helloooo less weight!) or you can choose to pack DSLR camera like us.
The great thing about using a smartphone on the trail, is that you can download hiking apps to enrich your hike too. You can use them for GPS tracking, route planning, and have tons of information about the trail at your fingertips!
If you’re curious about what gear we pack for our travel photography adventures, read this post here!
Being hangry is a real thing, folks.
we always get hungry between meals so we have a steady stock of energy bars ready to shove in a bag and head out the door.
We like to buy them in bulk (they are cheaper that way) and there are many choices at places like Costco, or even online.
The most important part of any adventure is the people you spend it with. We wrote a post on the best PNW locations to go with you friends based on your Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
It’s definitely worth a read! Hiking with friends in a great opportunity to make memories together and get to know someone a little bit better!
Read More: 8 Vital Reasons To Travel With Your Friends
Headlamps are helpful if you are trying to accomplish a sunrise hike (and wake up at 2am to begin) or are waiting at the top for sunset (and will be hiking down in the dark).
If you are not wanting to distort your night vision, try and find a style that has a red-light feature.
Otherwise, there’s not much difference between them in our opinion. Go to REI with $20-$40, try on as many as you like, and pick your favorite.
Our Favorite Pacific Northwest Hiking Trails
Now that you’re prepared for your next adventure, you just need to get outside! Here are just some of our favorite trails for hiking in the Pacific Northwest:
Scenic Hot Springs
This amazing hidden hot springs in Washington state still leaves us breathless!
A once abandoned ski bum hangout turned private outdoor soak is a popular place for everyone from photographers to hot springs hunters in the Pacific Northwest.
Located just south of the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington, Colchuck Lake hike is an incredibly rewarding hike in the Pacific Northwest.
This 8-mile trail is the perfect mix of challenging, rewarding, and a great taste to what you can experience in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.
Come early during sunrise to watch the lake light up with brilliant colors, or get a permit and stay overnight to experience it at all hours of the day.
Koosah and Sahalie Falls
Easy and convenient, this two-for-one hike connects both waterfalls in an easy and beautiful loop trail. Overlooks and viewpoints are scattered all throughout the trail making this an incredible place to take pictures.
Come during the winter to capture this area in the classic Pacific Northwest gloom and don’t forget your raincoat! Standing even just a little bit close to Sahalie Falls guarantees and head to toe soaking from the spray. 🙂
Mount Storm King
If you’re looking for insane elevation gains to trade for insane views, this is the hike for you. Mount Storm King is just as epic as it sounds.
Walking through the dense Olympic National Park rainforest and holding onto ropes to avoid falling off the cliff are just some things you can look forward to on this trail!
Have you ever been hiking in the Pacific Northwest? What has been your favorite trail? We’re always looking for new routes to take so I’d love to hear what has been your favorite!
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Want More PNW Travel Tips? Read These:
Follow our Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for even more hiking inspiration!