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
Franklin Falls via Wagonroad Trail
Franklin Falls is a very popular destination in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest just north of the also popular Denny Creek Campground. The hike is 3.2 km and is considered easy, but it does see heavier traffic. This is a trail suitable for families with children and it is accessible in most seasons. The waterfall is beautiful and refreshing to enjoy on a hot day. Note that the road to the trailhead can be closed during winter, so we recommend checking on its status before coming in the off-season or taking the winter route.
Mason Lake via Talapus Lake Trail
The hike to Mason lake on Talapus Lake Trail feels like the land of a thousand lakes! This is a heavily trafficked hard hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, mostly due to its 20km distance. Parts of the trail are wide and easy to follow and then later sections get a bit more narrow, so watch your GPS.
There is spotty reception at the trailhead and to the lake, so make sure you have your permit and route sorted before arriving.
Glacier Basin via Monte Cristo Trail
Glacier Basin is a stunning spot, and the route to it via Monte Cristo Trail can either be a hard day trip or a backpacking trip with tons of options for campsites. This trail is moderately trafficked and requires some scrambling at the end. Bring plenty of water and come prepared for portions of the trail without shade, although it’s worth doing on a sunny day for the best possible views at the basin.
Hester Lake Trail
Hester Lake is a deep blue lake nestled into Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, seemingly far away from everything else. The trail was vastly improved after some maintenance, making it much easier to follow than it previously was. Expect little traffic on this 16.1 km hard hike.
Talapus, Olallie, and Island Lakes Trail
Talapus, Olallie, and Island Lakes are all accessed on this hike, which is a long, moderately trafficked, and rated as moderate. This can either function as a 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.
Bear Gap to Bullion Basin Hike
Bear Gap to Bullion Basin is a 12.2 km hike that, with 666 m of elevation gain, is considered moderate. This hike takes the better part of the day but isn’t too challenging, and the lack of foot traffic allows you more solitude than most trails. With an abandoned mine shaft to check out and ever-changing views, this loop is worth doing if you’re in the Crystal Mountain area.
Twin Sisters Trail and Tumac Mountain
The hike along Twin Sisters Trail to Tumac mountain is a beautiful outing, traversing 11.4 km with 611 m of elevation gain. This hike is often used as a short backpacking trip, but you can easily complete it in a morning. The climb up Tumac doesn’t pose any special challenges, but be aware: the mosquitoes in this area are absolutely relentless, to the point where we recommend hiking this trail after the first frost if possible. Otherwise, nets and high-potency spray are essential.
Coal Mines Trail
The Coal Mines Trail stretches 10.1 km between Roslyn and Cle Elum, offering many opportunities for recreation. Hikers along this trail will feel more like walkers with its flat nature, but for a walk in nature that doesn’t feel far from town, this is a good pick. Keep dogs on leash and watch for bikes and horses, remembering to give equestrians the right of way where possible.
Gold Creek Pond and Heli’s Pond Winter Route
The Gold Creek Pond and Heli’s Pond Winter Route is the best way to access a picturesque area atop Snoqualmie Pass. The hike is long and easy. It’s suitable for kids and features a mountain pond surrounded by green forest and a frame of mountains.
Noble Knob Northern Approach
The northern approach to Noble Knob is a fun way to enjoy a scenic trail that doesn’t take too long to complete. The hike offers a touch of a challenge for beginners wanting to advance. This moderately trafficked route also offers a side trip to George Lake if you don’t mind a bit of added distance.
Weeks Falls Interpretive Trail
Weeks Fall Interpretive Trail is a lovely little walk suitable for the whole family. It’s a quick pit stop at 1.3 km with only 11 m of elevation gain. See old-growth trees, relax by the falls, or use this as a way to stretch your legs while driving.
Snoqualmie Lake Trail
Snoqualmie Lake Trail is a moderately trafficked 24.1 km hike with pretty waterfalls, good mountain views, and a nice lake that’s perfect to camp at if you want to backpack. At 714 m elevation gain required, this is a harder hike that will take most day-trippers a full day. Bring lots of water but expect a trail that’s easy to follow.
Mirror Lake Trail
Mirror Lake Trail is a busy trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest that features two lakes. The hike only requires 210 m of elevation gain, so it’s suitable for newer hikers, families, dogs, and most other adventurers. There are some sections that may be rooty or rocky, but overall the trip to the lakes is simple and enjoyable.
Pratt River Trail
The Pratt River Trail makes for an interesting trip - most hikers don’t actually reach the end of the trail, and the best views are near the start. The trail withers away in the overgrowth a few miles in, making it very difficult to actually reach its end. That being said, the views in the first part of the trail still make it very worth doing. Choose your own adventure on this trail, going as far as you want to.
Mirror Lake via PCT
Mirror Lake via the PCT is a busy trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest that features two lakes. This approach to the lakes is different from the more common, easier one, but it’s still a moderate trip with 465 m of elevation gain. The lakes are very pretty, but they do get busy, so try coming on a weekday.
Lodge Lake Trail
The Lodge Lake Trail is a heavily trafficked trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This trail only required 260 m of elevation gain, making it moderate in difficulty. This hike is great for some and so-so for others. If you love lake views and don’t mind a bit of mud, you’ll probably love it. If you prefer mountain views and keeping your feet dry, you might be best suited to another trail. Try it out and decide for yourself!
Suntop Trail is a very short, very easy hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest with panoramic views. It’s the perfect picnic spot, with lots of tables and a very well-maintained restroom. The hike is lightly trafficked at only 1.6 km with a mere 138 m to climb, so it’s a fun adventure for hikers of all ability levels.
The road in has some potholes, but it’s not as bad as other forest roads by any stretch.
Mount Sawyer via Tonga Ridge Trail
Mount Sawyer via Tonga Ridge Trail is a 9.0 km hike in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This hike gets you up on a little summit with less than 500 m of elevation gain, and the trail doesn’t tend to be too busy. There are some loose, steep, dry sections where poles are recommended. The bugs on this trail can also be bothersome, so bring potent spray.
Del Campo Peak
Del Campo Peak is a long, technical hike. This is a great choice for hikers looking to expand their scrambling skills and build confidence on technical trails, and for that reason, we don’t recommend it for beginners. It’s a 17.2 km trek to the summit with 1,326 m of elevation gain to complete, so come prepared for a full (fun!) day on the mountain. A helmet is a good idea on this hike.
There is a campsite about a third of the way into the trail if you’d like to make a backpacking trip out of it.
Suntop Trail Longer Route
While most families and casual hikers take the short Suntop Trail, this 25.9 km route makes a full day of the journey. With 1,346 m of elevation gain to complete, this is a much more arduous trek, but it’s very scenic the whole way. The trail is moderately trafficked but it’s frequented by mountain bikers, so keep your eyes and ears open on the trail.
There is an exposed ridgewalk on this hike that we don’t recommend for those afraid of heights.
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