Hikes in Wenatchee National Forest
With over 1.7 million acres of forest to explore in Washington’s Wenatchee National Forest, you might want a hand choosing the best hiking trails to enjoy. With hundreds of miles of trails that range from beginner-friendly to experts only, you’ll be able to fine-tune your distance, elevation gain, and scenery for the best possible trip. No matter which trail you choose, expect to enjoy the defining scenery of the Wenatchee National Forest: endless lush forest, mountain summits, babbling rivers, and bright blue lakes.
If you’re keen to diversify your visit, remember that many trails are also horse and bike-friendly and that many lakes offer great fishing. There are backcountry camping spots too numerous to name and many well-equipped frontcountry sites to take advantage of. Spend a day or spend a few- there’s so much to do in the gorgeous Wenatchee National Forest!
15 Incredible Hikes in the Wenatchee National Forest
As a starting point for your planning, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of our favorite hikes in the Wenatchee National Forest. These hikes cover every corner of this forest, but remember, there are plenty of trails to try out on the Okanogan National Forest side, too! You’ve got options no matter which part of the park you’re in.
Our top hikes in the Wenatchee National Forest include beginner hikes, intermediate hikes, and high difficulty trails. Tailor your adventures to your skill level and go as far or high as you please! While starting with these 15 hikes is a great way to experience the region, remember that we’ve got many, many more route guides in Wenatchee National Forest, Okanogan National Forest, and Washington if you want to keep exploring.
- Colchuck Lake Trail - Laying eyes on Colchuck Lake for the first time is a breathtaking moment. The 12.9 km round trip hike to the lake and back is very popular. This is a steep, heavily trafficked hike, but it’s worth all the effort. You’ll be able to experience one of the most stellar spots in the Enchantments, where mountain peaks cradle an emerald lake adorned with an island of trees.
- Lake Wenatchee North - Lake Wenatchee State Park is a great spot to spend a day or an afternoon, with boat launches, picnic spots, and a beautiful lake to see. This easy hike is the perfect precursor to a swim or a picnic on the lakeshore with family.
- Lake Easton - Lake Easton State Park attracts visitors to its camping sites, RV park, amphitheater, lake, and hiking trails. The Lake Easton hike can be enjoyed as a leg stretcher if you’re on the nearby highway or as part of a day in the park. This hike is 4.6 miles long and requires very little elevation gain, making it a good choice for all skill levels and ages.
- Lake Ingalls Trail - The hike to Lake Ingalls is a very popular adventure, and it won’t be hard to see why. The beautiful blue lake is crowned by mountains, making for an irresistible scene. The hike is fantastic through the summer, but we especially love it in the autumn when the larches turn golden.
- Bumping Lake Trail - The hike on Bumping Lake Trail is an ideal pick for a quieter day. You’ve got a good chance of enjoying a bit of peace and quiet if you’re here early in the day. It’s a very relaxing hike with little elevation gain required making it suitable for all levels as well as families.
- Marmot Lake and Jade Lake - Marmot Lake and the further-out Jade Lake are hefty objectives in a day, but it can be done. More likely, you may wish to make use of the various campsites on the trail to stretch this trek into a backpack. The lakes are sublime and the route is exciting and varied.
- Lake Valhalla Trail - Lake Valhalla is a hike that can (and should) be enjoyed throughout the year. This 9.7 km moderate trail has something new to offer with every season: wildflowers in the early summer, berries in the late summer, autumn colors, and a wintry wonderland once the snow falls.
- Spectacle Lake Trail - The aptly named Spectacle Lake is not easy to reach in a day, but it can certainly be done. This hard 29.0 km trail isn’t for the faint of heart, but the trail is beautiful and the lake will make every step worth it. You can also make this into a backpacking trip for a longer adventure.
- Lila Lakes Trail - Lila Lakes Trail is an 17.7 km hike that takes you to the shores of Rachel Lake, Lila Lake, and the small lakes that surround Lila Lake. There are lots of side trips off the main trail that can length your adventure if you’re in an exploring mood, or you can hoof it straight to beautiful Lila.
- Rachel Lake Trail - Rachel Lake Trail is a hard 12.9 km hike that draws lots of visitors thanks to its beautiful scenery and great camping spots. Relax aside Rachel Lake, where there’s often swimming, fishing, camping, and picnicking happening simultaneously.
- Hidden Lake Trail - Hidden Lake is a small lake just above the shores of Lake Wenatchee that can be reached on an easy, short trail. It’s a family-friendly hike that can be extended if you want to head down to Lake Wenatchee or to the Glacier View Campground beside the lake.
- Dirtyface Peak - Dirtyface Peak Trail is a hike that offers amazing views over Lake Wenatchee and the surrounding mountains, but it takes a considerable amount of effort to reach the top. Be prepared for steep sections, rocky, mud, and hot sun on clear days. The reward will be there, we promise!
- Lake Stuart - Lake Stuart is a gorgeous alpine lake in the aptly named Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time, and the perk of this difficult hike is that you can easily add on a trip to popular Colchuck Lake for a real double-whammy.
- Alta Mountain - The trail that leads you up Alta Mountain is a delight, not just for the summit views but for the ease of access to Rachel Lake, Rampart Lakes, and Lila Lakes. If you’re here for just a day, the mountain is an excellent goal. If you can spare some time, a backpacking trip on this trail is a great adventure.
- Old Pipeline Bed Trail - The Old Pipeline Trail is a quick and easy nature walk suitable for the whole family. This hike is 3.9 km long and requires almost no elevation gain. You can spot salmon in the river and enjoy the changing foliage through the seasons. It’s a calm place to be despite this being a more popular trail.
Scroll down to see the full list of hiking trails in the Wenatchee National Forest.
When is the Best Time to Hike in the Wenatchee National Forest?
Wenatchee National Forest generally experiences warm, mild summers and cold winters with lots of precipitation. While you should be prepared for rain any time of the year, visiting in the summer months of July and August tend to give the warmest, driest weather. Shoulder season (spring and fall) can bring heavier rain and snow, and winter tends to be snowy and cold.
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 hiking to enjoy golden larches, visits in late September are usually best.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Wenatchee National Forest
Hiking is certainly one of the top ways to explore the Wenatchee National Forest, but it’s definitely not the only way to spend your time here.
Adventurers on two wheels can take advantage of the many mountain bike and dirt bike paths. Those with four-legged friends can explore horse and dog-friendly trails. Fishers will find lakes stocked with trout, and campers will be able to choose from many sites. Many hiking paths can be extended for backpacking trips thanks to the ease of backcountry camping in the forest. In the winter, skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers can make use of the region’s generous snowfall.
How to Plan a Trip to the Wenatchee National Forest
A trip to the Wenatchee National Forest is a worthwhile adventure, but you’ll want to put enough time and energy into planning to make sure your trip runs smoothly. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass for most trails in the park, and some require a Discover Pass. Winter visitors may need a Sno-Parks permit. 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.
Some popular trails have limited parking available, so try to plan your busiest hikes as early in the day as you can. Additionally, the forest roads that service many trailheads are subject to potholes and poor conditions. Planning to have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for your time in the park is essential if you want to hike trails serviced by certain forest roads.
Wenatchee National Forest Adventure Tours
Not so excited about hashing out the details of your itinerary? Letting the pros plan your adventure in Wenatchee National Forest takes the stress out of your trip, letting you focus on your experiences. Check out some incredible adventure tours in the Pacific Northwest.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Wenatchee National Forest
How big is the Wenatchee National Forest?
The Wenatchee National Forest is over 1.7 million acres, but it’s administratively combined with the Okanogan National Forest. Together, the two cover a whopping 3.8 million acres across six designated wilderness areas.
Who owns the Wenatchee National Forest?
The US Forest Service is the governing body for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Can you hunt in the Wenatchee National Forest?
There are three big game hunting areas in the forest, all in the Naches Ranger District. Please reach out to the Forest Service for more information on hunting.
Are there bears in the Wenatchee National Forest?
Yes, there are bears in the Wenatchee National Forest. Be bear aware and bear safe as you explore by travelling in groups, keeping the chatter up while hiking, carrying bear spray, storing and disposing of your food properly, and staying out of areas with recent bear sightings.
Can you swim in the lakes of the Wenatchee National Forest?
Yes, most of the lakes in the forest are safe to swim in. Prepare for potentially chilly water, especially if swimming in alpine lakes.
Explore other great hiking regions in Washington State:
- Mount Rainier National Park
- North Cascades
- Olympic National Park
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Or check out other amazing hiking regions in the United States.
Best Hikes in Wenatchee National Forest
Colchuck Lake Trail
Laying eyes on Colchuck Lake for the first time is a breathtaking moment. The 12.9 km round trip hike to the lake and back? Also breathtaking, but for different reasons. This is a steep, heavily trafficked hike, but it’s worth all the effort. You’ll be able to sit down on one of the most sublime spots in the Enchantments, where mountain peaks cradle an emerald lake adorned with an island of trees. It’s a fine reward for the brutal last couple of miles you’ll be tasked with. Poles and good boots are recommended.
We don’t recommend this trail for young kids, anyone with mobility challenges, or beginners, as there are some extended steep sections. We also recommend arriving early to beat some of the traffic. You can also arrange to camp on the shore of the lake, but make sure you’ve got your permit sorted ahead of time.
Mission Peak Loop
Mission Peak Loop is a 15.0 km hike in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest that is rated as moderate. Although this hike isn’t extreme in terms of length or elevation gain, it is a challenge when it comes to routefinding on part of the loop; Download your GPS trail ahead of time to avoid getting lost. Expect moderate traffic on this trail.
Lake Wenatchee North Summer Route
Lake Wenatchee State Park is a wonderful spot to spend a day or an afternoon, with boat launches, picnic spots, and a beautiful lake to see. Pack a picnic if you want to spend the day out, or use the park as a break on a long drive. The lake is usually warm enough for a swim in the summertime, so bring a bathing suit and take a dip if you fancy!
This 3.4 km loop is moderately trafficked and rated as easy. There are no challenges to consider when it comes to navigation or the route itself. It’s great for little kids or older family members. There are other trails in the area if you want a longer walk, but we love this walk followed by a late afternoon swim and snack on the beach.
Lake Easton Hike
Lake Easton State Park attracts visitors to its camping sites, RV park, amphitheater, lake, and hiking trails. Pack up the family for a day outside or use the Lake Easton hike as a leg stretcher if you’re on the nearby highway. This hike is 7.4 km long and requires very little elevation gain, making it a good pick for all skill levels and ages. You can either hike this trail as is, going out and back along the lakeshore, or you can use the trails on the other side of the lake to make a loop of it. We love this route because it puts the lake between you and the highway, offering a bit of a buffer that makes it feel more natural. You can also easily walk over from Easton to enjoy this trail.
Kids will love the unique tunnel you’ll walk through on this hike, a remnant of its railroad past. There are small side trails for lake access if you want to get to the shore. Expect lots of shade on the trail.
Lake Ingalls Hike
The hike to Lake Ingalls is a very popular adventure, and it won’t be hard to see why. The gorgeous lake, crowned by rugged mountains, is impossibly blue and a delight to sit beside. The hike is fantastic through the summer, but we especially love it in the autumn when the larches turn golden. On the way, you’ll be able to appreciate Esmerelda Peaks and Headlight Basin.
The hike is difficult. Expect about 14.5 km of distance and 762 m of elevation gain. The gain is consistent and somewhat gradual, making it more of a slog and less of a sprint.
Be prepared for the road out. It’s not in great condition and there is no reception, so having a spare is wise. We also recommend arriving early to beat some of the crowds. Note that dogs are not allowed at the lake, nor on most of the route to the lake. Dogs are permitted on the trail to Esmerelda Basin but at the junction of this trail and the trail to Lake Ingalls, they must turn around.
Bumping Lake Trail
The hike on Bumping Lake Trail is, thankfully, not normally bumping. You’ve got a good chance of enjoying a bit of peace and quiet if you’re here early in the day. It’s a very relaxing hike with little elevation gain to contend with, making it suitable for all levels of hiker as well as families. Birdwatchers will love all the birds that frequent the lake.
If you’re visiting in the summer, a can of bug spray will go a long way on this trail.
Marmot Lake and Jade Lake Hike
Marmot Lake and the further-out Jade Lake are hefty objectives in a day, but it can be done. More likely, you may wish to make use of the various campsites on the trail to stretch this trek into a backpack. The trail is almost 33.8 km long with considerable elevation gain. There are steep ascents, river crossings, and routefinding exercises aplenty. Come prepared with plenty of supplies and a downloaded route.
Expect heavy traffic along this route. The views are wonderful, especially as you reach the coveted but isolated lakes.
The road to the trailhead is heavily potholed and thus should be driven with care. There is also a shallow river crossing on the road, so a high-clearance vehicle is preferable. We don’t recommend attempting this trip if it’s still snowy.
Lake Valhalla Trail
Lake Valhalla is a hike that can (and should) be enjoyed throughout the year. This 9.7 km moderate trail has something new to offer with every season: wildflowers in the early summer, berries in the late summer, autumn colors, and a wintry wonderland once the snow falls. Note that the winter access is different.
This trail sees heavy traffic and can be accessed from two different trailheads. This guide follows the Smithbrook Trail, which makes for a moderately difficult trip. The Smothbrook approach is also easier on kids. We also offer a route guide for Lake Valhalla via the Pacific Crest Trail. Enjoy the beach at the lake, set up camp, have a picnic, or just add this hike into your weekend for a breath of fresh air.
Spectacle Lake Trail
The aptly named Spectacle Lake is not easy to reach in a day, but it can certainly be done. This hard 29.0 km trail packs the distance in, but the trail is beautiful and the lake will make every step worth it. You can also make this into a backpacking trip. Expect moderate traffic on this route and a fairly easy trip until the last few intense miles.
There are two ways to reach the lake. This route guide follows the more direct route from Owhi Campground, but hikers looking to backpack can also try the 41.8 km approach on Mineral Creek Trail or on the PCT from north or south.
Come prepared for a big day with good boots, poles, and plenty of hydration and fuel. We recommend leaving this trip for good weather if you can.
Lila Lakes Trail
Lila Lakes Trail is an 17.7 km hike in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest that is rated as hard. This trail takes you to the shores of Rachel Lake, Lila Lake, and the small lakes that surround Lila Lake. There are lots of side trips off the main trail that can length your adventure if you’re in an exploring mood, including Rampart Lakes and Alta Mountain. If you want to hike to Rachel Lake only, check out our route guide for that trail.
The route can be a touch overgrown in some parts, so we recommend downloading your GPS track ahead of time. There are charming waterfall lookouts along the way, but most of the trail is in the woods. Expect heavy traffic, much of which drops off after Rachel Lake.
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