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 8.0mi 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 6.0mi 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 18.0mi 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 11.0mi 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 8.0mi 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 2.4mi 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.Read More
The best hikes in Wenatchee National Forest
Yes, there are more than 10
Wenatchee National Forest is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 hikes. So here is a list of bonus hikes in Wenatchee National Forest that you should take a look at as well
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.