Washington’s top multiday trails, as selected by BACKPACKER Local scouts Jason Bickford and Anastasia Allison.
It’s easy to disappear into true wilderness in Washington. What’s harder is deciding which of the backpacking trips within a few hours’ drive of Seattle are truly worthy of your limited free time. You won’t go wrong with one (or all!) of these 10 local favorite itineraries encompassing everything from the rugged Olympic Coast to azure mountain lakes to a glacier excursion.
JASON BICKFORD’S TOP 5
1. Goat Lake, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Trailhead: Elliot Creek/Goat Lake
Mileage: 10.4 (round-trip)
Drive from Seattle: 2 hours 40 minutes
My first experience backpacking was a trip to Goat Lake, and it was the perfect difficulty to get started on: It provides enough distance to feel like you are really getting out there without the risk of overdoing it. It is very popular late spring through early winter for backpackers and hikers. The generally well-maintained trail gains 1,400 feet over 5.2 miles. Near the start it splits for about 3 miles so you can take either the Upper Elliot Trail or Lower Elliot Trail. I recommend taking one each way to see more of this stunning part of the Cascades! The upper trail goes through a dense forest with two waterfalls and the lower goes along Elliott Creek much of the time.
The trail ends at Goat Lake itself, which sits below some tree-covered and other bare rock jagged mountains. There are 15 campsites and a box-style toilet just before the lake. When I went in late May the experience was very kind to a green backpacker: very few bugs, flat and spacious camp areas, only a couple of other small groups camping–nothing to fret about other than how horrible I was at repacking my pack!