Hikes in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the premier outdoor adventure destinations of Washington State, comprising over 1.7 million acres of pristine scenery. The forests are anchored by the towering Mount Baker and Glacier Peak, which rise thousands of feet above the adjacent peaks. With wide carpets of colorful wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and old-growth forests, this park is a dream for hikers and adventurers of all ages and one of the most visited sites in the Pacific Northwest. With 62% of the state’s population living within a 112.7 km drive of the forest, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is the most visited national forest in the country. Hikers, bikers, snowshoers, and campers flock here.
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest was established beginning in 1897 and finalized in 1974. Sections of the park, mostly the north and east, are exceptionally rugged and protect over 600,000 acres of old-growth forest. With protected wilderness areas covering nearly half of the forest’s area, the natural beauty of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie can be preserved for generations to come and the flora and fauna of the region can enjoy a permanent haven.
All you have to do now is pick your adventure! With a wide array of trails to hike, we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to help you plan your trip. This is just the start, though- there’s so much to see here!
12 Epic Hikes in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
There are so many hikes to choose from in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, it can be daunting to try and choose! We’ve picked out some of our favorite trails in all corners of the park to help you start to plan your adventure.
There is a trail for every hiker here. There are family-friendly trails, ADA-accessible trails, more challenging hikes, and long multi-day backpacking trips on offer, so you’ll be able to choose the right one no matter what you’re seeking. With lots of ancient trees to see and plenty of waterfalls hidden in the forests, you’ll enjoy a distinctly Pacific Northwest feel on most of these hikes. If you’re looking for an epic summit ascent, you can find that too! Or, if you’re just wanting to get some steps in with a stroller, you can do just that.
No matter which hike you take, you’ll be treated to splendid views of the Cascades, countless flowers, waterfalls, clear lakes, and mossy forests.
- Lake 22 Trail: The hike on Lake 22 is a popular choice in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, and for good reason. This moderate hike is doable for many skill levels, the lake is serene, and the forest leading up to the lake is mature and beautiful.
- Franklin Falls Trail: Waterfall hikes are some of the best to enjoy in Washington, and Franklin Falls Trail is hugely popular with locals and visitors to the area alike. This simple, quick trail is a joy for families and hikers of all levels. With no difficult or technical sections and only modest elevation gain, little ones and beginners are especially likely to enjoy this trail.
- Rattlesnake Ledge Trail: This trail begins at the calm shores of Rattlesnake Lake and climbs up the side of Rattlesnake Mountain to a ledge with a jaw-dropping view. The Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is a bang-for-your-buck outing and a great choice for hikers who want elevated views. While delivering a great viewpoint, you won’t need to contend with any technically difficult sections.
- Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene: Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene are two stunning viewpoints that occupy the same trail, making for a very impressive hike. While this hike is considered strenuous by many, the cascading falls and the peaceful lakeshore are worth the effort.
- Wallace Falls via Woody Trail: Wallace Falls is a gorgeous set of 9 waterfalls in the lush forest, offering a tranquil slice of paradise. The falls are a massively popular destination in the state, and they see plenty of visitors each week as a result. Don’t let this sway you- if you’re able to go outside of peak hours, you’re almost guaranteed to have a wonderful trip.
- Mailbox Peak Trail: What’s in the mailbox? Besides the trail register, sometimes it’s toys, sometimes it’s beer, sometimes it’s just some ants looking for shelter. The Mailbox Peak Trail leads you to a viewpoint adorned with a sticker-clad mailbox where hikers from all over leave goodies for the next groups up.
- Snow Lake: Some days you want to sweat it out, but some days you just want the views without needing to exhaust yourself, right? Snow Lake is perfect for hikers who want a maximum reward for a moderate effort. This is the most visited lake in the region, and its crystalline waters flanked by a mountain ridge will enchant you.
- Blanca Lake: Blanca Lake is mesmerizing, with that classic alpine opaque aqua-green color (thanks to the minerals in the water) and a grand frame of mountains behind it, including Monte Cristo, Columbia, and Keyes mountains. It’s a beautiful spot that draws plenty of hikers.
- Granite Mountain: The summit of Granite Mountain offers excellent views, and the trail to the top is sure to deliver in terms of a workout. While we don’t recommend this trail for newer hikers because of the consistent, hefty elevation gain, if you’re ready to sweat, you’ll be rewarded.
- Summit Lake Trail: Summit Lake is a local go-to for hikers looking to take their visiting friends and family out, a testament to its accessible but still rewarding nature. With a moderate effort required, you can savour views of Mount Rainier rising over the blue waters of the lake. An endless panorama of peaks surrounds this view, making it a knockout objective.
- Mount Si Trail: A truly staggering number of people hike Mount Si Trail every year, and for good reason- it’s beautiful, and it’s reasonably close to Seattle. This hike is a solid workout, gaining 945 m in just under 6.4 km. It’s enough of a challenge for stronger hikers, but many novice hikers choose Mount Si as their first “hard” hike.
- Kendall Katwalk Trail: Kendall Katwalk Trail is an undeniably impressive hike. This 19.3 km trail climbs a catwalk (er, katwalk) blasted onto the side of a mountain for unbelievable views of Gold Creek Valley and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It’s a favorite for adrenaline junkies and hikers perpetually on the hunt for the next-best views.
Scroll down to see the full list of hiking trails in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest experiences warm, mild summers and cool winters with lots of precipitation. Certain roads in the park close in the late fall and remain closed through the spring, so we recommend visiting in the summer months of June through September for most hikes, unless you’re seeking snowshoeing routes. If you’re hoping to catch the wildflower blooms in their full glory, a trip between mid-July and mid-August tends to be the best option.
While the summer months offer the best weather, they do also bring the heaviest crowds. If you’re okay with occasionally cooler or wetter conditions, visiting in June or mid-September can give you more privacy on the trails while still offering suitable hiking weather.
If you’re seeking to enjoy winter activities in the park, like snowshoeing, visiting between December and February will be your best bet. Just come prepared as certain services may be unavailable. Take care to plan your visit carefully since some roads in the park are subject to seasonal closures.
Other Outdoor Activities in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Hiking and walking are by far the most popular activities in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, but they’re definitely not the only way to spend your time here. The park is a fantastic spot to camp, with a plethora of frontcountry and backcountry campsites available. Some should be pre-booked and some shouldn’t, giving you the flexibility to work around your plans.
In the winter months, snowshoeing is very popular. Many hiking trails are suitable for snowshoeing, and some have special winter routes to use.
For downhill skiing and snowboarding, Mount Baker Ski Area is a huge resort with great snow suitable for all levels. There are also over 191.5 km of cross-country ski trails to use in the forest.
How to Plan a Trip to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
A hiking trip in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a must-do adventure, but you’ll want to put enough time and energy into planning to make sure your trip runs smoothly. Whenever you’re planning a trip to a national forest, there are fees, permits, transportation requirements, and day-to-day logistics to consider. The official website of the forest is a great resource for trip planning that also provides up-to-date info on passes, permits, closures, events, and more. If you plan on camping, make sure you plan out your campsites beforehand and check which ones are walk-up and which require advance booking.
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Adventure Tours
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Frequently Asked Questions About Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Do I need a pass or permit to enter Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
You’ll need a pass for most trailheads, picnic areas, and boat launches in the forest. The most commonly needed permit is the Northwest Forest Pass, but check the specific requirements of your destination as other passes may be required, like the Alpine Wilderness Pass.
How many days do you need in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
Most visitors come for one day or a weekend, but some devoted backpackers spend a week or more in the area. We recommend two full days to have the time to enjoy several different hikes in the park.
Which city is closest to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
The closest major city to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is Seattle (117.5 km), which also has the closest international airport, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
Can you camp in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
There are both frontcountry and backcountry campsites in the park. Make sure you book your spot ahead and get all the necessary permits before you pitch your tent.
Are dogs allowed in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
Dogs are allowed on most trails in the park but must be kept on a leash.
Do you need a car in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
We recommend either driving your own car, renting a car, or booking a tour that includes transportation. There are some public transportation options in the forest but they are largely focused on the towns inside the boundaries of the forest and may not service trailheads.
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Best Hikes in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Lundin Peak View and Red Mountain via Old Commonwealth Trail
Lundin Peak View and Red Mountain via Old Commonwealth Trail is a 13.8 km hard hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that provides two mountaintops with a scrambling section. Expect several river crossings, great views, and some hard work.
There is some overgrowth at the beginning of this hike, but it’s nothing impassable. We don’t recommend Red Mountain for those who are uncomfortable with heights or exposed scrambles. While dogs are allowed on this trail, we do not recommend trying to bring them up Red Mountain, Lundin Peak is a bit more forgiving up to the false summit.
Smithbrook Trail is a quick 3.9 km hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. With one little sprint of steep trail and a more relaxed ending, it’s a good way to enjoy the moss-covered trees of the forest and stretch your legs.
This trail can be used as part of a longer hike in conjunction with other intersecting routes.
Scout Patrol Peak
Scout Patrol Peak is a trail that you can hike in all seasons, and it offers some solitude no matter the time of year. The hike isn’t too long and involves less than a low elevation gain, making it a moderate trip. From the viewpoint, you’ll be able to see Granite Mountain, Humpback Mountain, and more. There is some scrambling required on this hike.
There are some bigger potholes on the road in so drive carefully.
Lake Elizabeth Trail
Lake Elizabeth Trail is more of a walk on the road to a gorgeous lake than a hike, but this is the ideal path for those who don’t want too much of a challenge, don’t want to route find, and prefer a nice even walking surface. It’s family-friendly and simple, and the lake is a pretty spot for a picnic.
You can hike this trail in the winter, but we’d recommend bringing snowshoes if you have them.
Gold Creek Trail to Joe Lake
Gold Creek Trail to Joe Lake is not a hike for the faint of heart. This lightly trafficked trail is what we’d call intrepid. A good number of hikers don’t make it to the lake, much less past the 8.0 km mark. The trail is overgrown and hard to follow. Hey, if you feel like bushwhacking, you’ll probably get the lake to yourself!
Basin Lake via Bullion Basin Trail
Basin Lake via Bullion Basin Trail is a 19.6 km hike that, with 884 m of elevation gain, is considered hard. This hike takes the better part of the day and requires some scrambling, but you’ll get a nice view of Rainier and the perks of a lightly-trafficked trail in return.
Hyak Creek Trail
Hyak Creek Trail is an easy 3.1 km trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This lightly trafficked trail is used most for snowshoeing as the trail is not very well-defined in the summertime. You could still find your way to the lake, but you’d be making your way through the foliage or using another nearby path.
In the winter, this is a nice trip with a pretty viewpoint.
Lakes Dorothy, Bear, Deer, and Snoqualmie Hike
The Lakes Dorothy, Bear, Deer, and Snoqualmie Hike provides access to Lake Dorothy, Bear Lake, Deer Lake, and Snoqualmie Lake. Four lakes on one hard hike makes for a great day! You’ll cover 20.9 km on this moderately trafficked route. Beware that some of the trail is subject to washout and the road to the trailhead is closed in certain weather conditions. Additionally, this trail is buggy, so bring a good spray.
Snow Lake Hike
The Snow Lake hike is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that is rated as moderate. This trail gives access to the most visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, providing a beautiful objective with no serious effort required. Tucked underneath the 610 m Chair Peak and boasting crystal-clear water, this lake is captivating to visit.
This hike is very popular, and so you may need to share the trail with more hikers than you’re used to. Try to visit midweek or early in the morning/later in the afternoon if you can for a quieter experience.
Kendall Katwalk Trail
Kendall Katwalk Trail is a 24.1 km heavily trafficked out and back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as hard. This trail is a full-day affair, but it’s one you’ll want to come back to over and over. Kendall Katwlak itself is a narrow trail blasted into a steep rock face underneath Kendall Peak. While it’s not for those afraid of heights, it’s a spectacular vantage point over the field of summits beyond. With a good bit of distance to cover and fair elevation to climb, you’ll feel like you worked for your views.
There is camping available at Ridge Lake just beyond the catwalk if you want to make this a backpacking excursion.
Mason Lake via Ira Spring Trail
Mason Lake via Ira Spring Trail is a 10.9 km heavily trafficked out and back trail that is rated as hard. This trail is named after one of the most steadfast advocates for Washington’s trail system, nature photographer and conservationist Ira Spring. The trail is very popular, especially in the summer months when remarkable wildflower blooms line the route. The hike culminates at Mason Lake, a very popular backcountry camping site. Whether you take this trail as a day trip or a backpacking adventure, you’ll have a wonderful time.
Barclay Lake Trail
Barclay Lake Trail is a 7.1 km heavily trafficked out-and-back trail that is rated as easy. This trail doesn’t require too much effort but offers lovely views, so it’s a top pick for families and new hikers in the area. This trail is best hiked during the week if you can manage it because of its popularity, and it receives a lot of precipitation, so take care if the trail is wet and muddy.
Barclay Lake is just part of the fun—you’ll enjoy Barclay Creek and Baring Mountain in their glory.
Mount Pilchuck Trail
The Mount Pilchuck Trail is an 8.4 km heavily trafficked out and back trail in Mount Pilchuck State Park that is rated as hard. This hike is on the more moderate side of hard, but you may experience delays in your ascent due to the sheer number of people who complete this trail in a year. Plan to visit during the week if you can! The reason for the congestion is obvious, as sprawling views of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympics await at the little lookout on top. Hikers also vie for the chance to camp out in the first-come, first-served lookout.
This trail is also helped out by a high-elevation trailhead, which knocks significant distance and elevation gain off the hike while still delivering 1,615 m panoramas. Getting there is rough though—you’re going to want a very capable vehicle to reach the trailhead.
Three Fingers Hike
The hike to Three Fingers is a 25.7 km lightly trafficked out and back trail in Snohomish county that is rated as difficult. This hike is an epic adventure, but it may be intimidating to some. It’s long, steep, and requires hands-on climbing on exposed rebar ladders to reach the very exposed summit. Casual hikers can turn around before this section, but thrill-seekers will love this out-of-the-box hike.
Please come prepared for this trail and don’t be afraid to turn around if it feels like too much. The mountain will always be there!
Talapus Lake Trail
Talapus Lake Trail is a heavily trafficked, easy-moderate hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This hike is suitable for families and beginner hikers and offers lovely views in exchange for conservative effort. The trail is wide and easy to follow, but it does get busy, making an early start or midweek visit wise.
There is spotty reception at the trailhead and to the lake, so make sure you have your permit and GPS sorted before arriving.
Talapus Lake and Olallie Lake Hike
The Talapus Lake and Olallie Lake hike is a heavily trafficked moderate hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This hike is suitable for families and beginner hikers and offers great views, a cool forest, and a calm lake. The trail is wide and easy to follow, but it does get busy, making an early start or midweek visit a smart choice.
There is spotty reception at the trailhead and to the lake, so make sure you have your permit and GPS ready before arriving.
Annette Lake Trail
Annette Lake Trail is a 12.6 km heavily trafficked out and back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This trail is very beautiful, with a variety of scenery to enjoy year-round (though best experienced in the summertime). You’ll see waterfalls, shady forest, alpine lakes, and mountains in all their glory. This hike is an excellent moderate outing, making it suitable for older children and beginner-intermediate hikers, or more experienced adventurers seeking a more relaxed adventure. This is also a popular trail with backpackers hiking in to camp at the lake.
Bring bug spray for this trail.
Granite Falls-Fish Ladder Trail
The Granite Falls-Fish Ladder Trail is a 1.1 km moderately trafficked out-and-back trail near Granite Falls that is rated as easy. This exceptionally short trail is more of a quick walk to a viewpoint than a true hike, but that makes it a suitable pit stop on a road trip or chance to stretch your legs when you’re short on time. The trail is friendly for all ages and very easy to follow.
Note that there is some damage to the safety fence, but there are stairs to get closer to the water if you wish to access the shore.
Keekwulee Falls via Denny Creek Trail
The hike to Keekwulee Falls on Denny Creek Trail is a 6.1 km heavily trafficked trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that is rated as moderate. This trail is beautiful and isn’t too challenging for beginners or younger adventurers, making it a nice choice for families or those with out-of-town visitors who haven’t hiked before. The falls are great, and the trail does provide the opportunity to continue hiking past them if you want to extend your trip.
This trail gets busy, so we recommend starting early or visiting during the week if possible.
Twin Falls Trail
Twin Falls Trail is a heavily trafficked out and back trail in Olallie State Park that is rated as easy-moderate. This trail is family-friendly and offers the opportunity to length or shorten your hike a bit depending on the length of adventure you want. The falls are some of the prettiest close to Seattle, making this a very popular route. Try to arrive early or hike midweek to avoid the crowds!
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