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
Thompson Lake Trail
Thompson Lake Trail is a 17.7 km moderately trafficked out-and-back trail in Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resources Conservation Area that is rated as hard. This trail is demanding in distance and elevation, but it’s a journey that culminates at a wonderful alpine lake tucked into the mountains, with islands of trees seemingly floating in the water. If you’re seeking a bit of a longer trail but want to avoid heavy crowds, this trail could be the perfect pick.
Bandera Mountain Summit Trail
Bandera Mountain Summit Trail is a 12.2 km heavily trafficked out and back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as hard. This trail requires a good bit of climbing and a short scramble near the top, making it perfect for hikers seeking a solid outing. We don’t recommend this trail for beginners, though, as the final summit approach may seem intimidating and the trail can be somewhat easy to lose on the descent. Bring GPs to mitigate this challenge.
The road to the trailhead is potholed, so drive a high-clearance vehicle if you can.
Teneriffe Falls via Mount Teneriffe Trail
Teneriffe Falls via Mount Teneriffe Trail is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area that is rated as moderate. These falls are gorgeous when flowing, but that’s part of the trip planning-try to hike this trail earlier in the season as the falls can dry up later into the summer. While this isn’t a very challenging hike, it does get rocky and a bit harder to follow near the end, so good boots and GPS will be helpful.
Boulder Lake Trail
Boulder Lake Trail is an 11.7 km lightly trafficked out and back trail in Glacier Peak Wilderness that is rated as hard. This hike leads to a gorgeous lake framed by jagged rock walls, but getting there isn’t exactly straightforward. The drive in is overgrown (careful with your car) and the trail itself is initially clear before fading away, requiring reliance on GPS to reach the lake. If you have a downloaded route and you’re ready to persevere, you’re likely to have the lake all to yourself.
Teneriffe Falls via Mount Si Trail
Teneriffe Falls via Mount Si Trail is a heavily trafficked lollipop trail in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area that is rated as moderate. Teneriffe falls are gorgeous when flowing, but that’s part of the trip planning needed for this hike: try to hike this trail earlier in the season as the falls can dry up later into the summer. While this isn’t a hard hike, the trail can get a little rocky or overgrown in spots.
Deception Falls Interpretive Trail
The Deception Falls Interpretive Trail is a 1.0 km moderately trafficked loop trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as easy. This is a pleasant stop off the highway, with a kid-friendly hike featuring waterfalls and a nice picnic area. While it’s brief, it’s very pretty!
Lake Isabel Trail
Lake Isabel Trail is a lightly trafficked out-and-back trail in Wild Sky Wilderness that is rated as hard. This hike is considerable in terms of distance and elevation gain, but a portion of the difficulty rating comes from the condition of the trail. This hike is overgrown, difficult to follow, steep, and scrambly. The perk? You’ll likely have Lake Isabel to yourself when you arrive. If you love the challenge of a wild trail, this one could be for you!
While leashed dogs are allowed on this trail, we don’t recommend bringing them due to the steep, rocky top of the hike.
Mount Washington Hike
The hike to the summit of Mount Washington is a 14.5 km moderately trafficked out-and-back trail in Olallie State Park that is rated as hard. This trail is not a hugely popular choice, so it enjoys much less traffic on the weekends despite its proximity to Seattle. Truthfully, some hikers enjoy this trail and some find the payoff underwhelming for the condition of the trail, which can be overgrown and rocky and isn’t well-signed. While the summit experience on other nearby mountains might be better, this is still a good experience and a refreshing break from the heavily trafficked trails nearby.
Lake Dorothy Trail
Lake Dorothy Trail is a moderately trafficked out-and-back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This hike leads through the East Fork of the Miller River valley to Lake Dorothy. If you want to press on a bit further, you can also access Bear Lake and Deer Lake on this trail. This is also a popular choice for short backpacking trips.
Note that the last 6.4 km of the road to the trailhead has been washed out for long stretches of time in the past, necessitating an additional walk in. This adds a long, less exciting pre-hike to your day. We recommend bringing bikes if you have them to shorten this stretch.
Otter Falls Hike
The hike to Otter Falls is a 13.2 km heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in Mount-Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This hike uses the Snoqualmie Lake Trail to access Otter Falls, a unique waterfall in the forest near Lipsy Lake. We recommend doing this hike in the spring when the water flow is more impressive, as well as bringing bug spray along on the trail.
Boulder River Trail
Boulder River Trail is a 14.2 km moderately trafficked out and back trail in Boulder River Wilderness that is rated as moderate. This hike delivers the best of Washington’s natural beauty: a hidden waterfall, old-growth trees, and a backdrop of mountains. You’ll need to be very careful on the road leading to the trailhead (potholes galore!), but this is a wonderful hike.
Lost Lake Trail
Lost Lake Trail is a moderately trafficked out-and-back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This hike might be longer, but the elevation gain is gradual, making it suitable for intermediate hikers or adventurous children. This trail is popular with equestrians, so remember to give horses the right of way. Bug spray is also essential for this hike.
Pratt Lake Trail
Pratt Lake Trail is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as hard. This trail is often used for both day trips and backpacking adventures, and the trail can be hiked further or kept short while still being enjoyable.
There are several variations of how to get to Pratt Lake and different extensions to add, so check out our related route guides if you’re seeking another option.
Talapus Lake via Pratt Lake Trail
Talapus Lake via Pratt Lake Trail is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This trail is often used for both day trips and backpacking adventures, and also provides access to Pratt Lake and Olallie Lake. It’s a nice alternative to the usual approach to Talapus Lake.
Vesper Peak Trail
Vesper Peak Trail is a 12.2 km moderately trafficked out and back hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as hard. This hike offers everything you’d want in a summit, with soaring views in all directions and just enough challenge to get there. Strong intermediate hikers should be able to complete this trail. There is some light scrambling to reach the top, along with a very rocky trail in places, but it’s all worth it when you see the view.
This hike is out of the shade for a long stretch, so bring lots of water and sunscreen. Poles are a help if you have them.
Talapus, Olallie, and Pratt Lakes Hike
Talapus, Olallie, and Pratt Lakes are all accessed on this hike, which is 19.8 km long, moderately trafficked, and rated as hard. This can either function as a long day trip to see all three lakes, or you can use this trail to backpack at the backcountry camping sites near the lakes. Each lake is beautiful and serene in its own way, and you can alter this trail to suit your needs if you’d prefer a shorter or longer trip.
Keechelus Lake Shoreline Hike
The Keechelus Lake Shoreline Hike is a 19.8 km moderately trafficked out and back trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as easy. While the distance of this trail might seem intimidating, fear not: this is just the whole length of the trail along the lake, but you can hike just as far as you want before turning around. The path is flat, making it nice and simple for hikers of many ability levels.
Snoquera Falls Loop Trail
The Snoquera Falls Loop Trail is a heavily trafficked lollipop trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as moderate. This scenic, lush hiking route goes through a mossy forest to a small waterfall. While the falls are not exceedingly easy to see from the trail, the rest of the hike is enjoyable enough to make it worth doing.
The second part of this trail is rockier and narrower, so families with small children may prefer hiking this as an out and back route.
Snoquera Falls Trail
The Snoquera Falls Trail is a 4.3 km heavily trafficked loop trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that is rated as easy. This vibrant, lush hiking route goes through a mossy forest to a small waterfall. While the falls are not exceedingly easy to see from the trail and not overly impressive, the rest of the hike is pretty enough to make it worth doing.
There is also the option to hike this trail as a loop via the Snoquera Falls Loop Trail.
Ira Spring Memorial Trail
Ira Spring Memorial Trail is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that is rated as moderate. 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.
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