10 Awesome Beginner Backpacking Trips In Washington State (Not Just for Newbies!)

Post Summary: 10 Beginner Backpacking Trips In Washington State

Backpacking trips are one of our favorite ways to enjoy the Pacific Northwest summer. Serene lakes, breathtaking mountain ranges, and the peaceful bliss of nature make it feel like your soul is refreshed on trips like these!

If you are curious about backpacking but don’t know where to begin your trip planning, you’ve come to the right place! We’re sharing our top 10 favorite beginner backpacking trips in Washington to get your feet wet (quite literally, sometimes). Let’s go!

The Best Beginner Backpacking Trips In Washington State

Beginner Backpacking Resources

Before we start our list of top beginner backpacking trips in Washington State, you’re going to want to save these next few blog posts. These are incredibly helpful guides to assist you in backpacking gear, trail tips, and so much more!

Beginner Backpacking Trips in Washington State

1. Ancient Lakes (Wenatchee Area)

  • Region: Central Washington – Potholes Region
  • Distance: 12 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: ~650 feet
  • Best Season: Spring, early summer (it gets HOT in the peak summer months)

Get a desert experience without having to leave the state! Ancient Lakes in Central Washington feels like you’ve been transported into the gorgeous canyons of Utah, but it’s only 2.5 hours away from Seattle.

Come and see this geological wonder by hiking through a recessional-cataract canyon, beautiful lakes, and numerous trails around the area.

There are several routes to the Ancient Lakes Basin, and it all depends on your preference. One route leads to Judith Pool and the others are Upper and Lower trails, with abundant desert plant life, views, and geological wonders.

It’s one of the best beginner backpacking trips in Washington state to do in the early camping season – April and May.

Note: The lakes are unsafe for filtering water, so pack in enough clean water for your entire trip.

2. Barclay Lake

  • Region: Stevens Pass Area (Highway 2)
  • Distance: 4.4 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: ~250 feet
  • Best Season: Summer

Barclay Lake is an easy and beautiful hike near Seattle, but did you know that you can camp there, too? This is a perfect short Washington backpacking trip for families because it’s just 4.4-miles roundtrip! There is little elevation gain, but the end result is camping by the lake, so you can’t get much more Pacific Northwest than this!

This region gets quite a bit of rainfall every year, so come prepared to encounter rain showers even if the forecast doesn’t say so! Make sure to pick up a Northwest Forest Pass and put it in your car’s dashboard before hiking out of the campsite. Otherwise, the fee is $5/day/vehicle!

Confused on what Pacific Northwest forest pass to get? Read our entire guide of PNW Forest passes here!

The Best Backpacking Trips in Washington For Beginners

3. La Push Second Beach

  • Region: Washington Coast near Forks, WA
  • Distance: 0.7 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: ~100 feet
  • Best Season: Summer, Fall

If you’ve ever been curious about camping on Washington beaches, Second Beach in La Push is the perfect way to get your feet wet (literally!).

It’s one of the best beginner backpacking trips in Washington State for it’s short distance, beautiful views, and simple permit process.

Second Beach is a short trail to a secluded cove, with prime camping real estate among the driftwood logs. Come for beach bonfires with your friends, and to watch epic summer sunsets behind the sea stacks just offshore. It’s one of the best short backpacking trips in Washington, easy for beginners and families!

This beach requires a camping permit, so make sure to pick one up (and a bear canister!) at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles or Lake Quinault Ranger Station.

Read The Full Camping Guide Here: Beach Camping Tips For An Overnight Trip to La Push Beach

4. Ozette Triangle

  • Region: Olympic National Park (Coast)
  • Distance: 9.7 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: ~550 feet
  • Best Season: Late Spring, Summer, Early Fall

If you want a beginner backpacking trip in Washington that is more than just an overnighter, consider hiking the Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park. This trail leads you through the thick temperate rainforest of Washington and out to a quiet section of the Washington Coast.

You’ll camp on the shore, meander on forest boardwalks, and hike alongside some of the most primitive and beautiful Washington beaches. On your way out, don’t forget to stop by Cape Flattery trail – it’s the most northwest corner of the lower 48 states!

Loved hiking the Ozette Loop? Next, try backpacking to Shi Shi Beach or hike up Rialto Beach!

5. Enchanted Valley (Olympic National Park)

  • Region: Olympic National Park
  • Distance: 26 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
  • Best Season: Summer, Early Fall

One of the coolest pieces of Olympic National Park history is nestled along the East Fork Quinault River Trail called the Enchanted Valley. This fun beginner backpacking trail in Washington leads you to a backcountry chalet, originally meant as a resting place for tired travelers dating all the way back to the 1930s.

It was once turned into an aircraft warning station during World War II and is occasionally used as an emergency shelter and ranger station, but it needs to be moved to a new location before it can provide full services again. Regardless, this rugged cabin with the snow-capped mountains in the background makes for an incredibly beautiful backpacking trail stop!

Plan A Bigger Trip To The Coast: The Complete Olympic Peninsula Road Trip (With Itinerary!)

6. High Divide – Seven Lakes Basin Loop

  • Region: Olympic National Park
  • Distance: 19-mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 5,308 feet
  • Best Season: Summer, Fall

If you are interested in Washington beginner backpacking trips in the Olympics with a little bit more elevation, consider the High Divide – Seven Lakes Basin Loop.

This is a great ‘first challenge’ for hikers who want to test out higher elevation camping. This route provides stargazing nights (if it’s clear!), gorgeous wildflower fields, and several sub-alpine lakes to enjoy.

This is a very popular Olympic National Park backpacking trail, and the park encourages advanced reservations between May 1st and September 30th. Half of the campsites are reserved for walk-up permit goers, so you could also try your hand at snagging a last-minute permit, but come with a backup plan too just in case!

Loved backpacking the Seven Lakes Basin? Next, try and snag a permit for the Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness!

7. Hidden Lake Lookout

  • Region: North Cascades National Park
  • Distance: 8 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 3,300 feet
  • Best Season: Summer, Early Fall

Fire Lookouts in Washington are one of the coolest summer mountain experiences, and you can have your very own at Hidden Lake Lookout! This trail in North Cascades National Park is quite popular, with no permit necessary to stay overnight at the lookout as it actually sits right out of the park borders.

However, it’s first-come-first-serve to snag a spot inside the structure, so come early and during the weekdays to get the best chance of having it to yourself. While the lookout doesn’t require permits, permits ARE required to camp between the lake and the ridge, so come prepared with alternative plans and reservations if your heart is set on this epic beginner backpacking trip in Washington.

Loved hiking to Hidden Lake Lookout? Next, try backpacking to Sahale Glacier Camp, located on the same access road in the North Cascades!

8. Gem Lake / Snow Lake

  • Region: Snoqualmie Pass Area
  • Distance: 11 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
  • Best Season: Summer, Fall (watch out for mosquitos!)

Snow Lake is one of the most popular Washington hiking trails, but if you wanted to make it an overnighter, you can hike one lake farther to camp for the night.

Hike past Snow Lake to the smaller Gem Lake for solitude and some pretty beautiful summer sunsets. This turquoise blue water is swimmable, so jump in after a long day on the trail!

This is one of the best beginner backpacking trips in Washington state for its convenience to Seattle, and attainable miles to elevation ratio for a good challenge (but not too difficult!). No reservations are necessary, but you must display a Northwest Forest Pass in your car before heading up to the lake.

Check out this popular nearby hike: Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

9. Lena Lake

  • Region:  Southeast Olympic National Park
  • Distance: 7.2-mile round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
  • Best Season: Summer and Fall

The trip to Lena Lake is some of the best backpacking in Washington for any level of hikers. The trail starts out with switchbacks up into the forest, where old-growth forests and towering trees provide a wilderness solace for all. Camp at the lake’s edge and enjoy the quiet moments tucked away in the Olympics.

If you’re looking for a classic Pacific Northwest weekend, this might be one of the best Washington beginner backpacking trips for you!

Read More: Forest Bathing – Why You Should Trip This Natural ASMR Experience On Your Next Hike

1. Gothic Basin & Foggy Lake

  • Region: North Cascades / Mountain Loop Highway
  • Distance: 9.2 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,840 feet
  • Best Season: Summer

Gothic Basin is one of the easier-to-reach by car backpacking trips in Washington State if you live near Seattle. Although we wouldn’t truly call this a backpacking trip for beginners, it’s a nice challenge for those who are ready to take the next step, difficulty-wise. We added it to the list because the permit-free camping and convenience from Seattle are very appealing for beginners.

Located on the Mountain Loop Highway (Granite Falls, WA) this trek is a great overnighter for those who want to try mountain camping.

There are steep sections, a waterfall, and a mountain pass (with views of the Monte Cristo area peaks) for a condensed backpacking adventure. Expect a scramble, sections of wildflowers, and possible snow in the early season. Camping is permit-free but come early to snag a spot, as it’s a popular place, especially on the weekends.

Explore More of the Area: 30+ Incredible Hikes in Washington State

What are some of your favorite beginner backpacking trips in Washington State? Share them with others in the comments below!